World Championships Cycling News for September 24, 2005
Edited by Jeff Jones
Arndt sick, but looking for double
By Hernan Alvarez Macias in Madrid
Many of the riders who placed in the top positions in the time trial will take the start on Saturday in the women's road race in the 2005 World Championships in Madrid. Judith Arndt (Germany), who finished fourth in the TT on Wednesday, will wear the number 1 after her great victory in the road race in Verona 2004. She had a viral problem recently, and this could well affect her tomorrow. We will see how the German performs on the Madrid circuit, but she has too strong sprinting teammates in Ina-Yoko Teutenberg and Regina Schleicher, either of whom could take the gold if it does come down to a bunch sprint.
Former Grande Boucle Féminin champion Joane Somarriba, who did so well in the race against the clock and got the silver medal on the Casa de Campo course, is also a candidate for the win at the Paseo de la Castellana. Somarriba wants to retire with another medal after her brilliant career, and will have a strong team behind her.
Third in the time trial, USA's Kristin Armstrong will also start the 126km road race. Amber Neben and Christine Thorburn, both in the top 10 in the time trial, and sprinter Tina Mayolo Pic will be together with Armstrong in a seven-woman team, that looks to be very versatile on paper. Germany, Italy and the U.S. are the only three outfits that will start with seven riders. The teams with six riders include Australia, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Russia, Lithuania, France, Spain, New Zealand, Great Britain, Poland, Belgium and Canada. Therefore, these teams will have the greatest chances of winning, considering the number of riders on the road.
The "McEwen corner" modified
Following concerns raised by riders in recent days that the final bend before the finish of the road course of the World Championships was dangerous, race organizers announced today that the final approach to the line will be modified. The original parcours had a final 180 degree turn with 600 meters to go that was nicknamed the "McEwen corner" because of the Australian sprinter's renowned bike handling ability, but this now will be changed to make it safer. Instead, they will use a side road to take a more sweeping approach to the bend, swinging wider than originally planned in order to reduce the turning angle. This should lead to a faster, but safer final turn.
The UCI's technical director Charly Mottet made the decision to change that part of the course. In this area, the route was behind a bridge in a zone called Nuevos Ministerios in the city of Madrid.
McEwen and Davis speak
Australians Robbie McEwen (2nd in Zolder 2002) and Allan Davis (4th in Verona 2004) today spoke about their expectations of Sunday's 273km elite men's road race at the World Championships in Madrid.
Q: You are being touted as one of the favourites for Sunday how does that sit with you?
RM: I feel like I'm one of the favourites. My preparation's gone really well. I took a relaxed approach through August after the Tour (de France) and then really started my build up in the last week of August. Everything fell into place at the right time and I've been able to win a couple of hard races then fine tune my training in the last week so now I'm ready for the race to start.
Q: What are your impressions of the course.
RM: It's a really fast course and I think it will be a race of attrition with guys disappearing off the back. I think if we're going to sprint for the world title it won't be a big group at all, maybe 40 guys, but it's a course that's also good for attacking riders like Paolo Bettini, Peter Van Petegem, and just about the whole Spanish team, so it will be a race on a 'knife's edge' - one where attacking guys will have to be really good to stay away, and to get them back, the sprinters' teams are going to have to be really organised. It's going to be a difficult world title like every world title is. Also unpredictable because at World's, there is always somebody who pops up you don't expect. Even with the two relatively small climbs, after the 200km mark, they are going to get pretty hard, and the 273km distance will sort out the men from the boys.
Q: Bearing in mind those short, sharp climbs, did you tailor your preparation with that in mind?
RM: Definitely. Part of my program was doing some races not completely suited to me but that were really good training outings with this in mind. I did some hillier races like Grand Prix Fourmies (Sept 11) then Wallonie (Sept 14) in Belgium in the hilly part of the Ardennes which was a really good hit out. Then Grand Prix d'Isbergues (Sept 18) with ten or twelve sharp, nasty climbs during the race, so it was another good prep with up and down all day and no flat. Here in Madrid the course is either going up, going down, or cornering which suits me. Also the fact it's fast means you should be able to, if you like, get a free ride for 150km before it's really going to start being a telling race. But it still has to be ridden, and before the race it doesn't really matter what you say it's what you do on the bike on the day of the race that counts.
Q: People have been saying the final corner has been purpose built for you. Do you agree?
