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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

World Championships Cycling News for September 25, 2006

Edited by Anthony Tan

Men's road race wrap-up

Bettini... finally

Paolo Bettini wins from Zabel and Valverde
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for larger image)

Paolo Bettini (Italy) has finally won the race he has come so close to winning in the past: the world championship. The Italian, who clearly had excellent form, came around Erik Zabel (Germany) in the last 50m to win by half a wheel. Alejandro Valverde (Spain) finished third after being led out by his teammate Samuel Sanchez with 500m to go, creating a small gap in the bunch that ruined the chances of the other sprinters.

The race was marked by numerous breakaways, and after 44 km, a group formed with Tyler Farrar (USA): Nicolas Roche (Ireland), Matteo Tosatto and Rinaldo Nocentini (Italy), Jurgen Van Goolen (Belgium), Bram De Groot (Netherlands), Daniel Andonov Petrov (Bulgaria), Luis Perez Rodriguez (Spain), Thomas Voeckler (France), Stephan Schreck (Germany) and Aliaksandr Kychinski (Belarus). They caught the then lone leader Alex Cano (Colombia) and proceeded to ride out to a 16 minute advantage. The work of the Austrians and the Dutch reduced the gap sufficiently, and a group of 14 closed the gap to the leaders with three laps to go.

The group was too big to work, and the peloton reformed with two to go. Bettini was strong both times up the final climb in the last two laps, first of all getting a gap with Fabian Wegmann, and on the last lap going clear on his own and joined by Kroon, Boogerd (Netherlands), Millar (Great Britain), Wegmann (Germany) and Vinokourov (Kazakhstan). But it all came back together again on the descent. With 500m to go, a gap opened up at the front of the bunch, and Sanchez, Valverde, Zabel and Bettini were able to fight out the sprint among themselves. Valverde went first, then Zabel, but Bettini was able to beat them all with a well timed finishing burst.

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

Winner's profile: Paolo Bettini

From pupil to top achiever

That's a happy Paolo
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
(Click for 
larger image)

Paolo Bettini crowned his career with an emotional victory in the men's world championship road race in Salzburg. The Italian attacked twice in the latter stages, but was unable to get away. Finally, he found the wheels of Erik Zabel (Germany), Alejandro Valverde and Samuel Sanchez (Spain) as a gap opened up with 500m to go, and beat them all to take the rainbow jersey. Jean-François Quénet profiles Bettini's career.

Ten years ago, the UCI inaugurated the U23 world championships to succeed the amateur category. The Italians dominated the rest of the pack that day. They captured the first four places: Giuliano Figueras, Roberto Sgambelluri and Luca Sironi got the medals but they insisted on Paolo Bettini to join them on stage for ceremony. For the first time, in 1996, the friendly kid from La California in Tuscany became full of emotions listening to "fratelli d'Italia", his national anthem.

Figueras, Sgambelluri and Sironi might have been overrated too early. They were quickly treated like stars in Italian cycling while Bettini was taken under Michele Bartoli's wings. They moved together from MG-Technogym (1997) to ASICS (1998), then Mapei. Bettini learnt his job as a domestique. He would have done anything to make Bartoli a winner. At the time, when Bartoli decided to live in Monaco, he invited Bettini and his girlfriend (now his wife) Monica to visit because they didn't know this little tax-free paradise on the French Riviera. When Bartoli as a World number one flew to France to race the Chrono des Herbiers as the last race of the year in 1998, he brought Bettini and his other good friend Luca Scinto with him.

Click here for the full profile.

Post-race comments

By Jean-François Quénet in Salzburg

Alejandro Valverde (Spain, 3rd)

"I am very happy with my medal. This is something important. After I already won silver [last year], now I go home with the bronze. I am just missing the golden one! Considering the fact that in four participations in the world championships, I won three medals, the world title has to be mine some day. I have to complete my collection! The 2006 season has been a very hard and intense one, and of course, I am beginning to be tired.

