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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

First Edition Cycling News for September 26, 2005

Edited by Hedwig Kröner & Jeff Jones, with assistance from Sabine Sunderland

Elite men's road race wrap up

Tom Boonen is World Champion

By Jeff Jones

Tom Boonen (Belgium)
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
Click for larger image

Despite some pre-race bickering around the Belgian team before the World Championships, national coach Jose de Cauwer got his men to work perfectly for gun sprinter Tom Boonen, who paid them back with a huge sprint to win the World Championships road race in Madrid. Boonen's team was brilliant as Nick Nuyens, Peter Van Petegem, Mario Aerts, and Bjorn Leukemans chased down a dangerous break with 600m to go to put Boonen in an ideal position to win the sprint from a group of less than 25 riders. In second place, after riding a very attacking race, was Spain's Alejandro Valverde, who had no match for Boonen's power with 100m to go. In third was France's Anthony Geslin, who also paid off the work of his teammates who had chased down another dangerous break with two laps to go.

"I can't believe it," said the incredulous Boonen at the finish. "I felt it was possible to do a good result; but when the last breakaway went in the last lap... We did everything we could. I still had a lot of strength left to do the sprint. We had a strong team; two Belgian guys in front who weren't working much, so we caught them right on time. I focused for the last two months on this race. All the races I did were with sights set on this race."

The race was marked by an early breakaway containing Krasimir Vasilev (Bulgaria), Juan Carlos Lopez Martin (Colombia), Saul Raisin (USA), and Dmitriy Muravyev (Kazakhstan). The quartet got as much as 12 minutes lead before the chase started with Great Britain, Argentina, and Kanstantsin Siutsou (Belarus). The gap was just 6'00 with five 21 km laps to go, before the Spanish and Italians turned on the gas and all the riders were caught with three laps to go. A dangerous move of 10 riders went on the climb on the third last lap, including Bettini, Valverde, Perdiguero, Pereiro, Piil, Devolder, Gilbert, Davis, Wegmann, and Lagutin, which managed to get 1'14 with two laps left.

The French team halved the gap on the penultimate lap, and the break reduced to Bettini, Wegmann, Piil, Devolder, Gilbert, Valverde and Perdiguero. But with one lap to go, it was only 13 seconds to the peloton, where Italy and Australia were keeping the tempo high to look for a bunch sprint. After the last climb of the last lap with 6 km to go, Bettini got clear again with Vinokourov (Kaz), Boogerd, Moerenhout (Ned), Stangelj (Slo) and Leukemans (Bel). But the cooperation wasn't quite good enough and the break was caught by a smaller group that contained Boonen and Valverde with 600m to go. Valverde led out the sprint at 150m, but Boonen easily came round him on the uphill finish to win on the Paseo de Castellana.

Click here for the full results, report & photos and Live report.

Post-race quotes

Tom Boonen (Belgium)
Photo ©: Sirotti
Click for larger image
Nick Nuyens (Belgium)
Photo ©: Shane Stokes
Click for larger image
Marc Wauters
Photo ©: Sirotti
Click for larger image

Patrick Lefévère (Belgium, QuickStep manager), grinning from ear to ear

"We were never pessimistic unlike others. Today, Leukemans, Gilbert, and the others, they rode a great race, a great team. Cyclists never listen to me and that's the reason I said it would be better for Tom not to become World Champion at this young age (laughs). It's fantastic!"

Wilfried Peeters (Belgium, QuickStep director)

"I knew that the race would be tough for Petacchi and McEwen. I think Tom's bad luck from in the Tour has turned. As a team we will protect Tom well. It's going to be impossible for him to equal this year and we all have to stay realistic. I just hope that we will able to enjoy Tom's performances at a high level, that's all and that's more than enough."

Mario Aerts (Belgium, Davitamon-Lotto, 25th)

"Yes indeed, we ride with McEwen in the team, but we did everything the national coach demanded of us. Tom Boonen was our leader today. That one hill was very painful in the last lap. The peloton blew apart there, it was tough. Tom had said it a long time already. The World's were his goal; he's proven again that he can fulfil the expectations."

Nick Nuyens (Belgium, QuickStep, 26th)

"I saw Tom pass me in the sprint after doing my job, closing the last gap in the last bend. I saw him and I knew it was in the pocket. He was in an ideal position. It was a very hard race and it suited Tom, this finish was his. He's almighty! I didn't expect to lose McEwen and Petacchi, but they weren't good enough I had noticed already earlier on. Tom was too strong and the fastest of the group. The pieces of the puzzle just fitted as was planned beforehand."

