|Cantele at the World Championships,
The peloton stayed together up the first climb, but numerous riders were visibly restless and waiting for their chance at launching a breakaway attempt. A group of 18 got away shortly after the climb and AA Drink-Leontien.nl's Sharon Laws and Emma Pooley accompanied by GreenEDGE's Judith Arndt wasted no time in splitting off from them to form a lead group with Laws briefly riding ahead solo, though there was a good bit of tit-for-tat as riders swapped places and found their positions. Sadly, the race ended after just 15km for Rochelle Gilmore - the Faren-Honda rider later reported that she'd already had too much for "ones head, legs & bike to cope with" after both her original and replacement bike developed problems.
Before too long the race had settled into three groups - Pooley, Noemi Cantele (Be Pink) and Linda Villumsen (GreenEDGE) with a 49" advantage over a chasing group of 15, then the main field some 2' back. The times varied and a few riders came and went from the chase group, but this arrangement characterised the majority of the rest of the stage. Pooley was the fastest rider through the first and second intermediate sprints with Villumsen and Cantele taking second and third place in the first, then switching positions in the second. A few kilometres on they upped the pace, building their lead over the chasers to 1'42" and putting more than three minutes between themselves and the main group, who responded by speeding up just as Luisa Tamanini (Faren-Honda) made an unsuccessful bid to bridge from chasers to lead. Rossella Ratto (Verinlegno-Fabiani), Olga Zabelinskaya (RusVelo), Alexandra Burchenkova (S.C. Michela Fanini Rox), Malgorzata Jasinska (MCipollini-Giambenini-Gauss) and Charlotte Becker (Specialized-Lululemon) had more luck, clawing their way to the leaders not long before the race entered its final 25km - which immediately made the outcome far less easy to predict, many people deciding Becker was a good bet.
|Emma Pooley's solo attack with 4km to
go was the highlight of the race, even if
Pooley was the first to go, launching a daring attack 4km from the line and looking for a few moments like she might just pull it off, but she'd apparently over-estimated her reserves and was rapidly caught. Even now it remained unclear how the finish would play out - was it going to be a bunch sprint or would there be more attacks? Pooley tried again with 800m to go, but in the end the group went with the first option, all kicking off together and fighting hard for the line; Cantele turned out to be the fastest by just centimetres. It was a thrilling end to a superb stage, proof that this race has a great future if it survives these difficult times - so get your wallet out, Pat McQuaid.
Tomorrow, the riders have two stages. The first consists of four laps of a 15.7km road parcours at Sarnonico followed by a 5km individual time trial.
Guide - Stage 1 - Stage 2a - Stage 2b
1. Noemi Cantele Be Pink 2h32'33"
2. Linda Villumsen GreenEDGE ST
3. Malgorzata Jasinska MCipollini-Giambenini-Gauss ST
4. Charlotte Becker Specialized-LululemoN ST
5. Alexandra Burchenkova S.C. Michela Fanini Rox ST
6. Olga Zabelinskaya RusVelo ST
7. Emma Pooley AA Drink-Leontien.nl ST
8. Rossella Ratto Verinlegno-Fabiani ST
9. Sharon Laws AA Drink-Leontien.nl +3'27"
10. Greta Treier S.C. Michela Fanini Rox ST