Events

Italy’s Bastianelli holds off women’s field to take rainbow jersey

What had been a tumultuous week for the Italian national team took a sweeping turn for the better Saturday as 20-year-old Marta Bastianelli held off pre-race favorites to win the elite women’s world road championship in Stuttgart, Germany. Italy’s “squadra azzura” has been under fire in recent days as defending men’s champion Paolo Bettini refused to sign the UCI’s voluntary “commitment to a new cycling” pledge, and ProTour leader Danilo Di Luca was taken off the Italian team while facing a suspension for working with doctor Carlo Santuccione. But the Italians, whose national federation

By Neal Rogers

Bastianelli scoots ahead for the win

Bastianelli scoots ahead for the win

Photo: Agence France Presse

What had been a tumultuous week for the Italian national team took a sweeping turn for the better Saturday as 20-year-old Marta Bastianelli held off pre-race favorites to win the elite women’s world road championship in Stuttgart, Germany.

Italy’s “squadra azzura” has been under fire in recent days as defending men’s champion Paolo Bettini refused to sign the UCI’s voluntary “commitment to a new cycling” pledge, and ProTour leader Danilo Di Luca was taken off the Italian team while facing a suspension for working with doctor Carlo Santuccione.

But the Italians, whose national federation will host the 2008 world championships in Varese, stayed focused on the task at hand. Over 133.7km the women’s team rode a tactically perfect race, either initiating or covering every important move and launching what would prove to be the race-winning attack on the last of seven 19.1km laps. After breaking free of the field Bastianelli quickly opened a 15-second gap and held off a select but unorganized group of 17 riders.

Bastianelli was surprised... and moved to tears.

Bastianelli was surprised… and moved to tears.

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

It was a banner day for young riders, as defending champion Marianne Vos of The Netherlands, also 20, won the bunch kick for the silver medal, six seconds behind Bastianelli. The top North American finisher was 23-year-old Canadian Alex Wrubleski, who crossed the line in ninth, while Kristin Armstrong was the top American rider in 13th.

Yanks make the break, but a lap too soon
The first rays of sunshine seen this week in Stuttgart greeted the women’s field of 142 riders for a 9 a.m. start. The trade-off for losing the ubiquitous cloud cover came in the form of heavy winds, which stifled breakaways and at one point caused a massive pileup when a row of fencing blew onto the racecourse on the fifth lap.

Several escape attempts were launched during the first three laps, but each was thwarted by a hard-charging peloton. Manning the front for the Americans were Kathryn Curi and Lauren Franges, with Curi riding into a brief fourth-lap breakaway alongside Russia’s Julia Martisova, Italy’s Tatiana Guderzo and Germany’s recently crowned world time trial champ, Hanka Kupfernagel.

After that group was brought back into the fold Guderzo struck out on her own. Guderzo’s effort was aided when a 100-meter section of fencing blew onto the course from left to right, taking down several groups of riders closest to the fence. American Amber Neben was caught up in one of the pileups but quickly rejoined the field.

Coming through the finish line with two laps remaining, Guderzo held a gap of 22 seconds. It was on the sixth ascent of the steep and narrow Herdweg, with pitches that top out at 13 percent, that the American team showed its teeth. With Franges bringing Armstrong through the descent into the base of the climb, the recently deposed world time trial champion went to the front over the climb, with only Neben and Italy’s Noemi Cantele able to match the pace.

“Amber’s best chances are to get off in a small group, and the only way Amber can get off is when it is really hard for everyone else, because she can actually go harder,” Armstrong said. “I decided to go hard so that Amber could go off of my attack. I tried my best, but when she came over my wheel, and Cantele, one of the race favorites, went with her, I thought, ‘That’s the break.’”

Having missed the move, Germans Trixi Worrack and Hanka Kupfernagel went to the front to drive the chase. The gap had reached 28 seconds as the leaders went over the course’s second significant climb, the 2.4km Birkenkopf, which maxes out at 9 percent. But before the penultimate lap had ended, Neben and Cantele were also brought back into the group, with Kupfernagel abandoning shortly after, her work done for the German team.

“It was the move, but it was one lap too early,” Neben said. “We were able to get a 30-second gap, and that is enough on this course. You saw Bastianelli was able to hold it. It was just too early. If we could have set it up on the last lap it would have been awesome, but at the same time, when the moment is there you have to take a chance. I was hoping Kristin could have come with us. We would have had the extra horsepower. It was windy, and the wind killed our momentum.”

Last-lap bravado
With a sharply reduced peloton heading up the steep slopes of the Herdweg for the last time, Vos and Cantele attacked and briefly opened a gap before they were brought back. Next to go was Bastianelli, whose gap stretched to 15 seconds by the last trip over the Birkenkopf. Though the Italian’s advantage wasn’t insurmountable, with her teammates Cantele and Giorgia Bronzini sitting on, there was little cohesion in the strung-out 17-rider group of race favorites.

