Giro d'Italia Donne 2006
Abbiategrasso - Abbiategrasso, 88km
Taking her second stage of the Giro and the second stage in a row for her team, Regina Schleicher (Nürnberger) took a hectic sprint from Giorgia Bronzini (Team FRW) and Rochelle Gilmore (Safi). It was another very hot day on the Giro. 88km of flat racing meant that it was always likely to go to a sprint.
The bunch stayed together throughout the stage. There were several attempts to breakaway, including a 2km-long escape by a group of ten riders.
At the sprint point, Loës Gunnewijk led out Buitenpoort-Flexpoint team-mate Susanne Ljungskog, who took the honours from Giorgia Bronzini (AS Team FRW). As they jumped, Olga Slyusareva (Colnago Fenixs) also reacted and had to change direction rapidly to avoid ploughing into the back of a motorcycle escort, which did not accelerate with the front pair.
Silvia Valsecchi (Nobili) got away and managed an advantage of 9 seconds, she was joined in her attack by Svetlana Bubnenkova (Colnago Fenixs), but they were brought back a couple of kilometres later.
Entering the closing kilometres, Zoulfia Zabirova (Team Bigla) went to the front of the bunch and even opened a gap, which didn't stay open for long. Tania Belvedersi (Top Girls Fassa Bortolo) also managed to gain a few lengths lead as the race passed the 7km to go point.
Buitenpoort-Flexpoint were the first team to go to the front, with 6km to go, Loës Gunnewijk, Linda Villumsen and Sandra Rombouts were all visible. Race leader, Nicole Brändli (Team Bigla) and Olga Slyusareva were also in the first 20 riders. Regina Schleicher (Équipe Nürnberger) also began to move forwards, whilst Zoulfia Zabirova re-emerged after a rest further back, Giorgia Bronzini was on her wheel.
As the race entered Abbiategrasso, the Safi team were on the front in numbers, looking to set up the stage for Rochelle Gilmore, their sprinter. Then, Kate Bates (Nürnberger) made her move. She went to the front, Oenone Wood was on her wheel and Schleicher third. Bronzini was on Schleicher's wheel. Also there were Gunnewijk, Ljungskog, Slyusareva, Brändli, Zabirova and Gilmore. It was Bates, though, who was driving the race towards the finish.
With Bates on the front, then Wood, Schleicher and Bronzini, the bunch was strung out for ht first ten or so riders. Behind these, there was an arrowhead shape to the bunch. Slyusareva moved onto Schleicher's wheel. With 1km to go, Zaboriva on the other side of the road began to bury herself, but she was no match for Oenone Wood, who went through with Schleicher on her wheel. Bronzini was still behind Schleicher. The pace set by Wood when she accelerated was incredible, she was 'pounding' her pedals with 500m to go. At 400,m to go, Wood was still there. At 200m to go, Wood pulled across, Schleicher came through and there was never any question she would win. Bronzini had chosen the correct wheel to follow, but did not have the speed to come around. Gilmore was third.
Nicole Brändli (Team Bigla) remains in the lead on General Classification, by one second from Susanne Ljungskog (Buitenpoort-Flexpoint). Slyusareva retains the sprints and points competition leads, whilst Brändli is also leading the mountains competition.
Regina Schleicher "I was on the wheel of my team-mate, Oenone Wood until the final 200m. Tomorrow, I will leave my World Championship jersey at the Madonna del Ghisallo"
Nicole Branldi "Tomorrrow will be a fascinating stage. I owuld have preferred a harder climb than the Ghisallo, it is possible that Susanne ljungskog will attack, in order to take hte virtual maglia rosa [and win the race]. If she does, I will be forced to react, to keep the lead on that final, decisive climb."
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