World Road Championships
Review of the World Championships - 2 teams tell it their way
World Road Championships - Salzburg, Austria, September 2006
women's cycling coach, Warren McDonald, says he is excited about the team's
prospects heading towards the Beijing Olympics after Oenone Wood finished
sixth in the women's 132 kilometres road race today at the World
Championships in Salzburg, Austria.
were just too many attacks and I'd just had it by the time I got to the
The 2006 UCI Road World Championships women's events concluded Saturday in Salzburg where Amber Neben (Buitenpoort-Flexpoint) led the U.S. contingent with a 12th-place effort in the elite women's road race. Neben made the final selection of 15 riders, but was outnumbered by several other nations including the Netherlands, whose Marianne Vos won the 15-rider sprint for the world title.
Team USA's Christine Thorburn (Webcor-Platinum) and Kristin Armstrong (TEAm Lipton) finished in the chase group just over two minutes behind, placing 34th and 38th respectively.
Neben's result was the best finish for the United States since Dede Barry placed 11th in 2003.
Racing six laps of a 13.67-mile circuit that included two notable climbs, the race's final selection was made on the second climb during the penultimate lap when an attack from Nicole Brändli (SUI) and Nicole Cooke (GBR) splintered the peloton. At the bottom of the ensuing descent, the field had been pared down to a 15-rider group that included a threesome each from both the German and Swiss squads in addition to two Austrians, two Italians and a pair of Dutch. All of the countries expected to be in the mix were represented, and most of the pre-race favourites were still in contention.
As one of three riders in the lead group without a teammate, Neben's offensive tactics were limited.
"You're kind of limited in what you can do because you have to protect yourself and race at the same time," explained Neben. "I just tried to follow the stuff that looked dangerous or had the Germans in it. If you had some teammates in there, you can take a little bit more of a risk."
On the final lap, the leaders rode the first climb cautiously with no attacks, but a more aggressive pace on the final ascent resulted in a slight advantage for Vos, Cooke and Brändli - a move that eventually was brought back with three miles remaining.
"The last time it split again with the three," said Neben, "but I wasn't too concerned and really didn't put down the full maximum effort to try and stay with it. I knew (Germany's) Trixi (Worrack) and (Italy's) Therese (Senff) were right there and (Germany's) Judith (Arndt) was chasing back on, and anytime you have Judith Arndt pulling something back, whatever is up the road is not going to stay away."
Neben's patience left her with enough energy to attempt a winning move with less than two miles to the finish, but her attack was quickly reeled in on the flat terrain.
"In the finish I was just looking for an opportunity," explained Neben of her last-ditch effort. "I saw a chance going over the railroad tracks and had a brief split with the other Dutch girl (Chantal Beltman). It wasn't going to be. Then I was looking, looking, looking and slid back to look again and all of the sudden there was one kilometre to go and I was too far back."
One of the strongest climbers and time trialists on the international circuit, Neben is not necessarily known for her sprinting, and after the eleventh-hour attack, wasn't in position to win. But nonetheless, the result was a moral victory that illustrated the progress and depth of the American squad.
"It's the closest I've been in a road race at world's," commented Neben. "I had my sights set on the rainbow stripes, but I think if you don't, then why are you even racing? Any time you race the world's and make the selection at the end and you have a chance to win, you can't ask for anything else."
Neben's effort ends the competition for the elite women at the world championships which included a world title for Armstrong and a bronze medal for Thorburn in Wednesday's time trial.
"We started back in 2002 with this group and we've come so far," Neben said of her teammates. "I'm just really impressed with American cycling. Kristin and Christine winning two medals in the time trial is awesome and now we were just in a position to try and win the road race at world's. The U.S. is in good standing. We'll get there."
The team's other three riders - Kimberly Baldwin (T-Mobile), Kim Anderson (T-Mobile) and Tina Pic (Colavita-Cooking Light) - did not finish.
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