Germans Worrack and Judith Arndt, who crashed on the final lap, took turns attacking the chase group, but both were quickly reeled in. Vos’s sole teammate, Chantal Beltman, worked to drive the chase, as did British rider Emma Pooley, who made several accelerations at the front. On the final 4 percent, 2.7km, false-flat climb to the finish, Canadian Erinne Willock opened a gap of five seconds on the bunch.

Thorburn suffered a mechanical and finished a minute off the pace.

Thorburn suffered a mechanical and finished a minute off the pace.

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

“Everyone was hesitating,” Willock said. “If you want to win, you need to take a chance.”

But with one kilometer remaining it became clear that Bastianelli would stay away.

“People look at each other sometimes at the world championships and Olympics, as if it’s not their responsibility to chase,” Armstrong said. “I don’t know if it’s because it’s not your trade team or what. I know with the few we had left Amber was completely cooked and I was just trying to follow the right wheel. And I can only follow so many wheels.”

“It was kind of a weird finish, everyone was looking at each other,” Neben added. “Neither Trixi nor Arndt were going to force the chase. That was a risk they took, as far as hoping that individual riders attacking — like Willock and Emma Pooley — sometimes that kind of movement will bring a single rider back.”

In this case, however, it didn’t. Whether it was the bizarre dynamics created when trade-team riders ride as a national team, a case of cat-and-mouse tactics gone awry or simple fatigue, Bastianelli soloed across the line with plenty of time to celebrate her victory. For the second year in a row, the rainbow jersey went to an upstart woman under the legal U.S. drinking age.

“I only started believing a win was possible about five kilometers from the line,” she said. “And I only knew the title was mine when I saw the finish line.”

Vos led the main group of chasers across the line, and later admitted she was disappointed to find she was the fastest in the race for second place.

“Of course I was going for the win and so a silver medal has left me a bit disappointed,” she said. “Beltman was chasing but she couldn’t close the gap. If I had to do it I couldn’t sprint, so I made the decision and waited and hoped the gap would be closed, but it didn’t happen. But Marta and the Italians deserve the title. She attacked 15 kilometers from the line and held her lead. That was pretty amazing.”

Italian Giorgia Bronzini rounded out the podium in third, while Cantele’s fifth place made it three from the squadra azzura in the top five.

“This week was very difficult for the whole team because of all of the affairs,” Bastianelli said. “There were many journalists, and a lot of traffic at our hotel. It was a problem but we decided to take it easy and stay relaxed. We had a meeting last night and decided to push all of these problems back and concentrate on the race. We hope it will be the same for the men and they will win the race, they really deserve it. We practice sport in a clean way, even if it was said during the week that we don’t.”

In the following group, 1:09 off the winning pace, were Americans Christine Thorburn, who suffered a mechanical mishap and had to change bikes twice during the race, and Mara Abbott, who was competing in her first world championships.

Asked if Bastianelli’s rainbow jersey win was truly representative of the best rider in the field or more a matter of an unorganized chase, Armstrong answered, “I think her win should be attributed to her team. The Italians were one team today. They worked well together. Out of all the teams today, they were the best. You never saw them separated. Every one of them was at the front going into every descent, into every climb. They were the ones attacking, they were the ones protecting one another. They worked together for one goal, and they did it.”

Racing continues Saturday with the under-23 men’s road race and Sunday with the elite men’s road race.

Results
1. Marta Bastianelli – Italy – 3:46:34 – (35.4kph)
2. Marianne Vos – Netherlands, at 0:06
3. Giorgia Bronzini – Italy
4. Svetlana Bubnekova – Russian Federation
5. Noemi Cantele – Italy
6. Emma Johansson – Sweden
7. Marina Jaunatre – France
8. Oenone Wood – Australia
9. Alex Wrubleski – Canada
10. Emma Pooley – Great BritainFullResults

Photo Gallery

Results

Results
1. Marta Bastianelli – Italy – 3:46:34 – (35.4kph)

