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2002 Road World Championships - CM
Hasselt-Zolder, Belgium, October 8-13, 2002
Day 6 - October 13: Elite Men Road Race, 256km
Grandissimo! Cipollini flies like an aeroplano in Zolder
First Italian World pro road title in a decade
By Tim Maloney in Zolder
Alfredo Martini has seen it all in cycling. A former teammate of Fausto Coppi and Italian national coach for almost a quarter of a century, Martini still works today with current Italian coach Franco Ballerini. The 81 year old Martini, the grand signore of Italian cycling, cried tears of joy today after Cipollini's dramatic win in Zolder, telling Cyclingnews that "this was a fantastic day for the Italian team - it would be difficult to find a performance to equal their work, especially in a very difficult race like today's. And Cipollini was grandissimo - like an aeroplano."
An unquestionably grandissimo Cipollini finished his season today with the greatest moment of his career, winning the World's in dramatic style that only Cipo seems capable of doing. 2002 was a year of highs and lows for Cipo, a year where he won his first World Cup classic in March at San Remo at 35 years old, as well as winning 6 stages in the Giro d'Italia, but then surprisingly retired from cycling in July, frustrated by his exclusion from the Tour De France and other issues with his Acqua & Sapone team.
But Cipo kept training all summer, stayed focused and came finally came back to his senses this September, winning 3 stages in the Vuelta in preparation for his final push for a World Championships win. All the highs and lows were water under the bridge today at Zolder, as a humble Cipollini told the post World's press conference that, "Today I has some very special feelings during the race. It was such an important race for me that I started with so much tension and concentration. Sure, I felt like that before Milano-San Remo, but to take the start of a World Championship with the mission to win it is another thing. For the entire Italian national team, it was a day of intense emotions. It was almost like I was in a trance today; in the sense that I knew that I had to give my utmost today and never make a mistake."
Cipo also paid homage to his powerful squadra azzuro, saying, "[Italian coach] Ballerini did a great job with the team. From our first moments together, there was a united atmosphere in the team. Sure, there might have been moments where some things could have unraveled but this group really got along well. Today was a great moment for the Italian team; we did great work and the riders selected showed that they are real professionals. Everyone on the team did their job in an exceptional manner and I have to thank them all."
Runner-up Robbie McEwen seemed somewhat disappointed with his silver medal today, telling Cyclingnews that "In the last kilometre, I came out of the last corner in about 8th place. Petacchi and Lombardi were pulling the sprint for Cipollini and when that's happening, there's one place you've gotta be: on Cipo's wheel. So I knew that and I went about getting on his wheel but that was a difficult job because Erik Zabel was there." (referring to his shoulder shove of Zabel)
"We didn't quite have a boxing match, but that's the way you have to go about preparing a sprint. It's tough and so I ended up spending a lot of time out in the wind (fighting for position with Zabel) instead of on (Cipo's) wheel. That cost me a lot today; I'm not going to say that it cost me the win, but there could have been more."
National coach Shayne Bannan put a more positive spin on the Australian team's performance, telling Cyclingnews that "It went well today; we planned to look after Robbie as much as possible and it went to plan - all but Cipollini. But to have all three on the podium (Cipo, McEwen and Zabel) is great for cycling. The boys couldn't have done any more and Robbie gave himself every chance in the finish, but Cipollini is a better rider today."
Bronze medallist Erik Zabel (Ger) was pleased with his medal winning ride, saying that "Today was a good race for me; I'm happy I could get a medal. I was behind Mario but Robbie (McEwen) knocked me off his wheel. Anyway Mario was just too fast today to beat."
Despite his best efforts, a frustrated Fred Rodriguez (USA), two time USPRO champ, rode well all day but just couldn't get to the front for the final kilometre. Rodriguez told Cyclingnews post-race that "the finish was really hectic and it was just me and Guido (Trenti) - I had done too many efforts to try and stay in the first 20 guys today. With Italy having 10 guys and Spain and Belgium and Germany, it's impossible (to stay in front)."
Guido Trenti (USA) made his debut for the United States at the Zolder World's and was best American finisher in 16th. Trenti, who will ride for Fassa Bortolo next season, didn't lead out Mario Cipollini as many cynical pundits predicted, but rode well all day supporting Rodriguez. "Things went well today but in the final, we only had two riders so there was not much we could do. We had worked so hard to stay in the front that when the last lap came, me and Fred were just too tired to work a lead-out."
Indeed today's race was the fastest World Championships ever, with the 256 kilometres being completed in 5:30:03, an average speed of 46.54 km/h. That was an incredible 3.5 km/h faster than the 2000 World's in Plouay, where the previous record speed was set. The aggressive nature of the race combined with the super fast surface and the lack of any big climbs on the Zolder circuit yielded this result.
The day dawned cool and dank, with overnight rain having soaked the piney woods of central Limburg but by the 10:30am start, the grey sky was starting to lighten on the damp Sunday morning. With a pallid fall sun beginning to break through the overcast, the 202 starters left from the Zolder motor track and right form the start, the speed was very high. Frenchman Christophe Moreau made the first move that stuck after one and a quarter laps in Viversel, and soon the lanky Belfortian was caught on the second lap by Dmitry Muravyev (KAZ).
Moreau's move was finally reeled in with 9 laps to race and while the Frenchman had had his moment of glory with 10 laps of freedom, it had no impact on the race. Immediately the Italians sent their big tempo men Luca Scinto and Davide Bramati to the front to jack up the pace with 115km to go. The World Title was still up for grabs, the race was wide open and the pace was brutal, with an average speed of over 45 km/h at the halfway point.
Oscar has a go
After a lull, lap 12 was super-fast, raced at over 50km/h average. Three solid riders had managed to extricate themselves; elegant David Millar (UK), veteran Peter Wrolich (Aut) and Swiss power-postman Oscar Camenzind (Swi). After half a lap, two other riders attempted to bridge across: Traksel (Ned) and Lang (Ger).
With 7 laps to go, the lead trio had a lead of 1'15" on the chasing duo and 1'30" on the peloton. But the Polish and Italian led peloton was too strong for the chasers and they were absorbed. With about two hours left to go in the '02 Worlds, the break was riding strong but with the Polish team inexplicably joining the Italians in the chase, the gap from the break to the peloton had dropped to 1'00 on the 13th time up the Pitshelling, the hardest climb in the race. Now the Belgians and Australians also joined the chase and with 6 laps left, the gap was under 1'00 and falling with the peloton still 100 riders strong.
Camenzind, who won his rainbow stripes in Valkenberg, Holland not far from Zolder 4 years ago, clearly had good legs today as he went to the front and powered up the slightest rise. Millar and Wrolich were ideal companions for the powerful ex-postman from Murten, but once hard riders like Scinto and Bramati for the Italians, Kohut and Piatek for the Poles, White and Vogels for the Aussies upped the tempo in the peloton, the likelihood of this trio to stay away became slimmer.
Up the Pitshelling again approaching 5 laps to go, the trio had less than a half a minute on the peloton with Luxembourger Benoît Joachim trying to bridge, but the big USPS man was sucked up on the descent. Three quarters of the 2002 World Championships was over and the pace had been fast all the way, with the average speed still at 45 km/h. The lead trio only had 28" on the determined peloton, which was still over 100 riders strong. The front runners could sense the approaching peloton and sat up in the woods of Bolderberg.
An immediate counter attack by a Dutch rider provoked a counter by an Italian and these moves ignited the race once again. The non-stop action turned the huge peloton into one long line, with splits starting to occur. With 4 laps to go, Max Van Heeswijk powered across the line, but was quickly covered by Ludo Dierckxsens. Nicolas Jalabert (Fra), otherwise known as Jaja Jr., made a nice counter move and got away on the Zolder track, quickly joined by Fabian Cancellara (Swi). This duo powered through Viversel and by the right hand bend onto the long straight of Terlamenlaan, they had 15" on the peloton, now led by the tenacious Aussie Matt White and a bevy of Italians.
Suddenly a huge cheer of "Ludo, Ludo" erupted from the Belgian crowds along the course as Ludo Dierckxsens made a big attack to get across to the two leaders. After almost wiping out on the right hand bend of Galgeneinde, Dierckxsens was reeled in and up the Pitshelling, the break was in sight of the chasers. Igor Astarloa (Spa) made a huge attack but he was quickly covered by the Dutch team as the break was absorbed with 3 laps to go.
Lap 17 was very rapid: 49.7km/h average, with the overall race average speed sky high at 45.8km/h! With only three laps to go, things were getting very serious. Plenty of gaps were starting to open as everybody's legs were getting tired after almost 5 hours of racing at high speed. The attacks were fast and furious now as riders like Popovych (Ukr), Petacchi (Ita) and Johansen (Den) tried to make a move to go away, but the azure blue jerseys of the Italian team just pounded away in the front, sucking up any moves with their inexorable, irresistible tempo.
Once again up the Pitshelling where a strong move by Johan Museeuw provoked a huge reaction, quickly covered by Paolo Bettini (Ita) and Guido Trenti (USA). Everyone was together again on at the end of lap 18, which was the fastest yet, an incredible 51.1 km/h. But nothing doing today; the squadra azzuro just powered along on the front and the penultimate lap was again over 50 km/h average.
