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2003 Road World Championships - CM
Hamilton, Canada, October 7-12, 2003
Day 6 - October 12: Elite Men Road Race, 260.4 km
A little bit extra: Audacious Astarloa solos to World's win
By Tim Maloney in Hamilton, Ontario
Igor Astarloa of Spain made exactly the right move at exactly the right time in the nail-biting finale of the 2003 Elite Men's World Championship Road Race in Hamilton, Canada with 3 km to go to grab the Rainbow Jersey ahead of his fast closing Spanish compatriot Alejandro Valverde and speedy Belgian Peter Van Petegem. The 27 year old Astarloa, a four year pro from Ermua, Spain, is the second Basque rider to win a world cycling championship after Abraham Olano eight years ago in Colombia.
After grabbing his 6th career win, Astarloa told Cyclingnews post-race that "I really can't believe I won today...I just found the right moment to get away and was able to win. I've already won a classic this year (Flèche Wallone) 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!"
Bronze medalist Peter Van Petegem, one of the cleverest riders in the peloton made the key attack of the day on the final ascent of Beckett Drive. "On the next to last lap, I saw that Bettini was riding a small gear to save his legs so I knew it was time to attack.
Sixth placed Bo Hamburger (Denmark) was also in the key break with Astarloa and explained to Cyclingnews that, "we were riding well together in the break, but on the last climb, there was a strong headwind and Astarloa was the only one who had a little bit extra and he won."
A disappointed Paolo Bettini (4th) was not happy with the outcome of the race. "I just can't accept what happened today and I wanted to win," said 'Il Grillo'. But Bettini may have wanted it too much, as Spanish TV reported that Bettini offered Igor Astarloa some money on the final lap. "He offered me money in the final but I felt so good and I really wanted to win," said Astarloa.
Astarloa's delighted Saeco team manager Claudio Corti told Cyclingnews by phone from Italy that "Asta is a great guy. He's been with us for 2 years. He's a serious rider and is willing to work for others - like in Philadelphia this year, Asta led out the sprint for Zanini."
Corti will be sorry to see Astarloa go to Cofidis this year, but his new manager Alain Bondue was looking like the cat that ate the canary post-race when he realized he would have two World Champions next season. (Cofidis rider David Millar is the World Elite TT champ)
Astarloa's win was ironic as the Basque rider's style and his entire professional experience is Italian and today in Hamilton, the likeable rider from Ermua beat the powerful Italians at their own game to become the second Spanish World Champion in three years. Asta explained later that "I really have to thank Giuseppe Martinelli who helped me turn pro in Italy and Corti since they always believed in me."
Although the Italians of the Squadra Azzurro dominated the World Championships today, they just couldn't deliver the repeat win with Paolo Bettini. Disappointed Italian team member Cristian Moreni told Cyclingnews post-race that "I was satisfied with how my race went since I was able to help the Italian team today, but it's too bad that we did our job perfectly and we didn't get the results. I think Bettini could have won, but Astarloa attacked at exactly the right moment. Everyone was watching Bettini and he went on to win...it's too bad for us." In fact, the 2003 Worlds were a major flop for Italy, as the vaunted Squadra Azzurro scored not a single medal at Hamilton in any category.
USA come up short
Although Team USA rode strongly all day, disappointed too was George Hincapie, who explained that "I didn't have a good day today. I had a bad stomach and just didn't have it...I was fit. I trained really hard for the World's but just didn't have that little bit extra that you need."
USA team director Jim Ochowicz told Cyclingnews in the team box after the race that "the first half of the race was just too easy today. With half the race to go and almost the whole peloton together, you'll get 60 riders together contending for the race. But the US team riders did OK. They were in the race to the end..."
Certainly that applies to Chris Horner. The man who's dominated US racing this year showed he wasn't intimidated by the best riders in the world today, but truly deserved to be a contender in a World Championship. "I had good form and tried to make things happen today", said Horner, "but the race just really wasn't hard enough...then the break got off with one to go, so I tried to chase as hard as I could to set up our guys for the sprint."
Top North American today was USPS-Berry Floor rider Michael Barry from Toronto, Canada, who proudly powered his Maple Leaf jersey to 7th place in Hamilton. "Today was incredible for me, just a dream come true", said Barry. "Racing the World Championships in Canada and having people all around the course cheering for us was great."
His American wife Dede Demet-Barry, 11th in Saturday's Women's Elite Road Race told Cyclingnews that "all year long, Michael was saying it would be really cool to be in the mix on the last lap and attack, so when he attacked the last lap, my heart was jumping out of my skin I was so psyched!"