RM: When I first heard of it I thought maybe a possibility for somebody to jump away but since then they've extended the distance after the corner to the finish. Instead of 600m it's now almost 700m and apparently they're going to change the last corner shape so instead of being a 'hotdog turn' (sharp U-Turn on Paseo de la Castellana) they're going to round the barriers almost like a roundabout, so we'll have to follow the curve of the road. That will stop guys dive bombing on the inside and coming to a standstill in the corner. We'll only know really what it's like after we watch the women's race tomorrow.
Q: Changes to the qualification rules for the World Championships have reduced the maximum number of riders for the top ranked countries from 12 to nine. How much impact will that have?
RM: I think the fact there is only nine riders per team will make it more difficult and require more organisation. Obviously doing the math, you have three less riders to chuck on the front when it's needed. The cooperation between the teams that want it to be a sprint finish will have to be much better. It does open the race up more. Also some strong countries have only one rider, like Luxembourg and Norway, some have only three and then, with all due respect, a country like Iran has six riders because they're leading the Asian Continental Tour. It's sort of makes it an unbalanced race.
Q: Does it also put more pressure on teams like Australia, Italy and Belgium who have key sprint stars in their ranks?
RM: The obvious teams to look at for sprinters are us, the Belgians (Tom Boonen), Italians (Alessandro Petacchi) and to a certain extent the Germans for (Erik) Zabel. But if you now look at it, some of those are divided into two blocks. It's perhaps more the case with the Italians who have the Quick Step side and the Fassa Bortolo side. (Paolo) Bettini, (Luca) Paolini and (Filippo) Pozzato with (Davide) Bramati as a worker will have their own clique going to try to break the race apart, but once it comes down to an unavoidable sprint, they'll do the work for Petacchi with what's left in their legs.
It's a little similar with the Belgians, because someone like Peter Van Petegem is a proven Classics winner who won't just ride the race as a functionary for Boonen from start to finish. He's going to try his own thing first, and then if it's a sprint, help Boonen. Australia is one of the most cohesive teams, which doesn't mean you are going to win, but it's good to go out there knowing the planning that has gone into the team and that everyone is on the same page.
Q: Of course Robbie the best laid plans sometimes don't eventuate - is there a contingency?
RM: A well laid plan always includes a Plan B and a Plan C that's why you have myself (Baden) Cooke and (Allan) Davis as, if you like, the three leaders or protected riders. If something should happen to me and it's still a sprint, it will be worked out between them, but should the race break up and be way too hard, then someone like Allan (Davis) has the ability to be in a very select group like he was in Verona (2004 World Championships) with just 20 guys left. So there are a few scenarios and we'll go through them further before Sunday. But you can overload with scenarios and in reality the race sort of works itself out. If someone can't hang on, they are gone and forgotten and you go to the next natural Plan B.
Q: How are you dealing with the pressure of expectation that you will be on the podium?
RM: Pretty good. The most pressure comes from within myself which is how it's always been with me. I like to be in a position of being the leader of the team, of being the captain and of being the favourite and I like having earned that position. If I feel I've earned that position then I am totally comfortable with it and the biggest expectation comes from me. That others join me in those expectations I don't see as pressure more like confidence.
Q: How is the team coming together behind Robbie?
AD: Robbie has the runs on the board as far as I'm concerned, and we all respect that and he has a good chance on Sunday. There's a couple of others in the team with good chances as well, but as the race goes on, it's easier to plan out how it will end up. It could be really hard race that is busted up lots of times and harder than what anyone expects, but we have riders who can fit into that style of the race and if it's a bunch kick, Robbie definitely has the sprint to back.
Q: Last year in Verona, you were in the final group approaching the finish but placed fifth and missed a podium place after copping an elbow from Paolini in the final sprint. How much motivation did that give you?
AD: I'd love to undo last year and I've lost a lot of sleep over it ("He was robbed," chimes in Robbie McEwen) but it's in the past and has made me a bit more eager, and more than anything it gave me confidence. To be in a race like the World Championships, especially last year where the course was as hard as it was, has given me confidence inside myself that I can be there at the end of that style of race.
Q: Some people find it difficult to understand how a group of individuals, all employed under contract with competing professional teams, can join together to support one team mate. How do you explain it?
AD: Personally it is in my nature to respect the team concept. If you have a job to do you do it 100 percent, and as an Aussie it's what I've always done. You have to realistic as well because not everyone can win and the national teams I've ridden in have recognised that 110 percent and combined well for the team goal. Hopefully we get an Aussie on the podium which would be a result for everyone.