The final countdown
On the final lap of the Zolder World's, 6 Italian jerseys powered away on the front as everybody else scrambled for position. Approaching the final climb as the peloton took the right hand bend onto Regenbooglaan with 3km to go, a huge pile-up behind the front runners took out about 50 riders, with favourites like Museeuw and Jalabert caught behind the big crash. But the entire Italian squad as well as McEwen, Freire and Zabel were still there, as well as speedsters like Hauptman, Casper, Cooke, Dean and Kirsipuu. With 2km to go, Freire got his quick release caught with an Italian rider's wheel and was knocked out of the action.
As the remaining 30 riders prepared for the sprint, newly crowned World Champion Mario Cipollini told Cyclingnews that "the last kilometre was relatively easy. When we came onto the racetrack, I was behind two riders (Petacchi and Lombardi) who were incredibly strong and really knew how to do their job well. They brought me to the right point, just where I asked them to and I went with everything I had. When you have teammates like the ones I had today - well, we can all be satisfied today."
After his dramatic year of ups and downs, Cipo was still not sure what was going on at the post race press conference. "For a moment, right after the finish, I didn't know if what was happening was a dream or a reality," the newly rainbow clad and gold medalled even more Super Mario explained. "I'm sure I'll need some more time for everything that happened today to sink in."
Images by Daniel Schamps
Images by Fotoreporter Sirotti
Images by Cyclingnews.com/Chris Henry
Images by AFP Photo
Images by Roberto Bettini/www.bettiniphoto.com
Images by Miwako Sasaki/Japanese Cycle Sports
Images by Sabine Sunderland
Images by Lucy Poweremail@example.com
Images by Gerry McManus
1 Mario Cipollini (Ita) 5.30.03 (46.54 km/h) 2 Robbie McEwen (Aus) 3 Erik Zabel (Ger) 4 Andrej Hauptman (Slo) 5 Zoran Klemencic (Slo) 6 Jimmy Casper (Fra) 7 Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) 8 Sven Teutenberg (Ger) 9 Baden Cooke (Aus) 10 Julian Dean (NZl) 11 Jan Svorada (Cze) 12 Lars Michaelsen (Den) 13 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) 14 René Haselbacher (Aut) 15 Gerrit Glomser (Aut) 16 Guido Trenti (USA) 17 Pedro Miguel Lopes Goncalves (Por) 18 Peter Van Petegem (Bel) 19 Dmitri Konyshev (Rus) 20 Danilo Hondo (Ger) 21 Stefan Van Dijck (Ned) 22 Tom Steels (Bel) 23 Fred Rodriguez (USA) 24 Frank Hoj (Den) 25 Ludovic Capelle (Bel) 26 Paolo Bettini (Ita) 27 Giovanni Lombardi (Ita) 28 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) 0.16 29 Mario Scirea (Ita) 0.20 30 Rubens Bertogliati (Swi) 0.22 31 Janek Tombak (Est) 0.29 32 Romans Vainsteins (Lat) 0.31 33 Marcus Ljungqvist (Swe) 34 Serguei Ivanov (Rus) 0.39 35 Yuri Mitlushenko (Ukr) 36 Werner Riebenbauer (Aut) 37 Charles Dionne (Can) 38 Tom Boonen (Bel) 0.44 39 Fabio Sacchi (Ita) 40 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) 41 Gianluca Bortolami (Ita) 42 Alexei Markov (Rus) 0.56 43 Laurent Brochard (Fra) 44 Jurgen Van Goolen (Bel) 45 Robert Hunter (RSA) 46 Oscar Camenzind (Swi) 0.59 47 Jacky Durand (Fra) 48 Bart Voskamp (Ned) 49 Alexandre Usov (Blr) 50 Zbigniew Spruch (Pol) 1.01 51 Ludo Dierckxsens (Bel) 1.12 52 Benoît Joachim (Lux) 53 Cédric Vasseur (Fra) 54 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) 55 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) 56 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) 57 Christian Pfannberger (Aut) 58 Jans Koerts (Ned) 59 Igor Astarloa (Spa) 60 Michael Skelde (Den) 61 Pedro Horrillo Munoz (Spa) 1.26 62 Serguei Smetanine (Rus) 63 Matthew Wilson (Aus) 64 Roger Beuchat (Swi) 65 David O'loughlin (Irl) 66 Zbigniew Piatek (Pol) 67 Mauro Gianetti (Swi) 68 Rolf Aldag (Ger) 69 Uros Murn (Slo) 