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A star-studded line-up of international cycling talent, including the world's top three ranked cyclists, will line up in Geelong, Australia, to contest the opening round of the 2006 UCI Women's Road Cycling World Cup Series and the preceding Geelong Tour.
Headlining the start list is world ranked number one cyclist Oenone Wood, who has claimed the World Cup for the past two years and is fine-tuning her preparation for the Melbourne Commonwealth Games. Wood, who won the Geelong round in 2004, rides with the world's top ranked team Nuernberger. The team will also include new recruit Kate Bates, who was recently crowned Australian road champion.
2004 world champion Judith Arndt of Germany returns to Geelong as the world ranked number three but this time with her new T-Mobile Team. Joining her in the team is four-time American champion Kimberly Bruckner-Baldwin and 10-time German champion Ina Teutenberg.
The Univega Pro Team boasts 2002 Comonweatlh Games road race gold medallist Nicole Cooke. The Welsh rider also claimed the silver medal at the World Championships in Madrid in 2005. New Zealand's reigning points race champion on the track, Joanne Kiesanowski, is also on the Univega roster.
Back in a bid to defend her 2005 Geelong victory is Australia's Rochelle Gilmore, whose team will also boast Commonwealth Games mountain biker Emma Colson. Two-time world champion (2002-2003) and currently world ranked number two, Susanne Ljungskog of Sweden, will be looking for early season form and points after her 2005 efforts saw her finish second overall in the World Cup behind Wood.
Japan's Miho Oki, who placed third in the 2004 Geelong World Cup, will join procycling's Australian columnist Olivia Gollan in the Italian-registered Nobili Rubinetterie team. Athens Olympic champion Sara Carrigan will line up in QAS colours this year, while Barcelona Olympic champion Kathy Watt will have support from fellow Commonwealth Games team member Claire Baxter in the Eunectes team.
2004 Olympic points race champion and bronze medallist in the road race, Olga Slyusareva, heads the Russian team which makes its Geelong debut in 2006. Another Olympic gold medallist, Sarah Ulmer, will also line up in Geelong. The Athens individual pursuit champion and world record holder will race with New Zealand as she finalises her preparation for the Commonwealth Games where she is targeting the road time trial.
The riders kick off their Australian campaign in the Geelong Tour, which begins on February 21 with an 8km time trial at Portarlington, before a 30-lap criterium later in the day. Stage three takes the race to Barwon Heads for five laps of a scenic 15-kilometre circuit along the Barwon Coast. The final day of the race is a testing 113km course out and back from the town of Lara and includes a tough climb up Mt Wallace at the halfway mark of the stage.
The Geelong World Cup round will be raced from 10am on Sunday, February 26 with 139 riders representing 17 nations contesting 119.2km (eight laps of the 14.9km circuit) in a bid to become the first cyclist of 2006 to wear the World Cup leader's jersey. The field is the largest ever assembled for the opening round of the World Cup.
For more information visit the official website www.geelongworldcup.com
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM