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Review of the World Championships - 2 teams tell it their way

World Road Championships  - Salzburg, Austria, September 2006



Australian 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.

"I think it was a very exciting race and I think for Oenone to be there in the last 12 that's exciting for us because we haven't had many riders who could get to the end of a very hard World Championships and be competitive," said McDonald.

The race was won by Dutch 19 year old Marianne Vos in a time of 3hr20min26sec. The teenager has had a phenomenal season claiming the U23 European and Dutch elite road titles as well as the cyclocross World Championship gold medal. She outsprinted Germany's Trixi Worrack, 24, with 2006 World Cup Champion, Nicole Cooke, 23, from Great Britain third.

Twelve riders eventually formed the leading group to challenge for the medals with Germany and Switzerland boasting three riders each in the lead group. The Netherlands and Austria had two each leaving Wood outnumbered over the final kilometres to the finish.

"She had to pick the riders who were going to make the race and to her credit got to the line and maybe didn't have the legs at the finish," said McDonald. "But I think it's a good sign coming off a very important Commonwealth Games year that at the end of the year (she was up there)."

Wood, who turns 26 on Sunday 24th September, is a two time World Cup Series champion (2004 and 2005), bronze medallist at last year's World Championships, gold and bronze medallist at this year's Commonwealth Games and held the number one world ranking for most of 2005. She also played a key role along with Olivia Gollan, in the team work displayed by the Australians which secured the gold medal for Sara Carrigan at the Athens Olympic Games.

Wood was herself supported today by a strong Australian team made up of Gollan, Helen Kelly, Katherine and Natalie Bates and Emma Rickards and says, although she put herself in the best position to win today and if it had played out slightly differently she might have been on the podium, it was not to be.

"The girls looked after me in the first four laps of the race and made sure I was safe, in good position and had everything that I needed," said Wood. "They did a really fantastic job and then it was up to me.

"I gave them everything I could and I did my best but I just didn't have it at the finish," explained Wood who chose her tactics well to stay with the leaders but began suffering cramps in the last few kilometres. 

"There were just too many attacks and I'd just had it by the time I got to the line.

"I'm still happy with the way we rode today,
" she said. "I think we did a really good job and I'd like to thank the girls for putting their faith in me.

McDonald doesn't see any reason for Wood or the team to be disappointed however because he had slated the period after the Commonwealth Games as the time to experiment and rebuild.

"Oenone had a three week block (off the bike) in August and I think it got her here in strong form - maybe not super form," said McDonald, who says all the Commonwealth Games riders needed a break mid season to recharge after such an early peak in the season. "No excuses but we're trying things now that will help us for next year's World Championships and Beijing and we're getting very close to knowing how to do it for the next two years.

"A number of (our women) riders are changing teams and that's exciting for Australian cycling that quite a few of riders will have a better situation with (professional) teams that will support them to race well at World Championships and to try and qualify for Beijing," McDonald explained. "So for me when we get down to three riders in Beijing Australia will, as we did in Athens, back up with three very strong riders and do that again in Beijing.

"I'm excited for the future.

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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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