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World championships - CM

Madrid, Spain, September 21-25, 2005

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Race 5 - September 24: Under 23 men's road race, 168km

A whole new podium

By Hernan Alvarez Macias in Madrid

2004 winner Kanstantsin Siutsou (Belarus)
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The Verona 2004 champion Kanstantsin Siutsou (Belarus) won't race the u23 men's road race in Madrid 2005. Neither will the other two riders on the podium last year: Dutchman Thomas Dekker (2nd) and Denmark's Mads Christensen (3rd). All three are riding for ProTour teams this year, after their great results last year. Therefore, there will be a whole new podium and Yauheni Hutarovich from Belarus will wear the number 1 dossard.

The three men who won the medals in the time trial on Wednesday will represent their countries again: gold medalist Mikhail Ignatiev (Russia), silver medalist Dmytro Grabovskyy (Ukraine) and bronze medalist Peter Latham (New Zealand). It's unlikely, but not unheard of, that these TT specialists will also do outstanding performances in the long road race. Last year, for example, Thomas Dekker took silver in both events.

Perhaps the most interesting fact about the race will be the presence of the son of brand new UCI president Pat McQuaid. Irishman Andrew McQuaid will ride for his country in the 168 kilometre event. Andrew will probably have the media's attention after the success of his father in the annual congress on Friday.

The American Tyler Farrar finish tenth on the time trial on Wednesday and can show his versatility in the road race. So far this year, Farrar has won two races in Belgium and three stages in France, the U.S. and Canada. He's an excellent sprinter and the USPro criterium champion, and will definitely be a favourite in case of a bunch sprint.

But this is the U23 World's, where anything can happen, and probably will...

Road race preview: urban setting for World's

By Shane Stokes in Madrid

The city of Madrid is already well known worldwide for its energy and style, but both attributes will be boosted yet further this weekend with the hosting of the three world championship road races on its streets. An influx of thousands of spectators plus the always-vocal support of the sports-mad Spanish public should generate plenty of atmosphere for the road races for Elite women, under 23 men and Elite men.

Somewhat unusually, the course is based almost totally in urban surroundings, the riders tearing up and down the Paseo de la Castellana thoroughfare and passing Real Madrid's hallowed Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, before looping out through residential areas, passing quickly through the Dehesa de la Villa park and then returning to the start/finish area. The route takes the riders past shops and apartment blocks and while this sounds unappealing, the aesthetic nature of Madrid means that the races should work well on television. Of course one obvious benefit is accessibility for spectators; as a result, huge numbers are expected.

The riders in each race will compete on laps of a 21 kilometre course. There are two hills per circuit, the 1.5 kilometre Dehesa de la Villa climb and the 2.2 kilometre ascent up the Avenida del Cardenal Herrera Oria. Neither of these are particularly difficult by themselves, but the combined effects of speed and distance mean they may assume greater significance towards the end of the races.

The circuit begins on the Paseo de la Castellana, a perfectly straight three-lane carriageway which rises gently uphill to the impressive leaning towers at the Plaza de Castilla. After 1.5 kilometres the riders swing left and race onto the Calle de Bravo Murillo, passing through the Tetuan district, then take a gentle right turn down the narrower, tree-lined Lope de Haro and Calle de Francos Rodriguez streets. From there the riders take a sweeping left turn at the 3.8 kilometre mark, gathering speed as they head along the downhill Camino de las Moreras and into the verdant Cuidad Universitaria district. A couple of right hand bends brings them past the Complutense University's faculty of geological science and onto the Avignida Paraninfo (5.4 kilometres). Then, after another 1.2 kilometres, they reach the narrow right hand turn at the base of the Dehesa de la Villa climb.

This twisting ascent rises 70 metres in 1.2 kilometres for an average gradient of approximately six percent, suiting big-ring power riders rather than climbing specialists. The road twists and turns through the attractive park up to the 710 metre summit (8.1 km), then returns to urban settings as it drops quickly down the Calle de Antonio Machado. A left hand bend leads the peloton onto the Calle del Doctor Ramón Castroviejo and Calle Cantalejo, bringing the riders down a narrow residential descent and to the base of the second climb.

This ascent is more exposed and longer, rising 80 metres in 2.2 kilometres. While the average gradient appears easier at just under four percent, the second half - namely the climb up the Avenida del Cardenal Herrera Oria - features the steepest sections of the course. But, once again, these should prove to be big ring power climbs, suiting explosive riders rather than flyweights.

Once to the top (14.8 km, 680 m) the road plateaus out and heads past tall apartment blocks, before flicking right twice, looping around a roundabout and then turning left onto the Avenida Monforte de Lemos. This flat street takes them to the turn onto Ginzo de Lima and then onto the Avenida de Asturias, both fast, wide avenues which will ramp up the speed before the return to Plaza de Castilla (18 km) and the high velocity rundown towards the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu. Once down to Nuevos Ministerios, the site of the spectacular Windsor tower inferno earlier this year, the peloton will collectively lock their brakes and arc hard around the final bend before beginning the 500 metre drag to the finish line.

Previously christened 'McEwen corner' by riders who felt that it would suit the Australian's excellent bike-handling skills, this final turn was modified by the race organisers on Friday. Many big names had voiced their concerns about the bend, saying that it would lead to dangerous riding and crashes. The peloton will now take a wider approach to the corner via a side road, lessening the turning arc and causing the corner to be faster and - theoretically, at least - safer.

Verdict: This World's course is unusual in that most of the 21 kilometre route is based within the suburbs of a major city, rather than the more rural settings of other years. The organisers have brought the race through a couple of attractive parkland areas and, by and large, the Madrid streets chosen look well (especially when the sun shines, as is expected).

The World's road race course has just two climbs of any significance, although both have an average gradient of less than seven percent and will certainly be ridden in the big ring. This is one of the flattest courses in recent years, appearing - as did Zolder three years ago - to be destined for a likely sprint finish. However those riding the course in recent days say that the course is harder than they thought, with those two climbs, the technical turns and some stretches of slightly uneven road all likely to have an increasing effect as the kilometres tick by. Whether this will be enough to defeat the collective might of the sprinters' teams remains to be seen.

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