Sydneysider Matt "Whitey" White was philosophical post race, saying to Cyclingnews that "Our Australian team was mostly young guys and it was also a strange course today...just hard enough that there was a big group together, but there was no place to recover. It was an interesting race with such a big group at the finish and our guy Alby Davis had a good result for 12th." [Whitey will be Astarloa's and David Millar's teammate on Cofidis next season.]
How it unfolded
Situated in the bend at the western end of Lake Ontario, the gritty steel city of Hamilton hosted the final and main event of the 2003 World Cycling Championships, the Elite Men's Road Race over 258.3 km on Canada's Thanksgiving Day weekend. After a week graced by beautiful fall weather, Sunday began with by grey skies, moderate temps and polluted air as according to Environment Canada, this is the latest a smog alert has ever been issued for Hamilton and the huge Stelco and Dofasco steel plants have cut back production to reduce particulate and ozone levels.
180 riders took the start at 9am in front of City Hall on Hamilton's Main Street. Ahead of them were 21 laps of 12.4 km with two climbs up the Niagara Escarpment per laps. Although difficult, the parcours for the 2003 World's was not as hard as many riders thought prior to testing the circuit. Not an extreme course for climbers, the Hamilton circuit favours power riders. The first ascent was a steep tree-lined 1.3 km climb up Beckett Drive, then the parcours wound along flat Scenic Drive, then down the fast descent on the dual carriageway of Claremont Access. At the bottom, the road looped around and climbed back up the long 2.2 km drag of the Access. Once atop the long ascent, there was a steep drop down James Mtn. Road into downtown Hamilton.
The festivities got under way under cool, cloudy skies with crowds estimated at over 100,000 lining the roads. There was a brief shower and the few raindrops that fell soaked the course and made conditions slippery right away. As the huge bunch hurtled down James Mtn. Road at the end of the first lap, Italian Fabio Sacchi hit the deck hard as he slipped on the wet leaves. He took down American Tim Johnson and Spaniard Oscar Sevilla, who abandoned with a broken shoe cleat. This provoked a split in the peloton and a hard chase that made things much more hectic than usual for the first lap of a 260 km race.
After the initial chaos subsided, the gruppo compatto rolled along together under cool, overcast skies at 37 km/h until lap 5 when Koos Moerenhout (Netherlands) took off on the climb up Claremont Access and got a gap. Moerenhout powered along solo for two laps until two riders bridged up: first USPS-Berry Floor rider Victor Hugo Peña (Colombia) and then big Norwegian Bjørnar Vestøl. At the halfway mark after 10.5 laps and over three hours of racing, the front trio had almost three minutes lead but the gap had finally gotten the attention of the Squadra Azzurro of Italy. With 120 km to go, the Blue jerseys hit the front of the peloton and quickly closed the gap down to 30". With 10 laps to go, Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara saw his chance to get across to the front group and bridged up just before the Beckett Drive ascent.
The lead quartet stayed ahead for a lap, but the pressure of the chase from behind sucked up the break on Beckett Drive and it was gruppo compatto with just under 9 laps to race. Under clearing skies and amid the bright fall foliage on Fennel Ave., the action started anew after four hours with young Belgian Jurgen Van Goolen quite active. Team USA was looking good, with Hincapie, Horner and Landis up front. Floyd kept busy covering moves by the Spanish and Colombian riders on Claremont Access but nothing could get away yet. Lap 12 was the fastest yet: 17'28" at 42.595 km/h.
An attack by a Dutch rider was joined by Luis Perez (Spain), who rode away solo on Beckett Drive. Landis went in pursuit and was joined by seven other riders including Horner, but the peloton brought them back on Fennel Ave. Perez had a lead of 10" and his move and the chase provoked a major split in the peloton. But there was a major regrouping on the long descent of Claremont Access and Perez sat up before the ascent with 92 km left to race.
Once again, the aggressive Dutch team attacked with Rik Reinerink on the ascent of the Claremont Access, but his move was covered by Tom Boonen, who was in turn countered by Laurent Brochard. Landis and Horner went after Broche. With 14 laps down and 7 laps to go after two-thirds of the 2003 World Championship, the average speed was 39.095 km/h and Broche was reeled in before the climb of Beckett Drive. Talented young Belgian Philippe Gilbert made a move and was joined by Cristian Moreni (Italy), Trenti (USA) Rinero (Fra), Wegmann (Ger), Den Bakker (Ned), Beat Zberg (Swi) and Mancebo (Spa). This eight man group gained good time and as they began the descent of Claremont Access, they had a 35" gap on the peloton with 80 km to go.
