Giro d'Italia Donne 2006
Santuario di Vicoforte - Mondovì 100km
After losing contact with the leaders within sight of the 1km to go banner, Olga Slyusareva (Colnago Fenixs) fought hard to regain contact, but eventually settled for a finish place in the chasing bunch. She would have known that her ride in the pink jersey was over, perhaps just for now. She handed the jersey back to Nicole Brändli (Team Bigla), who finished second behind Susanne Ljungskog (Buitenpoort-Flexpoint).
Slyusareva worked hard all day to protect her lead. When Brändli and Ljungskog dropped her just before the GPM point on the ominously named Passo del Morté, she fought on the descent to get back in contact. In fact, these three were active throughout the stage, when they were caught by the bunch after their escape at the GPM point, they waited their time before going again in the closing kilometres of the stage. With them for much of the time was Slyusareva team-mate and ace climber, Svetlana Bubnenkova.
Nobili Rubinetterie had a busy day too. Edita Puckinskaite was protecting her mountains jersey. Although she was unsuccessful, she saw the final move go and went with it. She lost contact in the final few hundred metres. Her team-mates, especially Japanese road champion, Miho Oki, kept the pace high in the final 10km of the race, chasing down attacks and making sure that Puckinskaite was in good position for the final 3km which were a horrible uphill test.
Going into the final kilometre, Ljungskog led Bubnenkova, Puckinskaite, Brändli and three others who were losing touch, Fabiana Luperini (Top Girls Fassa Bortolo) and Tatiana Guderez (Top Girls Fassa Bortolo) As they turned the final left hand corner into the steepest part of the finishing straight, which narrowed through the town's ancient street, Ljungskog was the last to stand up on the pedals. Through the narrow streets, she was on the front and powering upwards towards the finish. Puckinskaite slipped off the group whilst Brändli kept close on Ljungskog's wheel. Bubnenkova was just off the front pair, in third.
A glance over her shoulder confirmed to Ljungskog where her competitors were, she sat up, only momentarily raised one arm in a quick victory wave, then coasted over the line. Nicole Brändli took second place and regained the leader's jersey. She also took the mountains jersey from Edita Puckinskaite. Slyusareva retains the sprinter's jersey and also the special sprint points jersey.
Susanne Ljungskog "I am pleased to have won such a very hard stage. The Giro will be decided on Sunday, with the climb to Ghisallo, although its going to be a battle until then."
Nicole Brändli "Slyusareva on form is almost unbeatable. So, therefore, we attacked hard today on the climbs. We're aware of the danger [she presents] and it gives us the courage to continue until the end"
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