UCI World Cup 2005
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World Cup Round 8 - GP Newport, Wales 110km
On a warm, Welsh day, the eighth round of the UCI World Cup was run under conditions of superb organisation, delivered by Alan Rushton's Sport For Television and with UK Sport funding. Unfortunately, the racing was a little negative - this late in the World Cup season, teams and riders are working very hard to ensure that they keep the race under control and propel their highest ranking riders into the break or the final sprint in order to protect their overall positions.
This was the first truly international race for women on UK soil. The start sheet was a who's-who? of the European pro peleton. Yet, there was a huge weight of expectation on the shoulders of the Great Britain team - the local and national media and TV were here and were predicting podium finishes for riders like Rachel Heal - who although very capable would have been happy with a top ten finish. They wanted 'their' riders to do well and in fact, the GB team did perform, but with several young riders and only Catherine Hare and Rachel Heal with any significant experience, they were never going to set the race alight. In reality, though, the only likely contenders for the podium were the Nürnbergers - Wood and Arndt (Wood entered the race as World Cup leader, Arndt was 7th going into the race) and Susanne Ljungskog and Mirjam Melchers van Poppel (both Buitenpoort -Flexpoint) were second and third going into the race and were working to protect, or even build upon their positions.
The bunch rode steadily for the first two laps of the 38km lap circuit and most were still together as the race passed through the grounds of Race HQ, the Celtic Manor Resort. The final lap was the potential danger point for any breakaways to go away. Although many teams tried to launch riders off the front, including Nobili Rubinetterie and the Van Bemmelens, nothing was long-lived. According to several riders speaking afterwards, when no break was established before the final climb of Wentwood, they didn't really expect any challenge to stay away over the climb and through to the finish due to the extensive length of descending after the climb - which would allow any escapees to be swept up again. (Following the bunch down the climb, they were touching on 50 miles per hour at times.) The race did split, but a main group of ten riders broke away and managed to stay away with 10 kilometres remaining. The time gap was modest, though - daylight rather than a huge advantage. Then, on the final climb, Oenone Wood gifted the race to team-mate Judith Arndt. As the breakaway went up the final climb, Arndt was leading Wood and looking so strong that she gained a small distance on the others continued, maintained it and crossed the line 2 seconds ahead of the others.
Judith Arndt - Équipe Nürnberger
"As we started the last climb, I saw Oenone on my wheel, she said 'just go' and caused a gap and so the race was a present from her and I'm just happy that she keeps her Race Leader jersey." It had been a race tactic for one of the Nürnberger pair to take the race. "Our goal was to win the race." Her reaction to the race organisation was very positive. She agreed with Oenone Wood that a stage race prior to the World Cup in future years would increase participation and that such an event would help to "make it a better race. It would make it more exciting for spectators too."
Oenone Wood - Équipe Nürnberger
WCN How do you feel - you're still in the jersey and there are three races left?
OW "Its all good. The points are down to four or five points now [on second-placed Ljungskog], so its getting closer but we have a strong enough team to defend the jersey over the next races. Obviously, the most important thing for is to win the bike race and that's what we did today too.
WCN Is it the case that you gifted the race to Judith?
OW "Yeah, she was leading me out at the last climb and she was riding so strongly that I let a gap form and she was so strong today that none of the others could get across to her."
WCN You look really pleased with the result today
OW "Yeah - we got a first and a third - we kept the jersey and we won the race. Its worked out really well."
WCN What are your feelings going into the final 3 races over the next 3 weekends, is it going to be tough?
OW "Its a lot of racing and we've also got the Holland Ladies Tour in between so the next month is huge and then we've got the World Championships. That's a lot of pressure and a lot of hard racing. I'm looking forward to it - the challenge."
WCN How was this race - for a first time World Cup?
OW "Its been good. The numbers were low. To help draw other teams maybe a Tour or another race would attract them. We could race before the World Cup - like other races"
Rachel Heal - Great Britain
WCN How was this race - the first ever World Cup in the UK?