Q: What has your preparation been like?
AD: I had a very solid race program after the tour from Dauphine to San Sebastian Classic in the middle of August after a flat out season, so I need a rest after that racing block. I had a rest and then we were 'umming and aaing' on what my program should be in the lead up to Madrid. My team director (Manolo Saiz - Liberty Seguros) has a lot of confidence in my training because I've proved before I can come up for big races from training (rather than racing) so we opted not to do Tour of Poland, and I just did a really good solid training block at home in Spain. Hopefully it pays off, it works but I've got no excuses, I'm ready to go and feel in even better condition than last year.
Q: Should be a nice hot race?
AD: The weather here is like it's been where I live in Spain (Basque region) which is good and, being a Queenslander, (Bundaberg) a bit of warm weather is always handy.
Darshan Singh retires
By Hernan Alvarez Macias in Madrid
Malaysia's Darshan Singh decided to withdraw from the UCI's presidential elections made today in Madrid. Cyclingnews spoke with him just after Pat McQuaid was elected new president. "The election has taken place and there is the result," said Singh. "We must respect the result given by the delegates.
"I withdrew because I felt I don't have the opportunity to lead all the delegates. Early on, I didn't have the names, I didn't have the addresses, so I withdrew. But never mind, I withdrew and I hoped that the election was run cleanly and the election is completed. The result is there, I can not say anything else," concluded the Malaysian. who is abandoning international cycling management today.
Meanwhile, the president of the Argentinean Cycling Federation Gabriel Curuchet was one of the voters. He commented to us, "This is a time that the world of cycling is undergoing many changes with the ProTour and with many projects for the long term. Now the UCI is in the hands of a person who has been following the UCI policy for many years. He will certainly keep on with the kind of projects that give more importance to federations like ours, that has the chance to be a part of a World Championship. This policy also tries to develop cycling outside Europe. The UCI is doing that little by little, and I think that with him [Pat McQuaid] this will continue."
Cyclingnews coverage of the UCI elections
24 - Spain's perspective on UCI election result
Unzue's view of the World's
By Hernan Alvarez Macias in Madrid
Illes Balears team director Eusebio Unzue is following the World Championships in Madrid. He was present at the UCI annual congress and he spoke with Cyclingnews about the World's. "The two Spanish guys did very well [in yesterday men's time trial]," said Unzue. "I think Ivan [Gutierrez] went for the gold medal and he was close to achieving it. Ruben [Plaza] showed he was in good condition after finishing the Vuelta a Espaņa; he was almost on the podium."
About Australia's Michael Rogers, Unzue assured, "He is not World Champion by chance. I think he demonstrated that besides being a great specialist, he is the one of the specialists who knows how to reach the best condition on the exact day of the competition. I think that's one reason for his results."
Unzue was in the warm up sector yesterday at the men's time trial when the Czech Jan Hruska rode the time trial. "I followed him to take references during the course to help Ivan Gutierrez. Then with Hruska's references and seeing the time he had lost, we had 18, 20 reference points," said the Illes Balears director.
About the World's so far, he said, "The Spanish performance was very good. I can speak just about yesterday's time trial. For us [Illes Balears] the silver medal is a great result. For the people in the organization it is also a great result to already get two silver medals [Joane Somarriba took second in Wednesday women's time trial]."
Sunday's road race is the star competition and the eyes of the world will be watching what happens in Madrid. "It's a parcours, let's say, pretty open. Apparently it's a circuit not too selective, so I think there will be people capable of attacking. The reduction of the number of riders per national team will be another reason for the race to be less controlled. Perhaps there is a surprising rider who is in nobody's mind who can win," finished Eusebio Unzue.
Two more riders excluded
By Shane Stokes in Madrid
Following yesterday's news that two Bulgarians, Ivaīlo Gabrovski and Bogdan Stoytchev, were excluded from the 2005 world road race championship events because they failed the UCI health check, it has been announced today that two riders from the Slovenian squad have also fallen foul of the blood tests.
Simon Spilak and Vladimir Kerkez were amongst 35 riders who underwent examination earlier on Friday, and while the other entrants from France, Italy, Australia, Kazakhstan and Slovenia were pronounced fit for competition, the two have been told they cannot start tomorrow's under 23 road race.
The medical controls test riders to ensure that their hematocrit is not above the 50% threshold. Failing the test is suggestive, rather than being seen as definitive proof, of EPO use or other blood manipulation.
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