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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

Latest News for October 13, 2003

Edited by Jeff Jones

Astarloa can't believe it

Bite it: it's real
Photo: © Sirotti
Click for larger image

27 year old Igor Astarloa could hardly believe that he had won the World Championships road race yesterday. When asked how he felt in the post-race press conference, he replied "You should ask Oscar Freire who has done it twice, because I have not yet taken it in and I guess it will take a week or a month to do so. For a classics rider like me, this is the biggest thing, the best that you can do. In comparison, I should feel more or less the same as a stage race rider after winning the Tour."

Astarloa was the third part of the Spanish team's plan that included Oscar Freire and Alejandro Valverde. Freire finished ninth while Valverde claimed the silver - an incredibly strong performance all round from the team which lost Oscar Sevilla on the first lap due to a crash. Astarloa said that he spoke with Freire before the last lap. "He told me to try to go with Paolo Bettini on the first climb because he preferred to wait for the sprint. I responded well and put myself in that group. We were a little disorganised but I knew that could happen."

When they reached the final climb, Bettini tried to make a deal with Astarloa. "Bettini offered me money for collaborating with him," Astarloa told Spansih TV. "He told me that if we escaped together we could fight out the gold between us. I could not accept that. The peloton was almost on top of us and I saw that the Italian was afraid that Freire would win the sprint, but we both knew that Paolo was quicker than I, so I decided to attack and go for it myself. He went hard after me into the headwind, but I had to try. Only when I took the last corner alone I knew that the title was mine."

Alejandro Valverde's presence in the chase group (he bridged up on the last climb) gave Astarloa added confidence. "When I saw that Alejandro had joined onto the back of the group it gave me a lot of tranquility, because if I did not make it, he is fast and would be able to finish it off. We already knew that Valverde was very strong - he's a boy with a huge future. We were very united, we have done great work as a team and we obtained a lot more than we expected. I don't believe it myself!"

Valverde: "Something incredible"

Photo: © Sirotti
Click for larger image

Silver medalist Alejandro Valverde looked even more delighted than Astarloa when he crossed the line for second place. His result gave Spain a rare 1-2 in the road race, something not seen since Olano and Indurain in Duitama in 1995. "This is like it was in the time of Indurain and Olano, something really incredible, that we have to enjoy it," Valverde told Europa Press. "After the great campaign I have had this season which has given me many good things, this is a great finishing touch."

"When Igor attacked, I kept myself in front to control the peloton so that they didn't catch him, but my strength felt very good," added Valverde. "I knew he could get it. In the finishing straight I started in third wheel, but with my strength as a sprinter I moved myself into the front position and won the silver."

Oscar Freire also was very happy with the way things turned out. "I am very proud of the medals obtained, although I was not the winner, it was a teammate and that is also a joy. I was very marked during the whole race, but we played with the other two options that we had, Astarloa and Valverde. I spoke with Igor Astarloa and I told him not to lose sight of Bettini, and he went with him. It has been shown that we are a strong team and very disciplined."

World's medals: Dutch on top

With a haul of 7 medals (2 gold, 3 silver, 2 bronze) from 10 events at the World Championships, The Netherlands has finished on top of the medal table. Germany, which also won 2 gold medals along with 1 silver and two bronze, finished in second place ahead of Spain, which won 2 golds and 1 silver. Surprisingly, two of the top cycling nations France and Italy did not win a single medal, despite the Italians claiming favourites' status in several events. The closest Italy came was Paolo Bettini's fourth place in the men's road race, with the small consolation that winner Igor Astarloa and U23 road race winner Sergey Lagutin both rode for Italian teams this year.

Final medal tally

                Gold    Silver  Bronze  Total
Netherlands       2       3       2       7
Germany           2       1       2       5
Spain             2       1       0       3
Russia            1       1       2       4
Sweden            1       0       1       2
Great Britain     1       0       1       2
Uzbekistan        1       0       0       1
Belgium           0       1       1       2
Ukraine           0       1       0       1
Australia         0       1       0       1
Denmark           0       1       0       1
Czech Republic    0       0       1       1

Americans close, but not quite

George Hincapie
Photo: © CN
Click for larger image

At the end of the day there were no outstanding results from the American team in the men's road race, with late inclusion Fred Rodriguez the best performed U.S. rider in 18th place. Despite this, the American team rode an aggressive race and was in the thick of it until the final 10 km. Three team members, Rodriguez, Hincapie, and Guido Trenti were well placed at the front of the peloton but once the decisive move went, they were unable to respond.

A disappointed Rodriguez cited some unfortunate cramping late in the race as a contributing factor to the inability to catch the break. "I was cramping pretty badly," he said. "I just kept trying to ride and every time I pedaled hard I cramped. No one in the field was ready to chase, and I think if the Germans would have had a stronger team here to help Zabel it could have came back."

Chris Horner animated the action late in the race, launching a solo attack with three laps to go, forcing the Italians to ride at the front - a tactic that many teams shared throughout the day given the presence of the Bettini. Once Horner was caught on the penultimate lap, he continued contributing to the team effort, getting away with David Millar for a short time and then helping chase down breaks to protect Hincapie and Rodriguez.

"I tried to make it happen," Horner explained. "The race wasn't hard enough in the beginning and there was too many guys left at the end. It was definitely hard near the end and I just tried to keep it fast and string it out for George and Freddy, I led it into the last climb as hard as I could for the sprint."

The designated early riders for the U.S. team were Chris Baldwin, John Lieswyn, David Clinger and Tim Johnson. The latter played his role well after crashing on the first lap down the descent on James Mountain Road. After Rodriguez suffered a mechanical problem, Johnson dropped out of the group to pull him back to peloton and later abandoned the race on lap 18. Lieswyn put in 180km of effort at the front of the peloton before abandoning on lap 19.

"I did my job and whenever anybody needed help, like when Freddy had mechanical problems, I went back and helped him," said Johnson. "I went down in the first crash on the descent. I was in second wheel but the guy in the lead touched his brakes and lost it. I slid 40 yards on my back."

Lieswyn was a little disappointed at his performance, hoping to have contributed more. "I'm a little depressed because I wanted to be in there for the meat of the race, but I did my share of work and helped out Freddy and George on the front. I went for 180 km but I was only really in it for about 140 km," he said while sitting in the team tent watching the remainder of the race."

Chris Baldwin, a relative newcomer to the world championship scene sat in awe after abandoning the race. "I learned more in five hours than I have in five years," he said in reference to his efforts early in the race. "It started out so slow at the beginning and then just started going hard. I think I could feel my body switch from burning fat to burning sugar. I wanted to ride until I had nothing left and do whatever it takes. I was able to be at the front for a while and did what I could."

Bad luck fell upon Bobby Julich who suffered a mechanical problem with his front derailleur early in the race and was forced to exit on the fifth lap after losing over two minutes on the main group. Unfortunately for Julich, there was no spare bike for him in the team box, and by the time he got one with the correct pedals, his race was well and truly finished.

UCI rankings: Bettini back to number 1

Despite being very disappointed with fourth place in yesterday's World Championship road race, Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step-Davitamon) has regained his number one status on the UCI rankings from Erik Zabel. Although the German finished 11th yesterday, he lost points due to his third place in last year's World's and actually dropped down to third in the rankings behind Bettini and Alessandro Petacchi. Bettini on the other hand finished fourth yesterday, improving on his 26th place last year.

Newly crowned World Champion Igor Astarloa (Saeco) jumped from 43rd to 18th place the UCI rankings, while Michael Boogerd (Rabobank, 5th in the World's) moved up from 21st to 12th place.

UCI rankings as of October 12, 2003


1 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick.Step-Davitamon             2271.00 pts
2 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Fassa Bortolo              1989.00
3 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Telekom                        1977.00
4 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Team Saeco                     1752.00
5 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner                   1750.00
6 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Team Telekom              1683.00
7 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Kelme-Costa Blanca 1606.00
8 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal-Berry Floor          1521.00
9 Iban Mayo Diez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi               1425.00
10 Francesco Casagrande (Ita) Lampre                   1408.00
11 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Team CSC                       1363.00
12 Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank                      1267.00
13 Dario Frigo (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                     1265.00
14 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) Team Saeco                     1259.00
15 Jan Ullrich (Ger) Team Bianchi                      1258.00
16 Michele Bartoli (Ita) Fassa Bortolo                 1198.00
17 Francisco Mancebo (Spa)                1189.00
18 Igor Astarloa (Spa) Team Saeco                      1151.00
19 Isidro Nozal Vega (Spa) O.N.C.E.-Eroski             1149.00
20 David Millar (GBr) Cofidis-Le Crédit par Téléphone  1113.00

Hamburger to Acqua e Sapone

Danish rider Bo Hamburger, who finished 6th in the World's yesterday, will leave his current Formaggi Trentini-Pinzolo Fiave team to join the new Acqua e Sapone squad next season. The team, which will likely be Division II, will be managed by Palmiro Masciarelli and include a couple of riders from Vincenzo Santoni's Domina Vacanze team (which will likely continue in Division I).

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