First Edition News for October 13, 2003
Edited by Chris Henry
Worlds victory confirms Astarloa
Spain's Igor Astarloa confirmed his talent for the big one-day races with a daring victory in Sunday's Elite Men's road race at the World Championships in Hamilton, Canada. Astarloa followed the decisive attack by Belgium's Peter Van Petegem on the race's penultimate climb, then put in his own attack near the summit of the final ascent, an attack which not even heavy favourite Paolo Bettini could answer. Astarloa plunged down the final descent and claimed a solo victory- his sixth career win- which even he found shocking.
"I really can't believe I won today," the Basque rider commented after the awards ceremony. "I just found the right moment to get away and was able to win. I've already won a classic this year (Flèche Wallonne) but the World Championships, that was just a dream until today. I still can't believe it. Yes, on the last lap I got in the good break. Van Petegem was really strong but I was good too!"
For some, Astarloa's performance couldn't have come at a better time, as he moves from the Italian Saeco squad to Cofidis for 2004. Cofidis manager Alain Bondue surely claimed an unofficial team prize of sorts, as Astarloa's win comes on the heels of Cofidis leader David Millar's gold medal in the Elite Men's time trial on Thursday. Astarloa may be leaving Saeco behind, but team manager Claudio Corti was nonetheless thrilled with the accomplishment.
"Asta is a great guy. He's been with us for 2 years," Corti told Cyclingnews Sunday. "He's a serious rider and is willing to work for others, like in Philadelphia this year when he led out the sprint for Zanini."
Born: March 29, 1976
World Road Championships
Brixia Tour (stage win and overall)
Grand Prix Primavera
Bronze OK for Van Petegem
Peter Van Petegem, one of the expected favourites for the rainbow jersey in Hamilton, declared himself satisfied with his bronze medal Sunday in the Elite Men's road race. Van Petegem sparked the winning move on the penultimate climb, pulling with him a select group which included, among others, Paolo Bettini and eventual race winner Igor Astarloa.
"I am very content. I made the race and felt good," Van Petegem said after the finish. "The five riders with whom I escaped were pound for pound very good. At the moment when Astarloa went for it, I was completely hoping for the sprint."
Van Petegem, who finished second to Oscar Camenzind at the 1998 World's in Valkenburg, Holland, had no regrets with his race this year, knowing he did what he could to chase the victory.
"I had already done a serious amount of forcing until the top of the climb and had used up my strength," he explained. "Bettini was not in top form. Ach, you need to have a bit of luck."
Peter Van Petegem may have missed the victory in Hamilton, but Belgian national selector José De Cauwer knows his team performed well, ultimately content with Van Petegem's result.
"The race went as he hoped and expected," De Cauwer said. "It's only disappointing that Peter could not finish it off in the finale. As a team we have ridden super. We took the race in hand for 160 km. And then the last lap came came and there was the threat that Freire and Zabel would ride to the finish. Thus came the tremendous attack by Peter. At the end he maybe gambled a bit, but I have no doubt about his race intuition. We should be happy with his third place."
Belgian team member Dave Bruylandts, who himself tried to animate the race in the closing laps, echoed De Cauwer's satisfaction with Van Petegem's podium appearance.
"We knew from the start it would be a race for explosive men," Bruylandts commented. "I tried to go with a break and to accelerate on the climbs. It had to happen, otherwise it would end in a mass sprint and then we would have nothing. But we have ridden a strong race and I'm happy that a Belgian is on the podium."
Davis in the hunt
Australia's Allan Davis, riding only his second Elite Men's road race, finished a more than credible 12th place and in the process bolstered his own confidence for the coming seasons. The 23 year old, who finished this season with the ONCE-Eroski team, had the strength to follow the moves at the end of Sunday's road race, but lacked the final kick necessary to place higher in the bunch sprint behind the first finishers.
"I tried my best today and twelfth was the best that I could get," Davis explained. "The team rode brilliantly and Michael Rogers kept me out of the wind for almost all of the last five laps. I got on Erik Zabel's wheel for the group kick but then had to get back in the seat because I had nothing left."
Nonetheless, 12th place is more than satisfying for the young Aussie, who is looking ahead to the seasons to come.
"It's all experience though and I've gained a lot of confidence out of this ride so I'll sit down tomorrow and have a good think about it," he added. "In a couple of years I'm going to hopefully be right up there."
Davis confirmed after the race that he will remain under the wing of ONCE director Manolo Saiz, who appears set to announce a replacement sponsor for 2004. "I'm staying with Manolo," said Davis. "I'm more than happy with him and have learned a lot through him so I'll stay with him to the death."
Ljungskog surprises herself
By Gabriella Ekstrom
When Susanne Ljungskog crossed the line in Hamilton to become only the fourth female cyclist ever to defend a rainbow jersey, it was with a look of disbelief. "I didn't feel it inside when I crossed the line. I wasn't certain I had won, and it was not the time and place for any gestures." Susanne told Cyclingnews the morning after the race. "Well, I thought I had probably won it, but I still didn't want to express my joy too early. The embarrassment and grief afterwards would be too great if it turned out I was wrong."
As one of the favourites, Susanne kept her cards close to her chest and admits afterwards that her tactics had played a major role in the race.
