By Dede Demet Barry, T-Mobile professional cycling team
The Primavera World Cup runs over the last 120 kilometers of the classic men’s Milan-San Remo World Cup course. It starts in the town of Varazze, just West of Genoa. I traveled to the start of the race two days early to meet up with my teammates and pre-ride the course.
My teammates, Amber Neben, Kimberly Bruckner, Stacey Peters and Dotsie Cowden, had just arrived from the United States. We had only five riders to start in Primavera, as there are some very important races going on the U.S. that our sponsors want to make a solid presence in, like Redlands and Sea Otter.
We felt that pre-riding the course was critical, as none of us had raced Primavera before and we had heard that the descents of the final two climbs, the Cipressa and the Poggio were quite technical. It was definitely a worthwhile trek, not only to absorb the details of the course, but also to take the beauty of its surroundings.
The course follows the Mediterranean Coast from start to finish, with the exception of the two quick jaunts up the Cipressa and the Poggio; and, the coastal views only get better as you crest these hills. There are olive trees lining both climbs, and seeing them made me eager to taste the local harvest of olive oil. At the finish line, where we dismounted our bikes and packed them onto the roof of the vehicles to return to our hotel in Varazze, there was a small outdoor market selling local oil. I got a taste, loved it and filled the trunk of my car with bottles to bring back home to Michael.
Our hotel in Varazze was right on the coast and the sound of the waves crashing on the shore was soothing at the night. The food was incredible at the hotel as well, perhaps too good for the days before a race. We ate rich saffron risotto, pasta con pesto, minestrone soup, local fish, chicken and vegetables. The olive oil was flowing at all times.
The morning of the race, we awoke to rain and mist. One would not have known we were at the coast, as the visibility was slim. The rain stopped before the start though and the streets of Varazze were lined with people. As we lined up for the start, I was thinking about the history of the men’s race, which was first run in 1907 and feeling so fortunate to experience the race myself.
All of the best women’s teams were at the start line and we had good representation from the United States, as Team Basis, another American team was present. It’s great to see more Americans racing in the World Cups.
Last year’s Primavera winner, Zulfia Zabirova is normally bubbly and talkative at the start of most races, but when I lined up next to her at the start, she seemed serious, focused and very nervous.
The first 65 kilometers of the race felt cruisy, as we expected. It was flat and we had a tailwind. The racing really began on the first hill of the day, the Capa Berta. A small group went away on this two-kilometer kicker, but the peloton regrouped before we hit the base of the Cipressa.
It was on the Cipressa that the sparks began to fly. Zabirova tried to repeat her winning move of 2003, by attacking, but this time, she took her teammate, Fabiana Luperini, with her. The two motored away from the bunch and Zabirova managed to stay away and win the race solo, while Luperini faded back to the bunch. Mirjam Melchers created a gap for herself on the descent of the Poggio and came second, while the bunch sprinted in a few seconds behind.
I had rough day, as my legs were not firing, but the crowds on the Cipressa and the Poggio helped to erase the pain of not having the stamina to race for the win. After the race, I jetted back to Girona to spend a few days with Michael before a three week swing trip which will include the Vuelta Castilla y Leon, Castilla y Leon World Cup, aerodynamic testing with SRM in Germany, Flanders in Belgium and the Novillon Tour in the Northern part of the Netherlands.