Elite Men's Road Race
Sunday, October 15, 2000, 10:30
The local time in Plouay is
Plouay - Plouay, 268.9 km (19 laps)
By Tim Maloney, cyclingnews.com correspondent
"I knew that when (Tchmil) went that the course was too fast for someone to go away alone, so it would come down to a sprint."
So spoke the new World Elite Road Race Champion, Romans Vainsteins of Latvia after his victorious sprint in Plouay to win the rainbow jersey. It was not an easy win by any means for Vainsteins, who really didn't have a strong team but was able to parlay the intense rivalry between Andre Tchmil and his Belgian team and Michele Bartoli and the squadra azzura of Italy, both pre-race favorites in his favor.
Sunday dawned cool and overcast, with the Breton roads still wet from Saturday's soaking rain. 158 Elite Men took the start and after an hour and three laps rolling past farm fields full of orange pumpkins along the 14 km circuit, they were just warming up. After 44 km of racing, Thierry Marichal (Belgium) opened the hostilities with a tough attack on the Cote de Lezot after three laps. Marichal was joined by 8 other riders; Beneteau and Moreau (France), Diaz Justo and Jimenez (Spain), Lelekin (Russia), Pronk (Netherlands), Di Luca (Italy) and Beuchat (Switzerland).
Marichal had been selected to act as Tchmil's shadow on Sunday, but when he got in the break, his role was to make others chase behind and make the race harder. The same true for the Spanish, French and Italian riders, while the others were just along for the ride. Once the break was established, Marichal and Di Luca stopped working, while Moreau and Lelekin powered along and with laps 4 and 5 ridden at a rapid 45.5 km/hr average. With 14 laps and 196 km to go, the 9 riders had an almost 6'00 lead and gained almost two more minutes on lap 6!
An alert sounded for the Polish team, as they wanted to keep things together for their two leaders, Zbig Spruch and Piotr Wadecki. Big Piotr Chmielewski, winner of the recent Tour of Poland and the rest of the Polish squad hit the front and began riding hard tempo so the fugitives didn't get away for good.
For the next four laps, the Polish riders pulled the escapees back, gradually cutting their lead back to 3'33" with 8 laps and 112 km to race. The chase effort stalled for a while, but when the Italian Di Luca attacked his break companions on the Cote de Ty-Marrec with 7.5 laps to race, this broke the log jam. Diaz Justo and Jimenez, Lelekin and Beneteau and were dropped, while Di Luca, Marichal, Moreau, Pronk and the surprising Beuchat, who had won a stage in the Hessen Rundfart the week before, just kept rolling.
A stalemate ensued at this point in the Plouay World's, as the poker game started with 100 km to go. The Polish team had chased hard to within 2' of the 5 breakaway riders, but once they stopped chasing, no team would commit to pick up the slack and bring the break back. US PRO champ Fred Rodriguez pulled into the team box at that point, and since all the strong teams had someone up the road, it was status quo until Di Luca made another attack with 5.5 laps to go.
His effort dumped Pronk from the break; now there were 4 left, and behind them, for the first time, the squadra azzurra went on a concerted attack. The breaks lead began to drop and with 5 laps and 70 km, or about 90 minutes left to race the front quartet still had 2'22" on the chasing field.
Behind, the big guns were getting impatient to fire. Lots of attacks from the French, with Laurent Brochard especially active. But the race was still static and on the Cote de Ty-Marrec, as Brochard attacked again and Pronk was reeled in, The leaders still had over 2' lead. The break had been away for 10 laps, 140 km and something had to give. The Spanish team realized that it was the moment to ride for Freire as he had good legs. Zubeldia and Cerezo hit the front and with three laps to go, the break had 44" and their lead was dropping fast.
The Italians had joined the Dutch and Spanish in the chase and the tiring foursome were simply doomed. Up the Cote de Lezot with less than three tours of the Circuit Perron to go, and the now 50 strong peloton could see the break right up the road. Italian Luca Scinto made a massive move and just at the top of the climb, after 170 km of liberty, the break was history.
With 38 km to go, it was anyone's race and Michele Bartoli decided to attack. Suddenly, it was mano a mano between the two strongest riders in the race, as Andre Tchmil covered the Italian champ's every move. Up the Ty-Marrec and Tchmil's teammate Bruylandts did yeoman's work riding hard tempo, while Laurent Jalabert was going out the back with his French teammate Bouvard.
