Eurigio Ladies Tour
Bilzen - Bilzen 123.7km
The sun shone and the riders faced a hilly challenge in the Belgian countryside for the final stage of the inaugural Eurigio Ladies Tour. The bunch stayed together for the first half of the race. A small group broke away to contest some of the latter mountains competition sprints - the berg sprints. Siobhan Dervan (Lotto Belisol) and Sandra Missbach (AA Drink) were amongst the group, so too was Claudia Hecht (Nürnberger) and a Buitenpoort-Flexpoint rider.
The Americans were once again strong on the front and Kori Seehafer (USA) was particularly active in going with late breaks which went away during the final 30km of the race. The bunch chased hard and brought back the final group of leaders, who had just 55 seconds going into the last lap of a 15km circuit.
The bunch sprint was uphill, after a course which wound through the centre of Bilzen. There was no doubt about who was strongest today - Kate Bates (Nürnberger) finished a couple of lengths ahead of the others. Race leader, Kristin Armstrong (USA) and second-placed Loës Gunnewijk (Buitenpoort-Flexpoint) were in the bunch. Bates was third on General Classification at the start of the day and not someone they wanted to give any time away to.
The race overall was won by Kristin Armstrong, leading a strong USA team. The Young rider competition was won by Regina Bruins (Regio Team West), Points competition winner was Loës Gunnewijk (Buitenpoort-Flexpoint), Mountains competition winner was An van Rie (Lotto Belisol). The Team prize was won by Buitenpoort-Flexpoint
Kate Bates (Stage Winner) "That was cool. Today is possibly one of the most enjoyable races I've ever done because my team was awesome and just the feeling amongst the six of us was really great. I was pretty tired but they urged me on towards the end, saying "come on Kate, you know you can win this".
Was the uphill finish her 'type' of finish? "Normally not, but I'm starting to feel really strong and if you can get a good jump on an uphill it makes that much harder....... " With that, she was whisked off to the podium presentation.......
Kristin Armstrong Race Winner How was it to win the first ever Eurigio Tour, did you come here with form? "Actually I came here with a lot of base miles, I'd just taken a mid-season break, got a little bit of intensity through the Holland Ladies Tour last week and came into this Tour feeling pretty good. It has a little bit more climbing in it (than Holland Ladies Tour) and the field is a little smaller. I felt like the team could race our bikes as a team and focus on tactics, just working together as a unit versus sitting-in a little bit as you do when there's over 100 women in the field. Its been a lot of fun and I'm glad we came out with some success before the World Championships."
What about the team, were you able to dominate the bunch? "The United States is really coming along as far as development and we're trying to get more women over here racing more and more. I think you'll see that more and more in 2007, 2008; leading up to Beijing. There are some who have more experience than others in the team, but others are coming right along. They're young and its fun to have them be part of the team especially when we have a win."
Will you be over here in Europe more ext year? "Yes definitely. Net year the UCI points become important for the lead up to Beijing, so I'll be coming over here (I hope) with TEAm Lipton. We're waiting to fin out if we have a European budget, we raced only domestically in 2006."
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