"There were five or maybe six girls in the race that I watched carefully," she explained. "I told myself that whenever Somarriba, Melchers, Cooke or Arndt would go, I'll go! I had to be there. The first six laps where surprisingly slow, and I had expected Somarriba to ride harder over the climbs, since she didn't have anything to lose by doing it. Then suddenly the field broke up and Longo-Ciprelli went away, and she wasn't part of my original plan, and I had no intention to chase after her."
Cycling's grand old lady Longo-Ciprelli powered up the climbs in a big gear and worked up a gap that started to look big enough to last all the way. Hesitation hampered her followers, and as Longo-Ciprelli took every chance to stay away, she almost had them fooled.
"I wasn't sure that we could catch her," Susanne said. "I was lucky though that I could play it cool and use the fact that I had already won the World's before. Melchers and Cooke have not and they were so desperate to win. Melchers worked incredibly hard during the last lap, but I still wasn't sure we'd actually get her back. When we passed Jeannie some two hundred metres before the final turn, I knew that all I had to do was to sprint. Again, Melchers and Cooke are very good sprinters, but with a bit of luck, I got through the corner I and found myself on Melchers' good wheel. At that stage in the race, I didn't think any more. That's what I told myself, don't think, don't stress, don't mess this up. Just ride."
Susanne then confessed that she hadn't yet seen the sprint, curious to know what it looked like. The answer is that it was an awesome and nerve-wrecking fight all the way to the line for those who were watching, and it seems impossible that the one rider responsible for the action seemed to have missed most of it.
"Well, during the last metres, I was just blind," she said. "I was totally focused, and I was surprised we almost rode into each other. I though, what AM I doing? I had no idea Mirjam was so close."
"When I crossed the line, I thought I was first, but it was not a certain feeling at all, and when I rode up to Glenn Magnusson and asked him, I couldn't get a real answer from him. He wasn't sure, and no one else seemed to be either. The minutes went by, and I took a little turn with my bike while I waited for the confirmation, and I told Glenn that I would just die if they told me I had won again. I would just die! I was in a state of shock, and I think I still am. I haven't slept much, I've just been thinking about it over and over again."
Despite having ridden a race where most things seemed to go her way, Susanne admits that she didn't have a super day.
"I did expect Nicole Brändli to do a lot of damage on the climb, and I'm sad she got sick and had to go home," Susanne explained. "On the other hand, since I wasn't in perfect form, who knows what she could have done. I was ok, but not super. As it was now, the race turned out good for me. There was so much tactics involved, and I was very lucky that I could play the role I did. I wanted to win again, but I had already done it once, and the riders who hadn't were so keen to ride. I'm also very impressed by Melchers. The way she almost stayed ahead in the sprint was just amazing." After a visit to the team's masseur and chiropractor Anna Krogh for one last treatment, Susanne's next destination was Sweden, where preparations for next season will follow upon a short period of rest.
"I've just had breakfast, and now I'm packing up to go home. We leave for Sweden today, and it will be so nice to get home again. I've been travelling since February, so it's about time I get home and get some rest. I figure I'll take about a week off, where I'll just relax and enjoy life, and after that I'll start again with some weight training and running."
Lacombe's condition improving
Cyclingnews spoke to the Canadian Cycling Association's Bill Kinash about the status of junior rider Kevin Lacombe, who crashed heavily yesterday during the junior men's race. Lacombe has been changed from a critical to serious condition. He has a feeding tube in so he can't talk at the moment, but he's been writing messages and joking around and is generally in good spirits. Doctors expect him to make a full recovery.
Big contracts for CSC
Bjarne Riis has signed three significant reinforcements for Team CSC, securing deals with Italian Michele Bartoli, Dane Frank Høj, and young Russian Vladimir Gusev. Bartoli will leave Fassa Bortolo to join CSC for two years, while Høj has signed a one year deal, leaving behind Danish rivals Team fakta. Gusev also signed a two year contract with Riis. CSC's director had big words of praise for Bartoli, who at 33 is still considered a force in the classics.
"You will not find many riders who are able to match [Bartoli's] results," Riis commented. "I have come to know him as one of the professional riders in the peloton and I have the utmost respect for his approach to his occupation. When he has got form, he produces results and I am confident that he will serve as a strong and competent addition to our classics squad. To have him on the team is a dream come true."
Riis was equally pleased to secure the signature of Høj, whom he has wished to recruit for some time. Along with the experience of Bartoli and Høj, Riis decided to invest in the future with the 22 year old Gusev.
"It is always very interesting to take some of the young riders in," he said. "Gusev has a natural talent for cycling and he can go far in this sport. Obviously, he is also here to learn, and we will provide him with the proper conditions to do so."
Olympics prompt calendar changes for 2004
The timing of the 2004 Olympics in Athens has prompted several changes to the UCI's calendar for the coming season. With the games coming in August, the UCI has shifted several events, including moving the World Championships one week earlier, and placing Paris-Tours after the World's. The timing of the three grand tours remains essentially unchanged, though because of the World's shift, the Vuelta a España will finish just days before the World Championships begin in Verona, Italy.
Principal race dates for 2004:
Giro d'Italia: May 8-30
Milan-San Remo: March 20
Olympic Games (Road race): August 14
World Championships (Elite)
Time trial: September 29
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2003)