Now the poker game was over and the real racing could begin with 2 laps to go...or could it? The Belgians, who were riding well for Tchmil and the Italians, who seemed confused, were still looking at each other instead of racing. Bartoli attacked, Tchmil covered. Then it was Tchmil's turn to go and the entire Italian team would pull him back. On the penultimate climb of Ty-Marrec, Axel Merckx tried a solo move and got a gap of almost 10", but as the lanky Belgian champion came through the start/finish on the bell lap, Gianni Faresin of Italy and Manuel Beltran of Spain (both Mapei teammates of Merckx) were pulling him back.
The final time up the Cote de Lezot, Rebellin hit the front and rode a hard tempo, trying to set up an attack by Bartoli. Behind the Italian, Rubiera, Boogerd, Gianetti and Tchmil were there and 1 km later, it was Tchmil who launched a great move on the steep Kerscoulic ramp. But Tchmil didn't reckon with the determination of the Spanish to keep things together for Freire's sprint possibility.
Down the twisting descent towards the final climb of Ty-Marrec, Tchmil tried to get a gap, but with the powerful pulls of Rubiera on the front of the front group of 25 riders, he never gained more than 8". Tchmil sat up just before the feed zone with 6 km to race and waited to be caught.
It was the last time up the Ty-Marrec climb now; and Plouay Poker was almost in it's final draw. The Spanish started to ride hard tempo, with Beltran on the front, but he couldn't contain the continual attacks. Finally, Francesco Casagrande made his move 500 metres from the top, rolling off on the right side while the rest of the riders were bunched on the left.
Casagrande got a gap and for about a kilometer, it looked like the Tuscan might have gotten away. But once again, the Spanish and Belgians chased the Italian down and Casagrande came back with 2 km to race. Now it was Tchmil's turn to launch a final, desperate bid for the win. With 1200 meters to go, the powerful Moldavian cum Belgian went again in the fast final charge to the line. But Rebellin buried himself at the front to chase down Tchmil. And that was that.
The sprint wound up faster and faster behind Tchmil. Vainsteins hit the front only once today, but it was with 200m to go and at 70 km/h, when he streaked past Tchmil with 50m To go. No one was going to beat the 27 year old globe trotter from Riga today and Tchmil and his hard-working Belgians, Bartoli and the Italians and defending champion Oscar Freire and his strong Spanish soldiers were all left with a bitter taste in their mouths today. Vainsteins had just had the royal flush while Tchmil, Bartoli and Freire drew trumps in today's game of Plouay poker.
1 Romans Vainsteins (Lat) 6.15.28 (42.698 km/h) 2 Zbigniew Spruch (Pol) 3 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) 4 Michele Bartoli (Ita) 5 Tobias Steinhauser (Ger) 6 Niki Aebersold (Swi) 7 Scott Sunderland (Aus) 8 William Chann Mcrae (USA) 9 Paolo Bettini (Ita) 10 Francesco Casagrande (Ita) 11 Michael Boogerd (Ned) 12 Axel Merckx (Bel) 13 Gorazd Stangelj (Slo) 14 Niklas Axelsson (Swe) 15 Oscar Camenzind (Swi) 16 Dave Bruylandts (Bel) 17 Maximilian Sciandri (GBr) 18 Jean Cyril Robin (Fra) 19 Andrei Tchmil (Bel) 20 Nico Mattan (Bel) 21 Mauro Gianetti (Swi) 22 Bo Hamburger (Den) 23 Chris Peers (Bel) 24 Raimondas Rumsas (Ltu) 25 Davide Rebellin (Ita) 0.02 26 Stéphane Heulot (Fra) 0.52 27 Beat Zberg (Swi) 28 Gianni Faresin (Ita) 29 José Luis Rubiera Vigil (Spa) 0.53 30 Manuel