Bjorn Leukemans (Belgium, Davitamon-Lotto, 27th)

"I didn't have much of a chance in that break really. I just saw they were getting ready to attack so I was alert and went with them. Bettini wanted me to work, but I was told by [national coach] De Cauwer not to anything, so I didn't. I had to bite my teeth now and again, but I do think I sat in the wheel enough not to blow Boonen's chances. I think I did Tom a favour today, even though we're not in the same trade team. Patrick Lefevere shouldn't give any comments any more; today we have worked together for Tom's jersey. Tonight we party."

Peter Van Petegem (Belgium, Davitamon-Lotto, 34th)

"We worked perfectly as a team; the whole day really but that last lap was very important. I made the decision to stay with Tom at that moment. Making up 8 seconds in the last lap wasn't obvious; but I made the right choice and knew I was good enough to do it. But really the whole Belgian team was very strong today."

Erik Zabel (Germany, T-Mobile, 29th)

"Of course I'm disappointed, because I was beaten when I could have been better. I rode a good race, but focused on Petacchi too much and not on Boonen."

Straight from the line

By Hernan Alvarez Macias

Robbie McEwen (Australia)
Photo ©: Sirotti
Click for larger image

After the riders crossed the finish line today, Cyclingnews spoke with some riders about their feelings in the racing despite a big crowd that made life difficult. New Zealand’s Julian Dean was a top 10 - in fact, the Kiwi finished ninth, telling us, "In the first part it was easy and then, in the end it was very difficult. My team performance was one man effort and my own performance was good. I’m happy that I tried to follow [Alexandre] Vinokourov in the end. I used a bit of energy there, but I did the best I could today."

Robbie McEwen (Australia) was a top favourite for many people, but he couldn’t catch the final group who made the sprint. "It was hard enough in the end," McEwen said. "I was okay, but I couldn’t follow the group the last time in the climb. That small front group, they were just in front of us! But there was nobody to ride."

The U-turn nicknamed "McEwen corner" was changed last Friday by the organization. We asked him if that affected his chances, but he denied it. "No, because you see the group split. There was a group of 25 or something ahead, so it didn’t make any difference," McEwen added.

Spain’s Juan Antonio Flecha was very happy with Alejandro Valverde’s silver medal. "Alejandro was phenomenal," said Flecha. "It wasn’t easy to beat Boonen, but I think Valverde has surprised everyone. They had said it wasn’t hard, but in the end it was, especially on the last climb. The racing developed as we thought it would, with a breakaway in the end." Flecha also congratulated Spanish national coach 'Paco' Antequera, who is retiring from his position (see separate story). "He is a magnificent coach. He knows how to read the race very well," Flecha said.

Meanwhile, Swiss Aurélien Clerc, who finished 33rd also gave his view of the race. "It was not very fast," Clerc said. "It was hard because of the small hills and descents. In the finale, all the strong men rode in the first group and in the final sprint there were 20 or 30. It was a good race for me; I’ve done the maximum."

Italians sad; Belgians on cloud nine

By Hernan Alvarez Macias in Madrid

Photo ©: Sirotti
Click for larger image

The men's race was a hard defeat for Italy. Neither Alessandro Petacchi or Paolo Bettini could step onto the podium, and neither of them were willing to speak with the press in the end. Unfortunately for the Italians, plan A with Petacchi as the team leader didn’t succeed, nor did plan B with Bettini in the attacks. "It was hard, harder than what everybody thought," said Italy’s Filippo Pozzato to Cyclingnews. "The course was too hard for sprinters like McEwen or Petacchi."

The Belgians were exactly the opposite. Many Belgian and Lion of Flanders flags were waving by the podium celebrating Boonen's huge achievement. Marc Wauters was obviously glad with the team victory. "It was a fast race," Wauters said. "Tom [Boonen] is a very strong rider and he is good sprinter. For the whole team it’s a good work, if you have the world champion in your team, then everybody's happy."

Denmark’s Jakob Piil was finally sixth after getting in the right breakaway. "It was a good race," said Piil who seems to be completely recovered from the hard crash he suffered in the Vuelta a España. "It would have been nice if the race had become difficult a little earlier. I’m glad I finished sixth."

Luis Laverde (Colombia) also shared his thoughts with Cyclingnews. "It was a hard World’s because of the parcours and the number of kilometres," commented Laverde. "It wasn’t a course for us, the Colombians, but we did the best we could."

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