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Sunday racing: Sparkassen Giro and World Cup Open de Suède Vårgårda races 2011

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It has been a big weekend for women's racing - with two of the last three Road World Cup races, and a race that would have been a World Cup, if it hadn't had to move the date to this weekend.  Lots of big questions - could Garmin-Cervélo keep their unbroken record and win the Vårgårda Team Time Trial?  Would Marianne Vos' recent string of victories finally come to an end?  Could World Champion Giorgia Bronzini win in Germany?

Below the jump, a round-up of all the action - and here are the Beyond The Peloton videos from last year's World Cup Team Time Trial and Road Race, to get you in the mood.  Anything you see like videos, pictures, blogs or fun stuff, please add it to the comments!

Open de Suéde Vårgårda Team Time Trial, Sweden, World Cup

On Friday it was the only Team Time Trial of the World Cup, and one of the first of the two Swedish rounds.  The Vårgårda weekend is fantastic for bike fans - the TTT, parties, a mass participation race on Saturday, and then the World Cup road race on Sunday.  The Cervélo Test Team have dominated this race - winning it every year since it first started in 2008.  But with the transition to Garmin-Cervélo, they lost a lot of the time trial experts who brought them that success - and this year, when there have been TTTs, one team has really shone...  HTC-Highroad!

The course was 42.5km long - a rolling route out from Vårgårda to Herrlunga and back along the same road, with a final finishing lap through Vårgårda town, including a climb of around 40m.  The cyclists were riding into the wind for the "out" section, but helping them on the way "back". With Sweden the first team setting out, the race was on.  Teams were starting at 3 minutes intervals, and as in all the TTTs this year, it was one of the earliest teams who set down the marker - Team Australia, who caught Denmark, the team who started in front of them, and set the fastest time at 00:54:53.  That time was hard to beat - even by the big pro teams.

It was only when AA Drink-Leontien.nl set off that Australia were pushed off the top spot.  AA Drink rode an amazing race, finishing in 00:54:06 - but behind them on the road, Garmin-Cervélo, HTC-Highroad and Nederland Bloeit... and news was coming that HTC were destroying the previous best times at every intermediate checkpoint.  Garmin-Cervélo finished behind AA at 00:54:52 - and news from our own Jens, the man with the updates, was that HTC were on fire, but down to only four riders, having dropped Emilia Fahlin and Ina-Yoko Teutenberg - and their time would go on the first four across the line!  Could they make it home without any problems?

Of course they could!  They ripped apart the race, ending at 00:54:46 - 1.43 up on AA Drink.  Spectacular ride!  It was clear from the intermediate checks that although Nederland Bloeit were still riding, they wouldn't be able to touch them, and the Bloesems came in at fifth place.

1.   HTC-Highroad, 00:53:02
2.   AA-Drink-Leontien.nl, + 01:47
3.   Garmin-Cervélo, + 01:49
4.   Australia, + 01:50
5.   Nederland Bloeit, + 02:01
6.   Russia, + 03:06
7.   Hitec Products UCK, + 03:19
8.   Germany, + 04:11
9.   Lotto Honda, + 04:19
10. MCipollini-Giambenini, +04:25

Full results (vds scoring to 20 places)

Once more this year, HTC-Highroad showed their dominance, beating the Cervélo team in the World Cup TTT for the first time, one of their main goals of the season.  AA Drink-Leontien had a fantastic race - and although Garmin-Cervélo couldn't continue their winning streak, given that the team is so different to last year, they did fantastically to get on the podium.  Huge respect also to Team Australia, yet again showing that the big pro teams always need to look out for the nationals!

Star-divide

Sparkassen Giro, Germany, UCI 1.1

Although the World Cup teams were out in Sweden, there was still a really strong field out in Bochum, with another HTC-Highroad team, World Champion Giorgia Bronzini and Colavita Forno-d'Asolo, another Hitec team, and German legend Hanka Kupfernagel lining up for Horizon FitnessSparkassen Giro is a weekend's festival of racing, with all kinds of fun things, including a mini Giro for tiny children - the women's race is just 73km - 6 laps of a hard course - and for the last few years has been won by sprinters - Ellen van Dijk (HTC) last year in the pouring rain, Rochelle Gilmore (Lotto) in 2009, Suzanne de Goede in 2008 - and Kupfernagel in 2007.

