By Ryan Newill, VeloNews correspondent
Everyone knew who to watch at the First Union Liberty Classic, and they’ll have plenty of opportunities to watch her again in the highlight reels, as Petra Rossner (Saturn) rode to victory in the 57.6-mile women’s race. Run concurrently with the USPRO men’s road championship, the Liberty Classic has known only four winners in its nine-year history, and the Leipzig, Germany native has held a monopoly on the top step of the podium since 1998. Her first victory, came in 1996.
Unlike Rossner’s 2001 victory, which came in a massive field sprint to the line, this year’s race came down to one key move on the last of four climbs up the slopes of the Manayunk Wall. The Wall was the last chance for the field to rid itself of the powerful German, and in the sprint for the queen-of-the-mountains points, T-Mobile’s Kim Anderson charged hard for the points to create a small gap, followed by Dede Demet-Barry (TalgoAmerica), who ripped past to take the front alone. After an impressive return to top-level racing that resulted in a winning ride at the Montreal World Cup race, Demet had emerged as the most dangerous threat to Saturn, a fact that was not lost on the Saturn team..
On the descent of the wall, Saturn’s star riders Anna Milward and Judith Arndt became watercarriers, bringing Rossner up to Demet Barry’s back wheel, along with Anderson, Valentina Polkhanova (Itera), and Laura Van Gilder (Trek Plus). With that, the selection was made, as a full on-the-front chase by the Diet Rite squad of sprinter Tina Mayolo-Pic failed to make a dent in the break’s lead.
Knowing full well that a sprint would certainly favor Rossner, Demet-Barry made her last bid for freedom just after the final climb of Lemon Hill, but with Millward and Arndt working to bring her back, it wasn’t to be.
“I figured I’d give it one go to get away close to the finish, and that’s what I did just after Lemon Hill. So I gave it a go, and I got caught, and then I just saved everything for the sprint,” said Demet-Barry.
Arndt and Millward stayed on the front through the remainder of the final lap, setting up for Rossner, who came around the pair with 150 meters to go, and a clear shot to the finish. Hot on her wheel was domestic criterium specialist Van Gilder, who surprised many by making the selection on the Wall and staying with the group through the end. Van Gilder’s second place topped a fantastic stretch of racing that also saw her take the Tour of Somerville. Behind, Demet-Barry’s reserves held out to take third in the sprint, and reconfirm her return to the elite level of women’s cycling.
Over a minute behind, Diet Rite used its numerical strength to deliver Mayolo-Pic to the line to win the field sprint and secure 8th place.
So, with six Liberty victories under her belt, does Rossner start to feel confident coming into Philly? “No, I’m always concerned,” said Rossner, adding, “Today, when you think you’re winning this race, you’re not winning it anymore.”
LiveUpdates from both the men’s and women’s races
1. Petra Rossner (G), Saturn, 57.6 miles in 2:27:09; 2. Laura Van Gilder, Trek Plus; 3. Dede Demet-Barry, Talgo America; 4. Kim Anderson, T-Mobile, 5. Valen Polkhanova (Rus), Itera; 6. Anna Milward (Aus), Saturn, at 0:02 7. Judith Arndt (G), Saturn, at 0:22; 8. Tina Mayolo-Pic, Diet Rite, at 1:18; 9. Rebecca Conzelman, Freddie Fu
10. Nicole Freedman, Rona
11. Svetlana Samokhvalova (Rus), Itera
12. Gina Grain (Can), Litespeed Atlanta Velo
13. Vera Carrara (I), Itera
14. Lauren Franges, Amoroso’s HH Racing
15. Sarah Uhl, Dansko IF Wheelworks
16. Charmain Breon, Freddie Fu
17. Susy Pryde (NZ), Talgo America
18. Helen Kelly, Verizon Wireless
19. Joanne Kiesanowski (NZ), Diet Rite
20. Leeann Manderson, Trek LSV
21. Jennifer Eyerman, Litespeed Atlanta Velo
22. Joan Wilson, Talgo America
23. Roz Reekie-May (NZ), Trek LSV
24. Heather Peck, Dansko IF Wheelworks
25. Mari Holden, T Mobile
26. Emily Gloeckner, Veritas
27. Susan Palmer Komar (Can), Talgo America
28. Angela Vargas, Genesis Scuba FF
29. Margell Abel, Veritas
30. Lara Ruthven, T Mobile
31. Meredith Miller, Talgo America
32. Lara Kroepsch, Trek Plus
33. Stacy Peters, T Mobile
34. Kim Shirley (Aus), Itera
35. Iona Wynter, Genesis Scuba FF
36. Catherine Powers, Terry Precision
37. Tracy Sproul, Litespeed Atlanta Velo
38. Giselle Trahan, Genesis Scuba FF
39. Ashley Kimmet, Serotta
40. Hiroko Shimada, Verizon Wireless
41. Sandra Kolb, Los Gatos Conten
42. Joy Shaffer, Los Gatos Conten
43. Petra Ford, Verizon Wireless
44. Benassi Maatje, Veritas
45. Soph St: Jacques, Trek Plus
46. Barbara Lancioni (I), Itera
47. Graciel Martinez, Amoroso’s HH Racing
48. Margaret Shirley, Genesis Scuba FF
49. Kendra Kelley, Veritas
50. Katrina Berger, T Mobile
51. Yvonne Ilton, Verizon Wireless
52. Lynn Brotzman, Freddie Fu
53. Ann Samplonius (Can), Trek Plus
54. Ann Marie Miller, Verizon Wireless
55. Jessica Phillips, Saturn
56. Sue Haywood, Trek LSV
57. Cheryl Binney, Diet Rite, all s.t.
58. Cybil Diguistini (Can), Diet Rite, at 1:28
59. Ina Teutenberg (G), Saturn, at 1:31
60. Kori Kelly, Diet Rite, at 1:36
61. Mina Pizzini, Diet Rite, at 1:41
62. Grace Taylor, Serotta, at 2:01
63. Elizabeth Begosh, Itera, at 3:34
64 .Veronica Martinez, Amoroso’s HH Racing, s.t.
65. Silvia Valsecchi (I), Itera, at 3:38
66. Mandy Poitras (Can), Litespeed Atlanta Velo, at 3:51
67. Shannon Hutchinson, Litespeed Atlanta Velo, at 4:17
68. Alexandria Yeung, Amoroso’s HH Racing
69. Katrina Davis, Trek Plus
70. Christine Huff, Trek LSV, all s.t.
71. Catherine Marsal (F), Saturn, at 4:54
72. Kathryn Curi, Dansko IF Wheelworks, at 10:05.