70 Peter Wrolich (Aut) 71 Servais Knaven (Ned) 72 Allan Johansen (Den) 73 José Vicente Garcia Acosta (Spa) 74 Antonio Tauler (Spa) 1.37 75 Beat Zberg (Swi) 1.59 76 Marek Rutkiewicz (Pol) 77 Rui Miguel Sousa Barbosa (Por) 78 Luca Scinto (Ita) 79 Martin Garrido Mayorga (Arg) 80 Davide Bramati (Ita) 81 Gorazd Stangelj (Slo) 82 Vladimir Miholjevic (Cro) 83 Pavel Brutt (Rus) 84 Matteo Tosatto (Ita) 85 Aleksandr Kuschynski (Blr) 86 Balazs Rohtmer (Hun) 87 Tomas Konecny (Cze) 88 Mindaugas Goncaras (Ltu) 89 Marius Sabaliauskas (Ltu) 90 Tomasz Brozyna (Pol) 91 Robert Radosz (Pol) 92 Marcin Lewandowski (Pol) 93 Pavel Padrnos (Cze) 94 Max Van Heeswijk (Ned) 95 Bert Grabsch (Ger) 96 Kevin Hulsmans (Bel) 97 Andrey Mizourov (Kaz) 98 Daniele Nardello (Ita) 99 Arvis Piziks (Lat) 100 Mathew Hayman (Aus) 101 Vladimir Smirnov (Ltu) 102 Niki Aebersold (Swi) 103 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) 104 Edouard Gritsoun (Rus) 105 Andreas Klier (Ger) 106 Marc Wauters (Bel) 107 Johan Museeuw (Bel) 108 Richard Virenque (Fra) 109 Michael Boogerd (Ned) 110 Serge Baguet (Bel) 111 Vladimir Duma (Ukr) 112 Joseba Beloki Dorronsoro (Spa) 2.06 113 Igor Pugaci (Mda) 2.40 114 Aurélien Clerc (Swi) 115 Slawomir Kohut (Pol) 116 Stefan Adamsson (Swe) 117 Martin Elmiger (Swi) 118 Nuno Marta (Por) 119 Ruslan Pidgornyy (Ukr) 120 Henk Vogels (Aus) 121 Dylan Casey (USA) 122 Jan Schaffrath (Ger) 123 Georg Totschnig (Aut) 124 Jakob Piil (Den) 125 Lars Ytting Bak (Den) 126 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) 127 Luis Perez Rodriguez (Spa) 128 Santiago Botero Echeverry (Col) 129 Piotr Wadecki (Pol) 130 Laurent Jalabert (Fra) 131 Franck Renier (Fra) 132 Nicolas Vogondy (Fra) 133 Mikel Pradera Rodriguez (Spa) 134 Ondrej Sosenka (Cze) 135 Matthew White (Aus) 136 Michael Rogers (Aus) 137 Jan Boven (Ned) 138 Antonio Cruz (USA) 2.47 139 Dmitri Gaynitdinov (Rus) 140 Matthias Kessler (Ger) 2.58 141 Raphael Schweda (Ger) 142 Thor Hushovd (Nor) 143 Bekim Christensen (Den) 144 Nicki Sorensen (Den) 145 Olaf Pollack (Ger) 146 Bram Schmitz (Ned) 147 Aart Vierhouten (Ned) 148 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) 149 Karsten Kroon (Ned) 150 Evgeni Petrov (Rus) 3.12 151 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) 152 Nico Eeckhout (Bel) 3.26 153 Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus) 3.38 154 Andreï Kivilev (Kaz) 3.54 155 Tiaan Kannemeyer (RSA) 156 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) 157 Oscar Sevilla Ribera (Spa) 158 José Enrique Gutierrez Cataluna (Spa) 4.10 159 Pablo Lastras Garcia (Spa) 160 Kim Kirchen (Lux) 161 Rolf Huser (Swi) 4.33 162 Steven De Jongh (Ned) 163 Bobbie Traksel (Ned) 4.36 164 Jo Planckaert (Bel) 165 Guennadi Mikhailov (Rus) 6.03 166 Mikhail Andreyev (Kaz) 15.44 167 Aleksandar Nikacevic (Yug) 20.32 168 Jeff Louder (USA) 20.36 DNF Rafael Diaz Justo (Spa) DNF Sebastian Lang (Ger) DNF Jens Voigt (Ger) DNF Dmitri Semov (Rus) DNF Alexandre Moos (Swi) DNF Alex Zuelle (Swi) DNF Hugo Sabido (Por) DNF Mariano Friedick (USA) DNF Ryan Guay (USA) DNF Chris Horner (USA) DNF Tim Johnson (USA) DNF Mike Sayers (USA) DNF Allan Davis (Aus) DNF Nick Gates (Aus) DNF Bradley McGee (Aus) DNF Nathan O'Neill (Aus) DNF Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano (Col) DNF Victor Hugo Pena Grisales (Col) DNF Jairo Perez (Col) DNF Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) DNF Andy Flickinger (Fra) DNF Nicolas Jalabert (Fra) DNF Christophe Moreau (Fra) DNF David Millar (GBr) DNF Julian Winn (GBr) DNF Harald Morscher (Aut) DNF Saulius Ruskys (Ltu) DNF Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) DNF Plamen Kolev (Bul) DNF Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) DNF Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz) DNF Pavel Nevdakh (Kaz) DNF Serguei Yakovlev (Kaz)