Stef Wyman, the Horizon DS, gave me this great race report - any mistakes are mine, not his!

The race started out with HTC-Highroad attacking from the start.  The first two laps were non-stop - single riders, and groups of 3 or 4 attacking and getting some distance, but getting reeled back in.  HTC didn't let an opportunity to attack pass - and Amanda Miller was especially active.  Horizon's Kupfernagel and Helen Wyman were also hard on the attack - Wyman getting 30 seconds at one point, and the first sprint points - and as soon as she was caught, her team-mate Jo Rowsell had a go - and as soon as she was caught, it was time for HTC's Evelyn Stevens.  

All that, just in the first 20km!  But Stevens' move put a stop to that - especially once Kupfernagel had bridged across.  The pair got up to 45 seconds, and stayed away for three laps, with Colavita Forno d'Asolo leading the fast and furious chase behind them, bringing the gap down to seven seconds with two laps to go.  At this point, Kupfernagel sat up - but Stevens wasn't ready for that, and attacked hard, getting the gap up to a minute, and staying away for another lap. Behind her, HTC tried to control the chase, but Colavita, Skil-Koga and Horizon were working well together, and she was caught on the last lap...  when a break of six jumped away almost straight away!

This group was a strong one - Adrie Visser (HTC), Christine Majerus (GSD Gestion), Liesbet de Vocht (Top Sport), Hanka Kupfernagel (Horizon), Alessandra D'Ettorre (Colavita) and Hanna Amend (Stevens Redvil) - working together, they made it right to the end - where Visser put her fantastic sprinting powers to good use, and won the race, a deserving winner!  Edit!  World Champion Giorgia Bronzini (Colavita) Suzanne de Goede (Skil Koga) won the bunch sprint for seventh, Kupfernagel took the sprint prize, ahead of Stevens and Wyman, and Stevens won the mountains jersey, ahead of Kupfernagel and Linda Ringlever (MovingLadies)

1.   Adrie Visser (Ned) HTC-Highroad, 2:18:52
2.   Christine Majerus (Lux) GSD Gestion, s.t.
3.   Liesbet de Vocht (Bel) TopSport Vlaanderen, s.t.
4.   Hanka Kupfernagel (Ger) Horizon Fitness-Prendas Ciclismo, s.t.
5.   Alessandra D'Ettorre (Ita) Colavita Forno d'Asolo, s.t.
6.   Hanna Amend (Ger) Stevens-Redvil, + 00:02
7.   Suzanne de Goede (Ned) Skil-Koga, + 00:10
8.   Giorgia Bronzini (Ita) Colavita Forno d'Asolo, s.t.
9.   Chloe Hosking (Aus) HTC-Highroad, s.t.
10. Nathalie Lambourelle (Lux) ABUS-Nutrixxion, s.t.

Full results on Cicloweb (vds down to 15 places)

So that's two out of the three big races won by HTC - what would happen in Sweden?

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Open de Suède Vårgårda Road Race, Sweden (vds scoring to 20 places)

At the same time as Sparkassen was being raced, the Vårgårda road race was also on the road.  With just the GP de Plouay to come in the World Cup, this was a hugely important race, with the big question - was this the race where Marianne Vos' incredible string of wins would finally come to an end?  This was her first big race after her spectacular Giro Donne win - but Emma Johansson, who'd won the Thüringen Rundfahrt stage race the week before wanted that home-soil win - and everyone else wanted a piece of World Cup glory!  The course was 12 laps of a tricky 11 kilometre circuit, with a climb and descent to cause problems - 132km in total.

Edit!  Here's a short news report (interview with the winner in English) - see via Jens, thankyou!

The race started with a minute's silence to honour the victims of the horrific Norwegian terrorist attacks - a fine touch.

This is one tough race, a real race of attrition - HTC's Amber Neben described it as "raced like a 3+ hour crit"!   You can follow how the action unfolded on the race ticker, but for a shorter version.... The first lap was relatively quiet, but the attacks started from lap 2, with Garmin-Cervélo and Alriksson Go:Green pushing on the front.  Madeleine Sandig (Germany) and Jessica Kihlbom (Alriksson) crossed finish-line at the end of the third lap first, but were caught.  Crashes disrupted the race, and small groups and riders made attack after attack, but were chased down, with HTC-Highroad and Garmin-Cervélo particularly active.

