Bloch Rides to Success in Women's Tour De France

Shani Bloch yesterday finished in 18th place in the Grande Boucle Feminine - the women's Tour de France. Bloch, who rides for the Italian team, Michela Fanini, is the first Israeli woman to take part in the competition.

Shani Bloch yesterday finished in 18th place in the Grande Boucle Feminine - the women's Tour de France. Bloch, who rides for the Italian team, Michela Fanini, is the first Israeli woman to take part in the competition.

Bloch took 18th place in the eighth stage of the race in the Alps and didn't let go of it until the end of the race. In the under 25s category she finished in 3rd place.

When asked how an amateur Israeli rider finished ahead of professional riders, Bloch said, "It's all in the mind. If you're mentally ready to ride hard and give it all you can, then you succeed."

The competition was won in a time of 42 hours 31 minutes and 39 seconds by Zinaida Stahurskaia of Belarus. Stahurskaia beat Susanne Ljungskog of Sweden by 33 seconds and was 50 seconds ahead of the winner of the previous two races, Joane Somarriba of Spain.

Bloch, the Israeli womens' national road-racing champion is scheduled to participate in the Dutch tour at the end of August and in a race in Belgium at the end of October.

The National Cycling Association plans to apply to the elite sport's unit, which provides special conditions for Israel's leading athletes, to include Bloch in its team for the Athens Olympics in the wake of her achievement in the Grand Boucle Feminine.