2. Marianne Vos – Netherlands, at 0:06

3. Giorgia Bronzini – Italy

4. Svetlana Bubnekova – Russian Federation

5. Noemi Cantele – Italy

6. Emma Johansson – Sweden

7. Marina Jaunatre – France

8. Oenone Wood – Australia

9. Alex Wrubleski – Canada

10. Emma Pooley – Great Britain

11. Maryline Salvetat – France

12. Lieselot Decroix – Belgium

13. Kristin Armstrong – USA

14. Maribel Moreno Allue – Spain

15. Joanne Kiesanowski – New Zealand

16. Amber Neben – USA

17. Erinne Willock – Canada

18. Trixi Worrack – Germany, at 0:14

19. Sereina Trachsel – Switzerland, at 0:53

20. Chantal Beltman – Netherlands, at 0:54

21. Judith Arndt – Germany , at0:58

22. Edwige Pitel – France, at 1:06

23. Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli – France

24. Rasa Polikeviciute – Lithuania

25. Anita Valen De Vries – Norway, at 1:09

26. Priska Doppmann – Switzerland

27. Maja Adamsen – Denmark

28. Mirjam Melchers-Van Poppel – Netherlands

29. Karen Steurs – Belgium

30. Catherine Hare – Great Britain

31. Fernandes Silva Clemilda – Brazil

32. Leigh Hobson – Canada

33. Julia Martisova – Russian Federation

34. Lang Meng – People's Republic Of China

35. Min Gao – People's Republic Of China

36. Tereza Hurikova – Czech Republic

37. Fei Wang – People's Republic Of China

38. Elodie Touffet – France

39. Lorian Graham – Australia

40. Grete Treier – Estonia

41. Andrea Graus – Austria

42. Zulfiya Zabirova – Kazakhstan

43. Verónica Leal Balderas – Mexico

44. Christine Thorburn – USA

45. Mara Abbott – USA

46. Claudia Häusler – Germany, at 2:16

47. An Van Rie – Belgium

48. Lohse Rasmussen Dorte – Denmark

49. Sufen Ma – People's Republic Of China

50. Suzanne De Goede – Netherlands

51. Andrea Bosman – Netherlands

52. Luisa Tamanini – Italy

53. Karin Thürig – Switzerland

54. Diana Ziliute – Lithuania

55. Hanka Kupfernagel – Germany

56. Nikki Egyed – Australia, at 3:11

57. Rachel Heal – Great Britain, at 7:36

58. Alona Andruk – Ukraine, at 7:43

59. Sofie Goor – Belgium, at 8:01

60. Edita Pucinskaite – Lithuania, at 10:29

61. Marta Vila Josana Andreu – Spain

62. Jolanta Polikeviciute – Lithuania

63. Tatsiana Sharakova – Belorussia

64. Rosane Kirch – Brazil

65. Oxana Kashchyshyna – Ukraine, at 12:04

66. Oxana Kozonchuk – Russian Federation , at 12:08

67. Siobhan Dervan – Ireland, at 12:38

68. Grace Verbeke – Belgium

69. Jennifer Hohl – Switzerland, at 12:40

70. Patricia Schwager – Switzerland

71. Monika Schachl – Austria

72. Eneritz Iturriagaechevarria Mazaga – Spain

73. Rosara Joseph – New Zealand, at 14:14

74. Daniela Pintarelli – Austria

75. Sylwia Kapusta – Poland, at 16:34

76. Giuseppina Grassi Herrera – Mexico

77. Michelle Hyland – New Zealand

78. Rasa Leleivyte – Lithuania

79. Veronika Sprügl – Austria

80. Yolandi Du Toit – South Africa

81. A. Madrinan Villegas – Colombia ,at 20:59

Did Not Finish

Olivia Gollan – Australia

Emma Rickards – Australia

Eva Lutz – Germany

Tatiana Guderzo – Italy

Monia Baccaille – Italy

Irene Van Den Broek – Netherlands

Luise Keller – Germany

Regina Bruins – Netherlands

Ludivine Henrion – Belgium

Christine Majerus – Luxembourg

Miho Oki – Japan

Aleksandra Wnuczek – Poland

Alena Konecna – Czech Republic

Kateryna Krasova – Ukraine

Malgorzta Jasinska – Poland

Christiane Soeder – Austria

Katheryn Curi – USA

Lauren Franges – USA

Anne Samplonius – Canada

Annette Beutler – Switzerland

Carissa Wilkes – New Zealand

Magali Mocquery – France

Meifang Li – People's Republic Of China

Sara Carrigan – Australia

Natalia Boyarskaya – Russian Federation

Sara Mustonen – Sweden

Daiva Tuslaite – Lithuania

Rosario Rodriguez Maria – Spain

Iosune Murillo Elkano – Spain

Jarmila Machacova – Czech Republic

Li Liu Yong – People's Republic Of China

Yolandi Van Der – South Africa

Laura Lepasalu – Estonia

Aurelie Halbwachs – Mauritius

Lyubov Dombitskaya – Kazakhstan

Olessya Atrashkevich – Kazakhstan

Chapookam Monrudee – Thailand

Nontasin Chanpeng – Thailand

Viena Balen – Croatia

Martina Ruzickova – Czech Republic

Elizabeth Armitstead – Great Britain

Evelyn Garcia – El Salvador

Elena Novikova – Russian Federation

Elizaveta Bochkaryova – Ukraine

Tatiana Antoshina – Russian Federation

Monika Grzebinoga – Poland

Hye Lee Min – Korea

Trine Schmidt – Denmark

Anastasia Pastourmatzi – Greece

Thatsani Wichana – Thailand

Helen Wyman – Great Britain

Paulina Brzezna – Poland

Dragana Kovacevic – Serbia

Tanja Slater – Great Britain

Susanne Ljungskog – Sweden

Arantzazu Azpiroz – Spain

Tina Mayolo Pic – USA

Fernandes Silva Janildes – Brazil

Uenia Souza Da Fernandes – Brazil

Nathalie Lamborelle – Luxembourg

Toni Bradshaw – New Zealand