With all of the major teams represented, the chase behind was being controlled by the Italians. Den Bakker was powering the break but there seemed to be little cooperation up front. With 6 laps to go, the average speed had climbed to 39.206 km/h as the break was maintaining a half-minute gap with the chase led by Italy's Mario Scirea. Neither Moreni nor Mancebo were collaborating in the break, as Nardello made a surge up Beckett Drive to set up the first attack by race favourite Paolo Bettini.
Nardello's surge doomed the break as everything came together again on Fennel Ave., despite Den Bakker's best efforts to stay away. The 15th time up the long drag of Claremont Access and once again, it was gruppo compatto as the Italian team maintained their stranglehold on the 2003 World Championships. With a still big group of 80 riders together, Ivan Basso rode hard tempo on the climb to keep things together.
After 5 hours of racing, with five laps and 61 km to go, pocket rocket Sammy Dumoulin (Fra) attacked just before Beckett Drive but the diminutive Sammy D provoked a surge behind by Italian Francesco Casagrande that sucked him up. Once again, the Italians set up Bettini for an attack on the steepest part of Beckett Drive, but he couldn't get away and quickly, Dutchman Den Bakker and Mancebo countered on the flats of Fennel Ave. but once again, everything came back together on the long, wide-open descent of Claremont Access. With few abandons, there were still over 100 riders in the peloton. Italy powered away at the front with 50 km to go, as Levi Leipheimer, Floyd Landis, Chris Horner and Guido Trenti were shoulder with the Squadra Azzurro.
Under bright sunny skies and less than 50 km to race after 17 laps, Belgian Jurgen Van Goolen made a move at the top of the Claremont Access climb and was away with a 10" lead with 4 laps to go. Lap 17 had been the fastest laps yet at 42.034 km/h and the average speed was now up to 39.527 km/h. This lap also spelled the end of Yaroslav Popovych's World's, after he hunger flatted and ran the engine dry - he was out of the race.
Beat Zberg (Swi) bridged up to Van Goolen at the start of lap 18, and the pair increased their lead to 45 seconds by the foot of the Claremont Access climb, where Italian Dario Frigo drove the pack all the way up. Basso took over at the top but the two leaders stayed 45 seconds clear by the end of the lap. Oscar Freire had his third mechanical at this point, but was waited on by four teammates and regained the peloton.
Bettini stirred things up on Beckett Drive on Lap 19 and tellingly, Van Petegem and Boogerd were also there with him, but it was not the final attack. At the top of the climb, Igor Astarloa crashed on a corner, but luckily managed to get back into the peloton without too many hassles. David Millar and Chris Horner then launched their own counter, but were quickly caught by the peloton. Van Goolen and Zberg were still dangling in front at 12 seconds, and they were finally brought back at the foot of the Claremont Access climb.
Horner attacked again on the climb, and managed to hold off the bunch to the finish line at the end of lap 19, getting Marc Wauters (Bel), Francesco Mancebo (Spa) and Cezary Zamana (Pol) for company. With Mancebo not working, the move was doomed and it all came together for a fresh round of attacks on Beckett Drive on lap 20. At that point there were still six Americans left in the race: Fred Rodriguez, Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie, Floyd Landis, Guido Trenti and Horner.
On the Claremont Access climb on lap 20, Danish rider Frank Høj's powered away, opening up a 10 second gap and getting Swiss Martin Elmiger with him as company before the top. The two held their lead going into the final lap but it was never going to be enough.
With one lap to go, Igor Astarloa asked his teammate Freire how he was feeling. "I can't follow Bettini," said Freire. "You go ahead." And that's exactly what he did. It was actually Peter Van Petegem who made the final, decisive move up Beckett Drive, taking Paolo Bettini, Igor Astarloa, Michael Boogerd, Oscar Camenzind and Bo Hamburger with him. Six strong nations represented, and suddenly a 25 second gap opened up that didn't look like closing.
The Germans and the Americans manned the chase behind, and clawed their way back to the powerful lead group, which wasn't cooperating perfectly. At the foot of the Claremont Access climb, the break had 15 seconds and the peloton was coming closer as the leaders faced a 2 km climb into a block headwind. The break just managed to stay clear of the hungry pack, although a few riders including Michael Barry, Luca Paolini and Alejandro Valverde managed to get across. However as they were doing so, Astarloa made his final move with less than 1 km from the summit.
