World Championships Cycling News for September 24, 2006
Edited by Anthony Tan
Elite women's road race wrap-up
Vos takes her second rainbow in a year
19 year-old Dutchwoman Marianne Vos captured her second world title this year, besting her more experienced peers in the women's road race with a turn of speed that left her bike lengths in front of Trixi Worrack (Germany) and Nicole Cooke (Great Britain). "I was amazed I was in the leading group," Vos told reporters. "For me it wasn't easy, but the sprint was good. To cross the line was amazing!"
In sunny Salzburg, the women set out for their 132.6 km race, and an early break of Anne Samplonius (Canada) and Natalia Boyarskaya (Russian Federation) held a small gap until the closing two laps. On the penultimate lap, Nicole Cooke (Great Britain) put in a furious attack up the steep Gschaiderberg climb that pulled away an elite group including Nicole Brändli, Priska Doppmann and Annette Beutler (Switzerland), Judith Arndt, Theresa Senff and Trixi Worrack (Germany), Andrea Graus and Christiane Soeder(Austria), Russian Svetlana Bubnenkova, Oenone Wood (Australia), Amber Neben (United States) and Vos.
On the last lap, Vos, Cooke and Brändli were the most aggressive, putting in multiple attacks, but the fast run-in saw the race come down to a small bunch sprint, which Vos won easily.
U23 men's road race wrap-up
Ciolek finds the right move
Pre-race favourite Gerald Ciolek (Germany) is the new U23 men's world champion after winning a sprint from a small breakaway at the end of the 177 km race. Ciolek escaped with five other riders on the Gschaiderberg with 12 km to go, and comfortably beat Romain Feillu (France) and Alexander Khatuntsev (Russia) for the gold medal. The bunch finished just six seconds back, but wasn't able to close the gap to the leaders.
The U23 race was very aggressive on the hilly but fast parcours around Salzburg. Mikhail Ignatiev (Russia) attacked on the first lap and stayed clear until km 70, when he was caught by a small group of chasers which were then absorbed by the peloton. Russia, Italy, France, Belgium and the Netherlands were the main aggressors in the race, and a group of 11 formed with two laps to go. They managed a minute's lead, but everything came back on the final lap. The winning breakaway went with just 12 km to go, with Ciolek, Khatuntsev and Feillu joined by Gavazzi (Italy), Vanendert (Belgium) and Gesink (Netherlands). They were able to stay away and Ciolek had no problems winning the sprint.
Bad luck for Crichton
By Hedwig Kröner and Nick Warren in Salzburg
Canada's Brandon Crichton was having a good time at the U23 world championship road race on Saturday, until a race commissaire's car took him to the ground on the last lap of the challenging course. Near the back of the bunch at the time the incident happened, Crichton was tackling the last narrow climb on its steepest part as he collided with the car, which was driving on his left.
"He decided to pass me on the hill - that was so stupid!" Crichton told Cyclingnews at the finish. "That was definitely the wrong moment to do that. For a UCI commissaire to be driving like that is ridiculous."
The Canadian was given a neutral replacement bike to finish the race, as his bike was more or less wrecked. "It broke both of my carbon wheels and my crank," he said, explaining that his race didn't go too bad up to that point.
"It was just starting to split in the climb, and I was feeling good," he continued. "In the descent, it would have come all back together, so I wasn't worried." But Crichton had to bury his hopes for a good result, coming into the finish nine minutes in arrears.
Team director Kris Westwood later assessed the damage: "Both of Brandon's wheel rims and his SRM cranks are snapped. It was definitely an expensive little incident," he said, adding that he would be "looking into" compensation.
Women's post-race comments
By Nick Warren in Salzburg
Alex Wrubleski (Canada, 23rd)
"It was alright. It was a fast race and definitely a good experience. Positioning was a huge thing, and it's a shame I wasn't up there when [the split on lap five] happened but I'm not sure I could have stayed with it, anyway."
Erinne Willock (Canada, 37th)
"It was a good race. It was hard and it was fast the whole time, but it was a good day.
"I finished in the chase group and there was about 15 up the road, I guess. We wanted to work as a team and take care of each other. Anne Samplonius was up the road [in the early part of the race] and we were hoping one of us could get in a break. I just missed the final split, but there's just nothing you can do.
"The season's over and now we get to go home!"
Jo Kiesanowski (New Zealand, 35th)
"I'm not pleased at all. I was too far back on the fifth lap when the field shredded. I was with some pretty big names so I thought we might get back. "The plan was to sit in, let other teams do their thing and wait for the last couple of laps to get in a move."