Beltran Martinez (Spa) 31 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) 32 Richard Virenque (Fra) 33 Francisco Javier Cerezo Perales (Spa) 1.21 34 Piotr Wadecki (Pol) 3.17 35 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) 36 Rolf Aldag (Ger) 37 Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Spa) 38 Andrej Hauptman (Slo) 39 Luca Scinto (Ita) 40 Jochen Summer (Aut) 41 Nicki Sorensen (Den) 42 Marc Wauters (Bel) 43 Serge Baguet (Bel) 44 Fabian Jeker (Swi) 45 Rolf Huser (Swi) 46 Marc Lotz (Ned) 47 Laurent Brochard (Fra) 48 Igor Pugaci (Mda) 49 Marcus Zberg (Swi) 50 Peter Van Petegem (Bel) 3.20 51 Denis Zanette (Ita) 8.20 52 Sergio Barbero (Ita) 53 Zbigniew Piatek (Pol) 54 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) 55 Frédéric Guesdon (Fra) 56 Daniel Schnider (Swi) 57 Janek Tombak (Est) 58 Mirko Celestino (Ita) 59 Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) 60 Maarten Den Bakker (Ned) 11.34 61 Harald Morscher (Aut) 62 Michael Steen Nielsen (Den) 63 Rolf Sorensen (Den) 64 Roberto Laiseka Jaio (Spa) 65 Bert Dietz (Ger) 66 Christopher Jenner (NZl) 12.20 67 Ralf Grabsch (Ger) 68 Dominique Perras (Can) 69 Gerrit Glomser (Aut) 70 Björnar Vestöl (Nor) 71 Danny Jonasson (Den) 72 Glenn Magnusson (Swe) 73 Tom Leaper (Aus) 74 Oleg Kozlitine (Kaz) 75 Gerhard Trampusch (Aut) 76 Marcus Ljungqvist (Swe) 77 Aart Vierhouten (Ned) 78 Steven De Jongh (Ned) 79 Oleg Joukov (Rus) 80 Charles Wegelius (GBr) 81 Christophe Mengin (Fra) 82 Kam Po Wong (HKg) 83 Jörg Ludewig (Ger) 84 Pierre Bourquenoud (Swi) 85 Ruslan Ivanov (Mda) 86 Karsten Kroon (Ned) 87 Dmitri Fofonov (Kaz) 88 Grischa Niermann (Ger) 89 Jan Schaffrath (Ger) 90 Patrice Halgand (Fra) 91 Ondrej Sosenka (Cze) 92 Jens Voigt (Ger) 93 Milan Kadlec (Cze) 94 Wilfried Peeters (Bel) 95 Max Van Heeswijk (Ned) 96 Alexei Sivakov (Rus) 97 Artour Babaitsev (Rus) 98 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) 99 Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) 100 Thierry Marichal (Bel) 101 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) 102 Serguei Smetanine (Rus) 16.58 103 Serguei Lelekin (Rus) 104 Martin Johansson (Swe) 105 Matthé Pronk (Ned) 106 Michael Barry (Can) 107 Vladimir Miholjevic (Cro) 108 Ruslan Pidgornyy (Ukr) 109 Thor Hushovd (Nor) DNF Rafael Diaz Justo (Spa) DNF José Enrique Gutierrez Cataluna (Spa) DNF Eladio Jimenez Sanchez (Spa) DNF Jon Odriozola Mugarza (Spa) DNF Haimar Zubeldia Aguirre (Spa) DNF Roger Beuchat (Swi) DNF Laurent Dufaux (Swi) DNF Marcel Strauss (Swi) DNF Walter Beneteau (Fra) DNF Gilles Bouvard (Fra) DNF Frédéric Finot (Fra) DNF Laurent Jalabert (Fra) DNF Christophe Moreau (Fra) DNF Danilo Di Luca (Ita) DNF Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) DNF Antonio Cruz (USA) DNF Danny Pate (USA) DNF Fred Rodriguez (USA) DNF Michel Van Haecke (Bel) DNF Kai Hundertmark (Ger) DNF Matthias Kessler (Ger) DNF Dmitri Konyshev (Rus) DNF Tayeb Braikia (Den) DNF Frank Hoj (Den) DNF Lars Michaelsen (Den) DNF Jacob Moe Rasmussen (Den) DNF Addy Engels (Ned) DNF Tristan Hoffman (Ned) DNF Jans Koerts (Ned) DNF Leon Van Bon (Ned) DNF Piotr Chmielewski (Pol) DNF Piotr Przydzial (Pol) DNF Robert Radosz (Pol) DNF Jaroslaw Ryszewski (Pol) DNF Kazimierz Stafiej (Pol) DNF Raivis Belohvosciks (Lat) DNF Arvis Piziks (Lat) DNF Michael Andersson (Swe) DNF Vladimir Duma (Ukr) DNF Serhiy Honchar (Ukr) DNF Lubomir Kejval (Cze) DNF Christian Poos (Lux) DNF Sergey Belousov (Kaz) DNF Robert Hunter (RSA) DNF Gordon Mccauley (NZl) DNF Jay Sweet (Aus)