"The Spanish team did exceptional work the whole day. As for me, things were rather complicated from the moment I understood that the race would finish with a massive sprint. I owe my medal to the fantastic work done by Samuel Sanchez in the last kilometre. 700 metres from the finish line, he told me to stay on his wheel and that he would launch the sprint for me. Unfortunately, I could not take sufficient advantage of his work to win because Bettini and Zabel were faster, but I am very satisfied with my result."

Thor Hushovd (Norway, 112th)

"It's been an horrible day for me, the complete opposite of what I was aiming at. I just had bad legs all the way and I got dropped in the first hill of the last lap. Now I'll take it easy and focus on Paris-Tours."

Thomas Voeckler (France, 92nd)

"I was the last rider to enter the breakaway. Fortunately I made it, otherwise the French team would have been obliged to chase at the front of the bunch. I'm happy with the work I've done today. I don't have much to reproach myself.

"It was my first world championship but I didn't come for the folklore. I wanted to be an actor and produce some result for the team. At the end of the day, we don't have much to celebrate but it's nothing new that Bettini, Zabel and Valverde are superior to any of the members of the French team."

Sylvain Calzati (France, 93rd)

"Yes, I was the last Frenchman to try something but I'm disappointed because I got cramps during the final lap and I would have liked to do more."

Tarmo Raudsepp (Estonia, DNF)

"It's been a fabulous experience to ride the world championship with the professionals. There was only one lap too much. As an amateur, I don't have the opportunity to take part in such long races, but I hope to become a pro soon."

U.S. team report

Equal first on medal count

On Sunday, Californian Fred Rodriguez was the U.S. team's best finisher in the men's road race, finishing 11th in the bunch sprint to earn 15th place. The United States closed out the six-event world championships tied with Germany for the most medals with three medals each.

Rodriguez's result came despite a lingering knee injury that hampered him throughout the day. "My knee was pretty bad out there," he said after the finish. "I was pretty much riding with one leg."

On the penultimate lap, Chris Horner got himself in a move that included favourites Paolo Bettini, Alexander Vinokourov, Michael Boogerd and Alejandro Valverde, which unfortunately came to nought. "With one [lap] to go, on the first climb, that move of six or seven attacked, so I went across," explained Horner.

"It looked like a good move, but we hesitated too much and it was brought back. That's one of the problems I have right now coming of the Vuelta (a España). I have the form to go with moves like that, but I just couldn't help drive it. I'm just missing that spark.

"After that, you could tell it was going to be a sprint, so I just looked after Freddie from there and made sure he was in the front group going up the last climb."

"We had Freddie in good position going into the finish," said Horner. "After working with him all year, I knew what he needed, but those four just opened up a gap and whoever was on the front, I think [Australian Stuart] O'Grady, should have closed it for [his team-mate Robbie] McEwen."

Highlights for the U.S. team throughout the week include Kristin Armstrong's world title in the elite women's time trial on Wednesday, Thorburn's medal in the same event, and Zabriskie's silver medal in the elite men's time trial.

Armstrong became the third American woman to accomplish that feat, joining Karren Kurreck in 1994 and Mari Holden in 2000. Zabriskie's silver was the first medal for the U.S. in the elite men's time trial since the discipline was added to the world championship program in 1994.

Australian team report

Aussie's robbed of gold in final sprint

Robbie McEwen and Stuart O'Grady came agonisingly close to putting two Australians on the podium in the elite men's road race, but a moment's hesitation by a rival cyclist and a blocking tactic by the Spaniards saw the pair instead finish fifth and sixth to Olympic champion Paolo Bettini.

"A Swiss guy had set his line going into the corner and [Erik] Zabel came underneath him and surprised him and he tried to adjust his line and ended up losing a length," explained McEwen. "Then he hesitated and suddenly [the gap was] fifty metres... and I'm looking at the guys riding away with the world title.

"It's a shame because I won the sprint of the group easily and I could see the world title just up the street," McEwen said. "We did a great race as a team and I rode exactly how I wanted to but that's racing."

"I think we [Australia] rode a really good race and Robbie and I were both perched perfectly in position and the next minute somebody let the wheel go and that was that," said a shattered O'Grady. "You can't do much when guys let the wheel go in front of you. It's a real bummer."