Toni Bradshaw (New Zealand, 82nd)
"I didn't have the best day. I got to the fifth lap and didn't have the legs. It's a bit disappointing, but that's bike racing."
U.S. team report
In the women's road race in Salzburg, Amber Neben led the U.S. contingent with a 12th-place effort. Neben made the final selection of 15 riders, but was outnumbered by several other nations including the Netherlands, whose Marianne Vos won the 15-rider sprint for the world title.
"You're kind of limited in what you can do because you have to protect yourself and race at the same time," explained Neben, whose result was the best finish for an American woman since Dede Barry placed 11th in 2003. "I just tried to follow the stuff that looked dangerous or had the Germans in it. If you had some team-mates in there, you can take a little bit more of a risk."
"In the finish I was just looking for an opportunity," said Neben of her last-ditch effort. "I saw a chance going over the railroad tracks and had a brief split with the other Dutch girl [Chantal Beltman]. It wasn't going to be. Then I was looking, looking, looking and slid back to look again and all of the sudden there was one kilometre to go and I was too far back."
"It's the closest I've been in a road race at world's," she said. "I had my sights set on the rainbow stripes, but I think if you don't, then why are you even racing? Any time you race the world's and make the selection at the end and you have a chance to win, you can't ask for anything else."
"We started back in 2002 with this group and we've come so far," Neben said of her team-mates. "I'm just really impressed with American cycling. Kristin and Christine winning two medals in the time trial is awesome and now we were just in a position to try and win the road race at world's. The U.S. is in good standing. We'll get there."
In the 110-mile U23 road race, John Devine was the top U.S. finisher in 18th place. Tactically, the U.S. team was at a numerical disadvantage from the beginning with only three riders taking the start. It was the best finish for an American U23 road rider at the world championships since Danny Pate placed 13th in 2001 in Lisbon, Portugal.
"Our goal was a top-25 finish," explained Devine after placing 12th in the field sprint just a handful of seconds back from the winning break of six. "That's basically what our tactics were."
A top-25 finish has assured the U.S. the maximum five starters in 2007. Thomas Peterson finished 41st and Craig Lewis placed 86th for the United States, finishing in the pack with Devine.
"The first lap was hard," described Devine. "I think everybody was pretty nervous about the hills and because of the twisty and technical descent, positioning was everything."
"We really wanted a top-25," repeated Devine. "We wanted five starts for next year. "If we tried to go in any breaks early and often, we easily could have blown ourselves and ended up with nothing."
Australian team report
After Oenone Wood finished sixth in the women's road race, Australian women's cycling coach Warren McDonald says he is excited about the team's prospects heading towards the Beijing Olympics.
"I think it was a very exciting race and I think for Oenone to be there in the last 12 that's exciting for us because we haven't had many riders who could get to the end of a very hard World Championships and be competitive," said McDonald.
"She had to pick the riders who were going to make the race and to her credit got to the line and maybe didn't have the legs at the finish," he said. "But I think it's a good sign coming off a very important Commonwealth Games year that at the end of the year [she was up there]."
"The girls looked after me in the first four laps of the race and made sure I was safe, in good position and had everything that I needed," said Wood. "They did a really fantastic job and then it was up to me.
"I gave them everything I could and I did my best but I just didn't have it at the finish," explained Wood, who chose her tactics well to stay with the leaders but began suffering cramps in the last few kilometres. "There were just too many attacks and I'd just had it by the time I got to the line.
"I'm still happy with the way we rode today," she said. "I think we did a really good job and I'd like to thank the girls for putting their faith in me."
Continued McDonald: "A number of [our women] riders are changing teams and that's exciting for Australian cycling that quite a few of riders will have a better situation with [professional] teams that will support them to race well at world championships and to try and qualify for Beijing. I'm excited for the future."
Earlier in the day, the men's U23 road race was won by Germany's Gerald Ciolek ahead of Frenchman Romain Feillu and Russian Alexander Khatuntsev. Tasmanian Matt Goss, who recently signed a three-year contract with CSC, had been Australia's hope for the podium but couldn't stay with the leaders up the last climb.
"I think we had the early stuff covered then we probably dropped our game a little mid-race," said Australian U23 coach Brian Stephens. "One lap to go we had still four riders right up there but Gossy felt the pressure over the last two climbs and lost contact on the last one.
"He was the nucleus of our strategy and without him we were stranded, so it then became a case of the riders knowing we needed to pursue the second most important thing and that was to qualify a full team for the 2007 world championships," explained Stephens. "James Meadley took care of that by sprinting hard to come home in the main bunch in 29th place."
Australia will field a full strength team of nine in the men's elite road race over 12 laps of the course for a total distance of 265.9 kilometres.
