Russian National Championships - CN

Moscow, June 29-July 1, 2001

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Day 2 - July 1: Elite Men road race, 204 km

Konychev is the Russian "championissimo"

By Sergey Kurdukov, Russian Eurosport commentator

When the race entered the closing laps, there was not a single sceptic left in the audience. Everybody enjoyed the drama of the event. The battle from start to finish was rather easy to predict.

The night before I talked to Viatcheslav Ekimov (he, like all the top Russian pro's, didn't see any problem in staying in a modest hotel room in Krylatskoye velodrome - on one hand, you can't find anything closer to the start, on the other hand, it was like a trip to one's early youth, as most of the training camps used to be held there).

"There will be no leg-spinning tomorrow," he said,"Nothing like the last time we rode championships here. A couple of years ago we covered first couple of laps in pairs, there were some 35 of us, and only closer to the finish an actual race began. Tomorrow it's more than 100, most of whom are young boys. They will plunge into the race lake crazy ones."

And so they did. The pack had hardly completed 2 kilometres when a junior rider attacked at the top of the very first, 1 km long climb and then really plunged headlong into the first banked descent at about 90 km/h. I was in the judge's car at the moment and felt something in the region of 4G. "Yes-s-s!!!" shouted the daughter of the coach of LADA-Saamra team, who enjoyed the privilege of watching the very front of the race as well. "A nice roller-coaster,isn't it?!"

The roller coaster (or uphill-downhill F-1, as most of Krylatskoye laps in a car actually are) settled down somewhat after some 20 kilometres, when the first breakaway took shape (or, rather, was left in peace until better times by the peloton). It was not as if there were just crazy youngsters in it. At least two of the names were pretty well known. One of the escapees was Vladimir Goussev, the very guy who was stripped of his well-deserved world championship medal in junior rode race last year, when his Basso bike was found to be a little illegal according to UCI regulations. The second one was Denis Bondarenko, who had been 3rd in GC of Baby Giro and 2nd in ITT two days before. He bemoaned his lack of form in the interview but it turned out "crocodile tears". Denis used smaller gear ratio then any of his companions, seemed to be on the verge of cramps, yet managed to ride at a very steady tempo.

The chasing group split almost at every second climb, there was no end of breakaways, the leading group grew to 16 riders reaching the maximum gap of about 4 minutes and shrank to 4, but 18 year-old Bondarenko was always present at the forefront. At the same time, Tonkov and Konychev enjoyed a nice chat at the back of the main group. Ekimov didn't feel like chatting and kept to 20th position in the same group, as well all the rest of the best known Russian pros.

Nine of fifteen 13.6 km laps were left behind as the race started to get hotter in every sense of the word. 30 C sunshine didn't stop the top names to start chasing. Dimitri Konychev took very long and powerful turns, Eki, Ivanov (who could make a poker of titles this time), Babaitsev and Petrov were quite prominent. ITERA's ambitious unders also rode a very impressive race and I remembered Alexander Kouznetsov's words after the ITT. "No one of my boys on the podium? That's no problem. Everything's in good order." This time ITERA, especially its leaders, Broutt and Markov, were really in excellent order. The top pro's chase proved too much for the major part of the field, but the duo held their ground.

It was with 2 laps to the finish that a new leading group got safely clear off the bunch, eating up the remnants of earlier breakaways. In the following group you could see Ivanov, Menchov, Petrov and Mikhailov, they tried to bridge a 1 minute-something gap, but looked a bit disorganzed. While Konychev, Eki and Tonkov attacked almost on every climb (Dimitry also did that on downhill sections living up to his reputation as one of the best descenders in the pro peloton).

The attack on the last climb, about 5 km to go, initiated by Tonkov, proved to be decisive. Konychev made the most of his comrade-in-arms' (literally, as both are Russian army officers) activity. His tempo along the downhill to the finish was fantastic and no one could get any closer then 7 seconds. So Russia got its second triple pro road champion (following Ivanov).