RH "It was a fantastic experience to have the race here. It was a little bit strange to see all the international riders here on the grounds that we've raced on before, but a really good experience"
WCN And what about the race itself, this is a course that you know well, obviously? (This is the course which has been used for several of the most recent British RR Championships)
RH "I knew how hard it was. Everyone else knew after riding around the course yesterday and there was a general agreement that it is a tough one and that it was going to be a tough race."
WCN What about your performance today, are you pleased with how you went. Was there a lot of pressure on the team due to this being the first World Cup on UK soil?
RH "A World Cup on your home grounds is not the best time to have a bad day. I was interviewed before the race for TV and they were pushing for me to predict I'd get a podium finish and realistically I knew that wouldn't happen. I was hoping for a top ten position if everything went well, but unfortunately it didn't. That's racing."
WCN You were team leader today and you were working with the less experienced members of the team (Nikki Harris, Helen Wyman and Emma Pooley), how do you think they've done?
RH "Its been a tough experience for them, I think, but I think they've enjoyed it and they did really, really well. For Nikki and Emma in their first World Cup race, they did fantastically."
Catherine Hare - Great Britain
WCN How exciting was it to be in the first World Cup in Britain?
CH "Its been good to be in the UK racing. The hotel here is great and the team is a great team to be in. But there's extra pressure on because you know that people are watching. The team really wanted to do well because we knew that people were looking for a performance and we wanted to be seen. Although we knew we were never going to win, but on the flatter bits we were at the front, working hard and being seen at the front. We were also going with the attacks. It was nice to be part of that team."
WCN What was the plan for the team today?
CH "Rachel is our team leader and after the first climb if it was all still together we were to do all we could to help her. Emma and Nikki are new to this kind of racing and so there was no more expectation than helping Rachel. We each had our own targets - to finish with the group, in the top group, or whatever. As a team we wanted to be seen to be competing and competitive in the race. I think the team did well - people finished in the group - people can't say that we didn't do well with that."
WCN You haven't raced for a while have you?
CH "No, this is my first race back - I picked up a knee injury in the Giro [early July] and I've been off the bike. This is my first race back. I'm looking to ride the Holland Ladies Tour and then the team [Bianchi] have the Tour of Tuscany."
Kate and Natalie Bates - Ton Van Bemmelen AA Drinks
WCN How was the race today?
KB "Pretty good, but it was bit of a negative race because we're so far into the World Cup that people are maintaining their positions overall and protecting that and not attacking. The nature pf the finish meant that people could go up the last climb and win the race and they were the same people that would have gone away in a group, so there was no need for them to attack early. In fact there was so much descending after the main climb that an attack would have been a waste of energy because there was enough time to bring a break back."
WCN What about your own performance?
KB " I'm quite pleased. But today we wanted result for the team, Suzanne [De Goede] is fifth overall, but given the nature of the finish we couldn't really help her, so the only thing we could do was to try and get away, make it harder. I had a few digs, but I'm not really a climber, so for me, I got to the finish closer to the front than I would have expected. I'm happy with that."
WCN Did this feel like a special event? How aware were you as a visitor of the significance of this event for the UK?
NB "It was good. And we were back on the left hand side of the road [which is normal for Australian Bates, who rides most of the year in Europe (on the right hand side of the road)], which some of the others had to get used to. I think its great for women's cycling and we need to promote it wherever we can and its really good to have a variety of different courses all over the world. Plus, the sun is shining so I'm happy to be here."
WCN What was it like today? Was it a hard course?
NB "A little bit deceptive I think. There was a lot of descending and with climb just before the finish I think a lot of people were saving themselves. I think some people were a bit reluctant to have a go on the climbs because it was rolling back together. Also I think when you get to this stage in the World Cup competition, people are playing it out for points and so it becomes tactically a bit different - it makes it strange sometimes. Today, we all knew that final climb was where it would be played out."
WCN What were your team's tactics for today?
NB "We've got Theresa Senff, a really good climber, but she had a bit of an accident last week, so we didn't know how she'd go. So we wanted to get out there and have a bit of a go and see what we could do, see if we could get anything to stick, for Suzanne [de Goede] and if not, we had Theresa for the final climb to the finish. A few of us had a go and we were in everything, but unfortunately nothing stuck....."
110.70 kms / 68.84 miles, Speed 34.38 kph / 21.38 mph, 59 starters, 47 finishers
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