Cycling Australia pro rider co-ordinator, Neil Stephens, said the blocking tactic of the Spaniards was perfectly legal, even though Alejandro Valverde couldn't finish off the job: "The Spaniards did a great move splitting the race, which was a perfectly legal tactic and if we had done it we'd be 'high-fiving' each other," he said.

"But unfortunately they caused the split that meant we couldn't win and then they basically ran last [fourth] and second last [third] in that little group, so it didn't really work out for them either," said Stephens.

"The leader of the team on the day was Stuey and he did everything right, riding a really aggressive race. Then at the end, Stuey recognised that he had played all his cards and that the fastest guy in a bunch kick would be Robbie [McEwen] so he switched roles to set up the most perfect scenario for us - one of the fastest riders in the world leading out arguably the fastest rider in the world.

"That combination, without the split in the race, would have seen Australia first and second across the line but it didn't work out that way and we're all obviously pretty upset."

The disappointment was tangible as McEwen and O'Grady commiserated with each other immediately after the race. "That early break looked dangerous, but we figured the Belgians didn't have one of their protected riders up there and neither did the Italians or the Spanish, so we just played it cool and let the other teams do it [chase it down]," explained McEwen.

"We kept our cool though and followed the breaks with Stuey, myself and Michael Rogers. The other guys did a great job keeping us out of the wind, so it's disappointing when it splits, not because they were stronger but because it just split.

"That's racing and we'll get over it," lamented McEwen. "If we had a tiny bit of luck today I'd be standing on the podium in the world champion's jersey but we can be satisfied with how we rode."

"We knew it was going to be a pretty tactical race and it turned out to be just that," said O'Grady. "It was always going to be on the limit if the break was going to be able to stay away with the speed of that last eight kilometres of the circuit."

Of the other Australians in the race Cadel Evans finished with the main bunch in 40th place, Michael Rogers was in the next group in 50th, Simon Gerrans finished in 89th place and Matthew Hayman was with the same group, while Matthew White, Nick Gates and Bradley McGee did not finish the race, pulling out after their respective jobs for the team were done.

Canadian team report - Elite women/U23 men

On Saturday, Alex Wrubleski and Cameron Evans were the top Canadians in the world championships elite women's and men's U23 road race.

"We already had a good feeling about the women's team work after spending one month racing in Europe together, and I can tell you that we can now build on this excellent new team spirit," said Vincent Jourdain, CCA's coach.

"Our espoir [U23] men have been very aggressive and found themselves regularly in the lead. Of course we would have hoped for better results, but the world's have been great so far for Team Canada," he added.

In the elite women's 132-km road race, the two top Canadians have been younger hopefuls Wrubleski and Erinne Willock. Alex Wrubleski succeeded in crossing the finish line among the breakaway, finishing 23rd, at 2'07 from new world champion, Netherlands' Marianne Vos. Team-mate Willock arrived in the same leading group in the same time, and placed 37th.

In the men's U23 177.2-km road race, top Canadians have been two BC riders, Cam Evans and Christian Meier, in 47th and 48th respectively, at 5 seconds from winner Germany's Gerald Ciolek, who took the title with a time of 4:00:50, followed by France's Romain Feillu and Russia's Alexander Khatuntsev.

"Our four U23 riders performed an awesome racing, Meier being in the front regularly. At only 18, first year as an espoir and making first steps at the international level, Veilleux also gave an impressive performance," said Jourdain.

"There was not much left to be at the front," said David Veilleux (Cap Rouge, QC), who was only 35 seconds back and was ranked 71st.

Iran no-show in Salzburg

Visa problems resulted in a six-man team from Iran unable to make it to Salzburg in time to contest the world road championships.

According to Qatar's The Peninsula, UCI officials in Salzburg received a letter from the Iranian federation last Monday, indicating the team's travel plans were delayed because their visas could not be processed in time. Reports in the Austrian media claim the federation did not receive the visa documents until September 10.

"Problems with the delivering of visas are new to us," said UCI press officer Enrico Carpani, saying there was little cycling's governing body could do to resolve the problem.

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