Iris Slappendel wins her first Road World Cup in Vårgårda

This weekend saw two Road World Cups at the Open de Suède Vårgårda in Sweden - the Team Time Trial, which was utterly dominated by Specialized-lululemon, and the Road Race, won by Rabobank's Iris Slappendel. It was a great race, and below the jump I'll tell you more about it - but first, a video clip, including pre- and post-race interviews with Swedish superstar Emma Johansson, and interviews in English with Slappendel and the Olympic champion, Marianne Vos:

As always, check back in the comments for any other video or fun things that turn up over the next week - and look out next Saturday, for the final round of the World Cup, the GP de Plouay - it might be livestreamed....

One of the special things about the Vårgårda road race is the innovative ways they stream it live, tying in with local radio. In 2010, they used fixed cameras around the course, cutting to them whenever the riders came past, and this year, they use a combination of a finish-line camera and a travelling one, that streamed from a motorbike and from the top of the hill on each circuit. It was by no means the slick and shiny video we're used to from the Tour de France, but it was very creative, and coupled with the live-text updates, really helped us follow the race.

As I described in my preview, the road race was 12 laps of an 11-km circuit, with the short-but-sharp hill in the second half of each loop. Slappendel was her usual attacking self throughout the race - forcing a break in Lap 3, with Hanka Kupfernagel of RusVelo the first to chase her, then Emma Johansson (Hitec), Trixi Worrack (Specialized-lululemon) and Isabelle Söderberg (AA Drink), Nina Kessler (Dolman's Boels) and Tiffany Cromwell (Orica-AIS)... then a lap later, Vos sensed danger to her overall World Cup lead from Johansson and bridged across, and soon it was a group of eleven, with & Linda Villumsen (Orica-AIS), Amy Pieters (Skil-Argos), Shelley Olds (AA Drink) and Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-lululemon). That was a fantastic group, with representatives of all the big teams in the race apart from Faren-Honda - so as you can imagine, the bunch found it very hard to chase, and the group was gone.

The gap rose, to 3 minutes, then four, then six, working together until the ninth lap, when Slappendel started to attack. This was the signal for cooperation to be over, and although Slappendel gained 17 seconds, she was caught - and then Villumsen attacked, and was caught by Vos, and pretty much everyone else tried a move.

Just before the group crossed the line for the final lap, Slappendel tried one more time, followed yet again by Kupfernagel, and the pair made it clear! They worked together to gain distance on the chasers, who had that usual no-win situation of knowing that if they caught the lead pair, they were just setting Vos up for another attack opportunity! It didn't stop them trying, but Slappendel is a tough Dutch sprinter who excels in the Classics, and Kupfernagel is a hugely strong, experienced rider, and their skills complemented each other as they rode.... until they got to the final kilometres.

Kupfernagel attacked early, but Slappendel's sprint powers meant she easily caught the German rider, and crossed the line first, absolutely delighted to have taken her first World Cup victory (check out this photo - isn't she happy?). Vos and Olds battled right up to the line for the sprint for third - Vos' placing sealing her victory as the Road World Cup winner for 2012!

The rest of the group crossed the line in pairs and solo, exhausted by the attacking - and Kirsten Wild won the big bunch sprint for 13th, 9 and a half minutes behind the winner. Another spectacular race!

1. Iris Slappendel (Ned) Rabobank, 3:24:47
2. Hanka Kupfernagel (Ger) RusVeo, s.t.
3. Marianne Vos (Ned) Rabobank, + 01:10
4. Shelley Olds (USA) AA Drink-Leontien.nl, s.t.
5. Trixi Worrack (Ger) Specialized-lululemon, s.t.
6. Emma Johansson (Swe) Hitec Products-Mistral Home, s.t.
7. Tiffany Cromwell (Aus) Orica-AIS, + 01:14
8. Isabelle Söderberg (Swe) AA Drink-Leontien.nl, + 02:08
9. Evelyn Stevens (USA) Specialized-lululemon, s.t.
10. Linda Villumsen (NZl) Orica-Ais, s.t.

Full results

Slappendel really deserved that win. She's a great rider, who had a bad year or so, with injuries and bad luck with teams getting in the way of her racing. But when Garmin-Cervélo ended in November, Rabobank snapped her up, and she's been doing really well ever since. She's a tough rider, and was part of Cervélo's winning Team Time Trail team for years - but this has to be the biggest win of her career. I loved her tweet, thanking everyone, including her legs!

She's a really interesting rider off the bike as well as on it - in her off-season she's a product designer (check out her design website), makes websites for her team-mates, and blogs on her own site. And you can follow her on twitter too, from her tweet!

You can see some photos of the race on Christofer Söderberg's twitter, and there will be some up soon on womenscycling.net - and our own Bec* was at the race, and tweeted this great photo of Swedish roadside art!

Of course, we should get more photos and pictures over the coming week, so pop back in the comments - and add anything you see there to. Check back, too for more information on the GP Plouay, the final World Cup round.

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