"A good surprise" for Boonen
By Hedwig Kröner in Salzburg
Ever since the course for the 2006 World's in Salzburg was announced, the big question was: will a sprinter like Tom Boonen be able to hang on until the finish or is the parcours selective enough to eliminate the fast men? Opinions have been diverging on the subject, even more so in the last couple of days.
But what did the current world champion himself think? After reconnoitring the 22km-loop around town on Friday and again on Saturday, the Belgian superstar smiled: "I'm not going to reveal you all my secrets, but I can tell you that the course is... a good surprise to me. Which was confirmed by how the Espoir race unfolded." There, a sprinter, German Gerald Ciolek, won the U23 men's event out of a breakaway, which was only five seconds faster than the bunch.
"I'm still waiting to see if my rivals can drop me in the last climb," Boonen continued. "If not, they better watch out!"
The Belgian master plan would of course see Boonen defend his title - but the strategy of the squad assembled around the two-times winner of the Tour of Flanders isn't actually that single-minded. "The power of a group resides in its ability to adapt to different situations," Boonen stated philosophically.
"We have a very good team for this race, but experience has shown that you can't control a race like this from beginning to end. But everyone of us has the level to make it to the finale and do his part of the job."
The Flandrian was alluding to his Walloon team-mate Phillippe Gilbert, who has been named by the team coach as a second leader. "Phillippe is in great shape; he proved it in the last weeks by winning some beautiful events," Boonen continued. "I'm very happy that he's here in such good condition, as my experience at Quick.Step has shown me that it's always better to have two leaders than only one.
"Because the rivals then have to split their attention automatically. If I have a bad day, my team-mates can take advantage of it as I always attract the attention of one or two rivals. In fact, this situation with multiple leaders - there is also Nick Nuyens - can be profitable for me as well as for them: if Philippe is in a breakaway, he can always argue that he doesn't have to work because I'm in the back."
Lion King predicts sprint finish
By Hedwig Kröner in Salzburg
Shaking hands and greeting old friends, the king of sprinters is also present in Salzburg for the world's; Mario Cipollini was enjoying the sunshine in the park adjacent to the Mirabellplatz, where the start/finish area is located. Asked what his opinion of the course was, the stylish Italian admitted that he hadn't ridden it on his bike.
"But what I can tell from just watching the Espoir race, I think that a group of 70 riders or so could make it to the finish together," Cipo told Cyclingnews. "At first, I thought it was harder, but now... The U23's came in just two seconds behind the breakaway, and as the pros race will be much more organised, it could very well boil down to a bunch sprint."
Asked if he thought in that case that Boonen was going to win, he said, "I don't know! There are many sprinters - also Zabel and McEwen."
Team CSC full of favourites
Although riding in their national colours, Team CSC riders made up three of the top four riders in the elite men's time trial last Thursday. In Sunday's blue ribbon event, there's reason to suggest they might be successful yet again, with 12 classy CSC riders lining up for the elite men's road race.
"I think Team CSC has a lot of potential world champions," Norwegian Kurt-Asle Arvesen said in a team statement. "Previously, Karsten Kroon and Fränk Schleck has proved they can win on a course like this one and Stuart O'Grady really looked sharp at the end of the Vuelta.
"If it's a big group in the final, I have to help Thor [Hushovd] in the sprint, but if the peloton is seriously split, we'll have to see how my legs are doing," predicted Arvesen.
Said O'Grady: "I've been focusing on Sunday's world championship for a long time."
"I think I've recovered well from the Vuelta, where I was satisfied with the way I climbed and sprinted. I think the race suits me just fine, but obviously we ride like a team, so if Cadel [Evans] or one of the other guys gets a chance to escape, we play our cards the best possible way," said the Australian.
Lars Bak will have his two Danish team-mates, Nicki Sørensen and Allan Johansen, for company on Sunday, and says it's up to the bigger teams to control the race.
"We have to save our strength as much as we possibly can, so we can't really join one of the early breakaways.
"I believe it'll be up to the Italians to control the race, because it'll be difficult for them to keep Alessandro Petacchi up front all the way to the finish, and even though Bettini and Di Luca can sprint, they'll have a hard time beating guys like Boonen, Valverde, Hushovd and O'Grady," said Bak, who lists Alejandro Valverde as his personal favourite.
"Valverde is a complete rider and I could imagine he wants to retaliate after having lead the Vuelta for so long without ending up as the overall winner," Bak continued. "But O'Grady also impressed me during the final days of the Vuelta; he was up front at some of the big climbs, and as far as I know, the climbs on Sunday suits a rider like him very well."
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2006)