|In a career spanning nine years, Vos|
has excelled in road, track, MTB and
Once up the climb - the altitude remained fairly constant thereafter - a few spats broke out with various teams and individuals making half-hearted attacks here and there. Scarlett Callovi made the best go, but the peloton hadn't yet got themselves in the mood for that sort of thing at this early point and refused to give her the space she needed. However, it would be completely wrong were we to give the impression that it was boring - when you have the likes of Nicole Cooke, Emma Pooley, Lizzie Armitstead and Marianne Vos all in the same race, the one it's never going to be is boring and the excellent form required of anyone who races at their level ensured that there was plenty of high-speed action through the beautiful countryside lying between Rome and Velletri. The area around Lago Albano being a particular highlight and not to be missed for anyone fortunate enough to visit the region.
Nicole Cooke, who has been having a difficult season since returning to the sport after illness, must have been having a bad day today as she finished in an uncharacteristic 50th place. Cooke has been striving to prove to the cycling press, much of which seems to have written her off forever, that she can return to the form that saw her win two Tours de France Féminin as well as the 2004 Giro Donne. Many fans will be hoping the Welsh star can do so, because at just 28 it would be a great pity were her career to come to an end now.
Things came to ahead in the final kilometres, which featured a small but definitely noticeable incline and where a sprint broke out with what looked to be most of the field involved. Armitstead, who powered past her team leader Pooley ( who came in 11th today) in a similar sprint to take the honours in the British Nationals last weekend, looked hopeful but in the end even she didn't have the strength required to best Vos and achieved fourth. With six major victories in the bag already this year, the 24-year-old Dutchwoman was always going to be a favourite in this race. Nothing is a foregone conclusion in a sport as dangerous and subject to unforeseen circumstances as cycling, however, and the close race today shows what an interesting race this is going to be.
Stage 1 results:
1. Marianne Vos (Netherlands) Nederland Bloeit, 02:11:56
2. Ina Teutenberg (Germany) HTC-Highroad, + 00:01
3. Emma Johansson (Sweden) Hitec Products (2-10 received same time)
4. Lizzie Armitstead (UK), Garmin-Cervélo
5. Judith Arndt (Germany) HTC-Highroad
6. Rossella Callovi (Italy) MCipollini-Giambenini
7. Elena Berlato (Italy) Top Girls Fassa Bortolo
8. Tatiana Guederzo (Italy) MCipollini-Giambenini
9. Rasa Leleivyte (Lithuania) Vaiano Solaristech
10. Martine Bras (Netherlands) Netherlands National Team