Olympics: Womens' Road Race

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On Tonight!
U.S. Coverage begins at 11.00 pm PST.
Here is your startlist with back numbers.

The womens' road race takes place in Beijing on Sunday, 10 August. The approximately 65 starters will race 126 kilometers. They will ride 75 kilometers in the flats, before entering a circuit, which they complete twice. The course follows the same route as the men, though the women ride two laps to the mens' seven on the hilly circuit. The finish for both races - a 700 meter climb at 6% - is the same.

The combination of a small field, relatively short race, and small national teams makes for an open and unpredictable race for the women. Still, there are always the favorites, and three riders stand out for this race, which despite its short length will likely be a very selective one. Marianne Vos of the Netherlands, Judith Arndt of Germany, and Nicole Cooke of Great Britain are the reigning queens of the international circuit and are each well suited to this course.

The Favorites.

Marianne Vos has already been world champion both on the road and in cross at the age of 21. A brilliant talent with a truly elegant style on the bike, she is light enough for the climbs, and has a very fast finish. The small teams in Beijing will limit the ability of her Dutch team mates to control the race and set up a sprint, but I doubt very much that will cause problems for Vos. If she has the form, she will be very difficult to beat. Vos has reportedly dedicated her season to the Olympics and devoted extensive time to preparing for the race, including training in a similar climate to Beijing to acclimate. She will also ride the crono and the points race on the track.

Nicole Cooke of Great Britain has also planned her season around the Olympic races. Like Vos, Cooke has a fast finish, though she lacks the smooth elegance that characterizes the Dutchwoman. Currently 25 years old, Cooke was the junior world champion on the road and in the crono in 2001. Since then, she has made the podium in the elite road race at worlds four times. Among her successes, she counts the womens' Amstel Gold Race, Ronde van Vlanderen, GP Ouest France, the Geelong World Cup, and the overall at the Grand Boucle Feminine Internationale in 2006. A strong one-day rider with a fast finish, Cooke will certainly be among those contesting the finale. As with Vos, she will suffer from the lack of team support, and like Vos she will be heavily marked, making an escape a difficult task. No one will really want to go to the line with Cooke. Nothing personal Nicole, you're just so wicked fast.

Judith Arndt. Ardnt played the bad girl at the last Olypmics. Furious with the German team selectors for refusing to pick Petra Roßner for the race, Arndt crossed the line in second place with her middle finger at attention. A German national champion several times over, the 32 year old Arndt won the World championship road race in Verona in 2004, and has a lengthy list of race successes, especially in the hilly stage races. Arndt will need a hard race to succeed in Beijing, as she will not fair well against the speed of riders like Cooke and Vos. Her team mate Trixi Worrack will take over leadership if the race comes down to a sprint. Worrack finished second at worlds in Strasbourg in 2006, a race won by Vos. To win, Arndt will need to escape on the hilly circuit.

A few more names worth watching.

Americans Amber Neben and Kristin Armstrong, though not outright favorites, may well benefit from the Vos-Cooke rivalry. In the absence of strong team control, an outsider with strong legs has an excellent chance to steal the show. Both Neben and Armstrong have the characteristics to ride well on this course, though neither has an especially fast finish. They will be looking for a similar race to Arndt: a race that goes hard enough to hurt the sprinters and that allows a break to escape in the hilly circuit. Armstrong has pre-ridden the course, and built her season around the Olympics, where she will also ride the crono. With Christine Thorburn as the third member of the team, the Americans are an experienced trio.

Naomi Cantele, Italy. Cantele was a protected rider for the Azurre last year at Worlds. Though Bastianelli's cheeky escape won the day, Cantele was the team leader. Cantele has shown good form so far this season, most recently winning a stage at the Thüringen Rhundfahrt der Frauen. The 27 year old made the podium as a junior in the road race at the Verona Worlds, and is steadily accumulating top level results. She is not a meteoric talent like Cooke or Vos, but given her chance, she can win on her day.

Nicole Brändli, Switzerland. Twice the winner of the Giro d'Italia Donne, Brändli is a climber, and needs to attack to win. The past two years at Worlds she has ridden hard to force an escape, but has yet to find the right move. In a group with Arndt or one of the Americans, Brändli might have her chance, but a sprint finish will not favor the light Swiss climber.

Susanne Ljungskog, Sweden. Ljungskog won the World Championship in the road race two years running in 2002 and 2003. A talented all-arounder, the 32 year old Ljungskog has three times won the overall at the prestigious Tour de l'Aude stage race in France and won two world cup races, including the Primavera Rosa, the womens' Milano-San Remo. She also won the overall World Cup twice. She has three wins so far this season, including the overall at the Tour de l'Aude, and this year will mark her fourth trip to the Olympic games. Though not an outright favorite for the race in Beijing, her experience and undeniable talent make her impossible to ignore.

Unofficial startlist:
Australia: Katherine Bates, Sara Carrigan, Oenone Wood
Austria: Monika Schachl, Christiane Söder
Belgium: Lieslot Decroix
Brasile: Clemilda Fernandes
Canada: Leigh Hobson, Erinne Willock, Alex Wrubleski
Cina: Meng Lang, Gao Min
Cuba: Yumari Gonzalez Valdivieso
Danimarca: Linda Villumsen
Spagna: Anna Sanchis Chafer, Maria Isabel Moreno Allue, Marta Vilajosana
Estonia: Grete Treier
Francia: Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli, Maryline Salvetat, Christel Ferrier-Bruneau
Gran Bretagna: Sharon Laws, Nicole Cooke, Emma Pooley
Germania: Judith Arndt, Hanka Kupfernagel, Trixi Worrack
Italia: Noemi Cantele, Tatiana Guderzo, Vera Carrara, (Alessandra D'Ettorre)
Giappone: Miho Oki
Kazakistan: Zoulfia Zabirova
Korea: Sung Eun-Go, Hae Ok-Jeong
Lituania: Jolanta Polikeviciute, Edita Pucinskaite, Modesta Vzesniauskaite
Messico: Alessandra Giuseppina Grassi
Olanda: Marianne Vos, Mirjam Melchers, Chantal Beltman
Norvegia: Anita Valen
Nuova Zelanda: Joanne Kiesanowski
Polonia: Paulina Brzezna
Sud Africa: Marissa van der Merwe, Cherise Taylor
Russia: Julia Martisova, Alexandra Burchenkova, Natalia Boyarskaya
Slovenia: Sigrid Corneo
Svizzera: Nicole Brändli, Jennifer Hohl, Priska Doppmann
Svezia: Emma Johansson, Susanne Ljungskog, Sara Mustonen
Tailandia: Thatsani Wichana
Ucraina: Tatiana Stiajkina, ?, ? USA: Amber Neben, Thornburn, Kristin Armstrong
Venezuela: Angie González, Daniely Garcia

Startlist from: ciclismo femminile

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