As to the mini-bunch sprint, the youngest turned out to be the sharpest. To Konychev's dissatisfaction, as he said after the race that he didn't like it when Bondarenko took part in the sprint after just following wheels for two laps. On the other hand, Denis rode the whole of the race at the front and probably had the right to feel tired. As to Markov's sprinting abilities, they were never in doubt as he's an Olympic points race medalist. Yet his conquering Krylatskoye's roller-coaster came as a very pleasant surprise to his father who passionately supported Alexei a couple of steps from the velodrome where he had taught his son the art of track pursuit. By the way, Boris Konychev, Dimitri's father and his first coach, also received the gold medal according to a good Russian tradition.

Post-Race interviews

Dimitri Konychev (Fassa Bortolo): "This success crowns the first part of this season that was rather chequered for me. All's well what ends well. Now I'm starting to get ready for the World Championships which remains the top priority for me. I haven't seen the route as yet and it will be of use to take stock of it in the near future. I'll never stop dreaming of winning the World's and I'm hoping to take it one day. I am not going to ride the Tour and I'm getting focused on the World's."

"I like working with Feretti, he really gives us free hands but only when he is sure those hands can catch victory. I also hope that numerous wins of our team after the scandal in the Giro show that the team is OK both physically and morally."

"The race today was superb, really hard and classy, just the pro championship it should be."

Alexei Markov (ITERA): "I was riding on my home ground and it was of much help, certainly. I know the circle quite well, I've trained along it many times as I am a Muscovite. But the only time I took part in a serious race here and it came to nothing as I quit halfway through. Surely I think this is my greatest road success, I appreciate it more than the Tour of Rhodes final podium."

"I don't feel like leaving track racing behind, although I am paying more attention to the road this year. Will I take part in the road World's? You'd better ask Kouznetsov. It's up to him to decide which variant is the best."

Andrei Zintchenko (LA-Pecol): "An 'all-but'. A pity, of course. There were some problems with my feeding. Perhaps that was a minor factor."

Pavel Tonkov (Mercury): "I rode a steady race, and I feel glad that our army man, Konychev, finally won. We pro's from different teams organized our counterattack wonderfully. ITERA worked excellently for Markov and Ekimov. On the top of all that I got the bronze medal of the Russian military championships, which was held at the same time."

"I don't know what the future holds for me. Not everything is right with my team, as you know. We were left aside by the Tour organizers, then those problems with Viatel and LeMond. I am trying not to give it too much thought and concentrate on getting ready for the Vuelta. Two days at home and than back to Spain to start training by the sea."

A complete interview with Pavel Tonkov will follow

Results - 204 km

1 Dimitri Konychev (Fassa Bortolo)         5.12.10 (39.21 km/h)
2 Alexei Markov (ITERA)                       0.07
3 Denis Bondarenko (Resine Ragnioli-Agidel) 
4 Andrei Zintchenko (LA-Pecol)
5 Artur Babaitsev (Team Nurnberger) 
6 Pavel Broutt (ITERA)
7 Pavel Tonkov (Mercury)
8 Viatcheslav Ekimov (USPS)
9 Maxim Smirnov (Moscow)                      0.33
10 Guennadi Mikhailov (Lotto-Adecco)          1.14
11 Serguey Ivanov (Fassa Bortolo)
12 Denis Menchov (
13 Evgueni Petrov (MAPEI)
14 Vassili Davidenko (Navigators)             1.40
15 Vladimir Karpets (ITERA)                   2.32
16 Oleg Babykov (Agidel) 
17 Serguey Osipov (Moscow)
18 Andrei Karpatchev (Moscow)
19 Eduard Gritsoun (Team Coast)               5.07
20 Serguey Klimov (ITERA) 
21 Faat Zakirov (Amore e Vita) 
22 Oleg Joukov (Dynamo)
36 Dmitri Sjomov (Agidel)                     7.58
37 Sergei Lelekin (ITERA)

Starters: 103
Finishers: 42