UCI Road World Cup 2006
First Swedish World Cup won by Susanne Ljungskog
World Cup Round 8 - Vårgårda - Open de Suède
Compatriot, Monica Holler third, World Cup Leader, Nicole Cooke second, retains lead
Suzanne Ljungskog (Buitenpoort-Flexpoint) outsprinted Nicole Cooke (Univega) (Series Leader) after the pair had been involved in a long-standing break which saw T-Mobile's Magali Le Floche slip off their pace on the penultimate lap.
The small town of Vårgårda, north of Goteberg came alive with the bike race, even more so with such a popular, 'home' win.
An early break, containing Linda Villumsen (Buitenpoort), Oenone Wood (Nürnberger) and Fabiana Luperini (Top Girls Fassa Bortolo) lasted for a couple of laps, but then Oenone Wood went off course. The remaining pair were caught by the bunch. It did not take long for another break to go. This was a dangerous group and teams, recognising the danger, sent riders across to it. At one stage, it contained 14 riders, including: Neben, Rasmussen, Juanatra, Kiesanowski, Bates (K), Anderson and De Goede.
Kim Anderson (T-Mobile) made a break, which gained a maximum of almost a minute, but this was too much for the Buitenpoort team. They had already pulled back the riders from the break stranded by Anderson's attempt then Susanne Ljungskog pulled the bunch forward and Anderson was caught.
Ljungskog kept going and was joined by some others who identified the danger of letting the Swedish Champion away on her own soil. Karin Thürig and Nicole Cooke (Univega), Dorte Rasmussen (Bianci), Monica Holler, Zoulfia Zabirova (Team Bigla), Annette Beutler (Buitenpoort), Trixi Worrack (Nürnberger) and Magali Le Floche (T-Mobile) were all there. This group stayed together until 3 laps to go, when, climbing the hill, Cooke, Ljungskog and Le Floche broke away. They quickly managed a sizable gap; this was to be the decisive break. The bunch was chasing, but Neben and Beutler were there to 'police' any serious chasers.
Next time up the hill, Magali Le Floche was dropped, Cooke and Ljungskog continued together. They worked until the final lap, when Ljungskog forced Cooke to the front. Leading into the sprint, Cooke turned right into the finishing straight first, but this was the point that Ljungskog unleashed her sprint, afraid of getting boxed-in, she was also aware of Nicole Cooke's powerful sprint, so she decided to go early. As they came into sight down the finishing straight, Ljungskog was ahead of Cooke. She continued sprinting and managed a smile on the line. Monica Holler (Team Bigla) was third - another Swede, she was delighted and gave a two-handed salute. Trixi Worrack (Nürnberger) finished alone for fourth place.
The reception for Susanne Ljungskog was tremendous - a popular winner in her home country, she was applauded and cheered as she walked to the presentation ceremony. On the way, whilst she was giving an interview, her father managed to catch up with the winner and the pair shared a hug and congratulations.
The square in Vårgårda was filled to capacity for the presentation. A pair of local children sung a Swedish song for the winner, with words changed, so that "We say Ljungskog" rang out across the crowd. The celebrations continued long after the fizzy cider had been sprayed (over local children) and it will have been a late night for the Swedish Champion and the first ever winner of a World Cup on Swedish soil.
Vårgårda Cycling Club presented a well organised race on a technical course, which consisted mainly of country roads or town streets. This was never going to come done to a bunch sprint, the 800m hill, covered on each of 11laps saw to that. This World Cup was an impressive introduction to racing in Sweden and although not all of the World Cup rounds for 2007 have yet been awarded, this must surely be a contender for the vacant slots.
Minutes after her win in Vårgårda, Susanne Ljungskog spoke exclusively to WomensCycling.net.
WCN : Congratulations, how does it feel to be the first ever winner of a World Cup in Sweden?
SL : Its unbelievable! Its like a dream come true.
WCN : What about your team today?
SL : Oh my God, they did a wonderful job today. They were amazing, we knew that the circuit was not so hard. We had to make it hard. They had to make it hard because the hill was not too bad. They created an opening for me to attack and once I had a gap, it was just a case of keeping going.
WCN : Can you talk us through the sprint?
SL : Nicole Cooke is a really good sprinter, so I really had to be focussed and concentrate hard because otherwise she's be better than me, a little bit faster, I think. I was worried about getting blocked in too, so I went quite early, at the 250m to go point. I just went for it, it was so long, but it was great!
DNF - Did not finish
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