At 5 laps to go, the peloton was down to 60 riders from a startlist of (approx) 158 - riders taken out by crashes (like Karin Aune) or pulled out of the race as they couldn't keep up with the pace.  It seemed like everyone had attacked - especially Judith Arndt and Emilia Fahlin (HTC) and Emma Pooley (Garmin) - but with four laps to go, an attack went that looked like it could stay away - Annemiek van Vleuten (Nederland Bloeit), Ellen van Dijk (HTC), Iris Slappendel (Garmin), Irene van den Broek (AA Drink-Leontien.nl), Nicole Cooke (MCipollini-Giambenini), Oxana Kozonchuk (Russia) and Regina Bruins (Netherlands).  With Hitec leading the chase behind them, and the gap up to 45 seconds at 23km to go, could they make it all the way?

Emma Johansson attacked off the front, desperate to make the front group, and was alone between the groups on the penultimate climb - and of course, if Johansson attacks, it's a signal for action, as she's a threat to the race and the World Cup standings.  The ticker was very interesting about who was helping the group, and who was there to watch and wait - and as Van Vleuten lead the escape group across the line into the last lap, the gap had dropped to 40 seconds.

The last lap brought rain, which added an extra something to the tricky corners in the town.  Van Vleuten attacked on the hill, with Van Dijk catching her but they were soon caught again by Slappendel, Van den Broek, Cooke and Bruins - Kozonchuk having dropped off the group.  At 2km to go the gap was down to 15 seconds, and falling fast...  and then at around the same time as the back of the group was caught, Van Vleuten attacked for the final sprint... winning her second World Cup race of the season, by a good couple of bike lengths.  Ellen van Dijk followed in second, and Nicole Cooke rounded off the podium. 

1.   Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Nederland Bloeit, 3:19:49
2.   Ellen van Dijk (Ned) HTC-Highroad, s.t.
3.   Nicole Cooke (GBr) MCipollini-Giambenini, s.t.
4.   Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (Ger) HTC-Highroad, s.t.
5.   Irene van den Broek (Ned) AA Drink-Leontien.nl, s.t.
6.   Kirsten Wild (Ned) AA Drink-Leontien.nl, s.t.
7.   Iris Slappendel (Ned) Garmin-Cervélo, s.t.
8.   Martine Bras (Ned) Dolmans Landscaping, s.t.
9.   Judith Arndt (Ger) HTC-Highroad, s.t.
10. Emma Johansson (Swe) Hitec Products UCK, s.t.

Full results  (vds down to 20 places)

Marianne Vos' winning run was finally over - and with Vos finishing in 17th place, Van Vleuten took back the World Cup leader's jersey from her team-mate - but as Vos is always as happy for her team-mates' wins as for her own, I'm sure she was nothing but smiles!

World Cup standings after 8 rounds:

1.   Annemiek van Vleuten (Ned) Nederland Bloeit, 287 points
2.   Marianne Vos (Ned) Nederland Bloeit, 280
3.   Emma Johansson (Swe) Hitec Products UCK, 212
4.   Judith Arndt (Ger) HTC-Highroad, 163
5.   Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (Ger) HTC-Highroad, 143
6.   Elizabeth Armitstead (GBr) Garmin-Cervélo, 117
7.   Emma Pooley (GBr) Garmin-Cervélo,  111
8.   Kirsten Wild (Ned) AA Drink-Leontien.nl, 108
9.   Martine Bras (Ned) Dolmans Landscaping, 103
10. Ellen van Dijk (Ned) HTC-Highroad, 85

Full results

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So, one more race to go in the World Cup...  only four riders have won World Cup races this year - Emma Pooley at Trofeo Binda, Annemiek Van Vleuten at Ronde van Vlaanderen and Vårgårda, Ina-Yoko Teutenberg at Tour of ChongMing Island...  and Marianne Vos at Ronde van DrentheFlèche Wallonne and GP de Valladolid.  One more race to go - GP de Plouay on 28th August - what will happen?  Will Vos or Van Vleuten win the 2011 World Cup?  With 75 points for the race winner, and points down to 20 places, Van Vleuten could win without starting Plouay - but it will be fun to see how it ends!