On six occasions in the 15-lap, 30-mile Roffler Women's Cycling Classic yesterday in Columbia, racers tried to distance themselves from the pack and from last year's winner, Marianne Berglund of Sweden, noted for her finishing speed. But, as she did last year, Berg-lund bided her time and her energy and, poised behind the leaders coming to the finish, blew past everyone to retain her title and win $2,200.

Another sprinter, Karen Bliss of Cool Max, finished second, earning $1,100; Linda Brenneman of Weight Watchers was third, for $735.

With a $10,000 purse, the race is the richest in women's cycling, recently beset by a significant drop in sponsorship. Prize money is now more crucial; money earned today is travel fare for tomorrow's race. If not for winning the Canadian Tire series race in Canada last week, Berglund and teammate Laura Charameda (seventh yesterday) could not have traveled to Maryland.

"We were lucky we made enough money in Canada to come here," said Berglund, who after a race in California next week goes home to Sweden to try to qualify for the world championship team. "It's a lot more difficult now to support yourself and do races like these."

Berglund and Charameda recently paired up with Mischief, a clothing manufacturer. It is unusual for a racer with a single teammate to win a major event. A bunch of teammates can slow the pace or block others from chasing a leader. Berglund and Charameda only had each other, so the best chances were given to Betsy Davis, Susan Elias and Betsy King, members of a large Gatorade contingent and well-versed in American criterium racing. There are no criterium races in Europe.

Berglund used what little teamwork she could muster to reel in the final breakaway. Four riders had a 15-second lead over the pack with one lap remaining. As the pack, now whole again, rounded the final turn 200 meters from the finish, the sprinters had convened at the rear, waiting. Berglund was among them. But not for long. So was Bliss. Only she jumped a fraction of a second too late; Berglund beat her to the punch.

"If it came down to a sprint {teammate Jeanne Golaz} would lead me out and I would key off Marianne," said Bliss. "I was hoping my speed would carry me but Marianne jumped earlier and that was my mistake."

U.S. Pro Championships: Paolo Cimini of Italy came from behind on the final straightaway to edge Laurent Jalabert of France by inches at the end of a 156-mile race through Philadelphia's streets and Fairmount Park. Cimini's time of 6:01:54 broke the course record.