Bettini reacted immediately, but could not close the gap and Astarloa rode away from the break. At the top his lead was around 10 seconds and that's all he needed to stay clear on the fast descent back into Hamilton's centre. Astarloa powered around the last bend and had plenty of time to celebrate his win, as the small chase group wound up behind him for the silver medal, minus Oscar Camenzind who crashed on the last corner. Alejandro Valverde completed Spain's glory by winning the sprint ahead of Peter Van Petegem and a shattered Paolo Bettini.
Images by Mark Zalewski/Cyclingnews.com
Images by Jon Devich/www.epicimages.us
Images by Fotoreporter Sirotti
Images by AFP
Images by Robert Naish/www.bikecrazie.com
A fan's-eye-view blow-by-blow by Oscar E Retamal
Images by Marek Lazarski
1 Igor Astarloa (Spain) 6.30.19 (40.029 km/h) 2 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spain) 0.05 3 Peter Van Petegem (Belgium) 4 Paolo Bettini (Italy) 5 Michael Boogerd (Netherlands) 0.06 6 Bo Hamburger (Denmark) 7 Michael Barry (Canada) 8 Luca Paolini (Italy) 0.12 9 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spain) 10 Janek Tombak (Estonia) 11 Erik Zabel (Germany) 12 Allan Davis (Australia) 13 Martin Elmiger (Switzerland) 14 Dmitri Konyshev (Russia) 15 Frank Hoj (Denmark) 16 Patrik Sinkewitz (Germany) 17 Tom Boonen (Belgium) 18 Fred Rodriguez (USA) 19 Tadej Valjavec (Slovenia) 20 Giovanni Lombardi (Italy) 21 Beat Zberg (Switzerland) 22 Aliaksandr Usov (Belarus) 23 Bernhard Eisel (Austria) 24 Laurent Brochard (France) 25 Maarten Den Bakker (Netherlands) 26 Gerben Löwik (Netherlands) 27 Cédric Vasseur (France) 28 Gerrit Glomser (Austria) 29 Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg) 30 Guido Trenti (USA) 31 Maximilian Sciandri (Great Britain) 32 Bekim Christensen (Denmark) 33 Mathew Hayman (Australia) 34 Peter Luttenberger (Austria) 35 Gorazd Stangelj (Slovenia) 36 Alexandre Botcharov (Russia) 37 George Hincapie (USA) 38 Marlon Alirio Perez Arango (Colombia) 39 Laszlo Bodrogi (Hungary) 40 Serhiy Honchar (Ukraine) 41 Viatcheslav Ekimov (Russia) 42 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Norway) 43 Daniel Schnider (Switzerland) 44 Gonçalo Amorim (Portugal) 45 Ryan Cox (South Africa) 46 Manuel Beltran Martinez (Spain) 47 Marc Wauters (Belgium) 48 Andrey Mizourov (Kazakhstan) 49 Alexander Kolobnev (Russia) 0.19 50 Mario Aerts (Belgium) 0.21 51 Patrice Halgand (France) 52 Cezary Zamana (Poland) 0.23 53 Denis Menchov (Russia) 54 Christophe Brandt (Belgium) 0.26 55 Félix Rafael Cardenas Ravalo (Colombia) 56 Francesco Casagrande (Italy) 57 Sylwester Szmyd (Poland) 0.30 58 Rolf Aldag (Germany) 59 Volodymir Gustov (Ukraine) 60 Floyd Landis (USA) 61 Nico Sijmens (Belgium) 62 Francisco Mancebo Perez (Spain) 63 Marcos Serrano Rodriguez (Spain) 64 Dave Bruylandts (Belgium) 65 Daniele Nardello (Italy) 66 Danilo Di Luca (Italy) 67 Mark Scanlon (Ireland) 0.42 68 Dmitriy Fofonov (Kazakhstan) 69 Evgeni Petrov (Russia) 70 Oscar Camenzind (Switzerland) 1.05 71 Marcel Strauss (Switzerland) 1.11 72 Axel Merckx (Belgium) 73 Serge Baguet (Belgium) 1.30 74 Nuno Ribeiro (Portugal) 1.55 75 Fabian Jeker (Switzerland) 2.00 76 Chris Horner (USA) 2.11 77 Kyrylo Pospyeyev (Ukraine) 78 Michael Skelde (Denmark) 79 Michael Rogers (Australia) 3.41 80 Niki Aebersold (Switzerland) 3.50 81 Stephan Schreck (Germany) 4.33 82 Andreas Klier (Germany) 83 Matthias Kessler (Germany) 84 Sylvain Chavanel (France) 85 Roger Hammond (Great Britain) 4.52 86 David Millar (Great Britain) 87 Fabian Wegmann (Germany) 88 Karsten Kroon (Netherlands) 89 Luis Perez Rodriguez (Spain) 5.08 90 Franck Renier (France) 91 Bram Schmitz (Netherlands) 92 Levi Leipheimer (USA) 5.39 93 Jurgen Van Goolen (Belgium) 94 Radoslav Rogina (Croatia) 95 Mark Walters (Canada) 8.09 96 Andrea Noé (Italy) 97 Vladimir Karpets (Russia) 9.18 98 Dawid Krupa (Poland) 99 Pedro Lopes (Portugal) 9.55 100 Benoît Joachim (Luxembourg) 9.56 101 Gerhard Trampusch (Austria) 102 Michal Hrazdira (Czech Republic) 12.23 103 Martin Derganc (Slovenia) 104 Dominique Perras (Canada) 105 Eric Wohlberg (Canada) 106 Bram De Groot (Netherlands) 107 Frédéric Bessy (France) 108 Roger Beuchat (Switzerland) 109 David Moncoutie (France) 110 Andy Flickinger (France) 111 Nicolas Fritsch (France) 112 David George (South Africa) DNF Cristian Moreni (Italy) DNF Glen Mitchell (New Zealand) DNF Yaroslav Popovych (Ukraine) DNF Iñigo Cuesta Lopez De Castro (Spain) DNF Ivan Basso (Italy) DNF Mario Scirea (Italy) DNF Bert Grabsch (Germany) DNF Christian Werner (Germany) DNF Jochen Summer (Austria) DNF David Clinger (USA) DNF Steven De Jongh (Netherlands) DNF Matthé Pronk (Netherlands) DNF Alexandre Moos (Switzerland) DNF Igor Pugaci (Moldavia) DNF Gonzalez De Galdeano Aranzabal (Spain) DNF Dario Frigo (Italy) DNF Jure Golcer (Slovenia) DNF Christophe Rinero (France) DNF Romans Vainsteins (Latvia) DNF Scott Sunderland (Australia) DNF Matthew White (Australia) DNF Ronny Scholz (Germany) DNF Samuel Dumoulin (France) DNF Christopher Baldwin (USA) DNF Sergio Paulinho (Portugal) DNF Philippe Gilbert (Belgium) DNF Wim Vansevenant (Belgium) DNF Jan Boven (Netherlands) DNF Erik Dekker (Netherlands) DNF Rik Reinerink (Netherlands) DNF Volodymyr Bileka (Ukraine) DNF Vladimir Duma (Ukraine) DNF Yuriy Krivtsov (Ukraine) DNF Sven Montgomery (Switzerland) DNF Steve Zampieri (Switzerland) DNF Ruslan Ivanov (Moldavia) DNF Aitor Osa Eizaguirre (Spain) DNF Balazs Rohtmer (Hungary) DNF Fabio Sacchi (Italy) DNF Scott Davis (Australia) DNF Torsten Hiekmann (Germany) DNF Erki Pütsep (Estonia) DNF Tim Johnson (USA) DNF Ruslan Gryschenko (Ukraine) DNF Shinri Suzuki (Japan) DNF Cesar Augusto Grajales (Colombia) DNF Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) DNF Björnar Vestöl (Norway) DNF Thomas Grönqvist (Sweden) DNF Ben Day (Australia) DNF John Lieswyn (USA) DNF Sebastian Lang (Germany) DNF Mark Mccormack (USA) DNF Israel Ochoa Plazas (Colombia) DNF Gorka Gonzalez Larranaga (Spain) DNF Charles Wegelius (Great Britain) DNF Koos Moerenhout (Netherlands) DNF Victor Hugo Pena Grisales (Colombia) DNF Tomas Vaitkus (Lithuania) DNF Maryan Hary (France) DNF Ondrej Sosenka (Czech Republic) DNF Marek Rutkiewicz (Poland) DNF Lubor Tesar (Czech Republic) DNF Raivis Belohvosciks (Latvia) DNF Bobby Julich (USA) DNF Milan Kadlec (Czech Republic) DNF Oscar Sevilla Ribera (Spain) DNF Gustav Erik Larsson (Sweden) Note: HD = Hors Delai/outside time limit