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The Thuringen Rundfahrt
By Dede Demet Barry, T-Mobile professional cycling team
Before coming to Germany, I had a month-long break from racing.
I took one week completely off the bike and then started to ramp up my training. I packed in some heavy mileage weeks, riding mostly with Michael each day. Riding with Michael pushes me into fitness, as he rides quite a bit faster than I generally do on my own.
We would go out the door together each day, although often when we hit a major climb, or he needed to do some intensity, he would speed off ahead and I would keep going at my pace. It is neat to be able to share so much time together on the bike. Cycling has allowed us to explore new places together and share some incredible experiences.
The training we did whipped me into fairly good shape and prepared me to start Thuringen. Lining up at the start of this race were most of the adversaries we will face next month at the Olympic Games in Athens, although a couple of the favorites were missing, notably Jeannie Longo, Leonteen Van Moorsal and Nicole Cook. In any case, this race has been a good opportunity to scope out the competition and get a feel for who is looking sharp.
The first day’s time trial had three of the top four riders from the World Championships last year finish in the top four. Karin Thürig won the event. Karin is a triathlete from Switzerland who now has two World Championship time trial medals (2002 and 2003) and raced the Ironman in Hawaii after the World’s in Canada last October. Karin will be competing in both the time trial and the individual pursuit in Athens.
Karin rode at Thuringen with the Swiss National Team at this race, which seems to be quite strong, but they did not help her much in her attempt to win the race. She was defending her yellow leader’s jersey, riding on the front chasing breaks alone for much of the race. She also rode quite aggressively after losing the lead, attacking early in the final stage and riding solo off the front.
T-Mobile had Kristin Armstrong, Lara Kroeptsh, Kimberly Bruckner, Amber Neben, Christine Thorburn (a guest rider from Webcor) and me in the race. For me, after having a month-long break from racing, the first days felt fast and furious. I felt like I was motorpacing from start to finish, just staring at the wheels in front of me. There are some incredibly fit girls coming off the Giro d’Italia that ended 10 days ago. They were putting the hurt to many of us.
After a couple of days suffering, my legs came around and I was able to start riding more aggressively and go in the breakaways. In spite of many attacks on very hilly courses, two of the first three road stages ended in field sprints, Petra Rossner, with Angela Brodtka finishing second, won both.
These two Germans have quite a rivalry at the moment, as Angela was recently selected to be the sprinter on the German Olympic Road team and Petra is a bit soured by the selection, as she has consistently been one of the top sprinters in the world for the past several years and she had a lot of motivation in Thuringen to prove the selectors wrong.
On the second to last day of the race, the course profile looked to be very flat, although looks were very deceiving and this course turned out to be one of the most challenging of the tour, as it was very hilly and contained some tough cobblestone sections. A powerful break, containing eleven riders went up the road on one of the cobblestone sections and we unfortunately had no one in there.
The Australian National Team missed the break, so a couple of our girls chased with them and then Amber, Kristin and I attempted go across. Eventually I got away with a few others, but the time gap was too big to the leaders and it was too close to the finish to make it across to the break. Zulfia Zabirova attacked the break and won solo and took the race leader’s jersey from Thürig.
There were many attacks in the final stage, but it was fairly controlled by Zabirova’s team. Although her team weakened in the final kilometers, as a break of three, containing Suzanne Ljungskog, Judith Arndt and Nicole Brandli rode away and raced for the stage win. Ljungskog won the stage, but Zabirova kept the lead and won overall.