World Championship Cycling News, September 26, 2008
Edited by Laura Weislo
A perfect day for Grabsch
By Hedwig Kröner in Varese
Bert Grabsch in the traditional pose
Photo ©: AFP
German time trial champion Bert Grabsch celebrated his biggest career win on Thursday after taking the World time trial title ahead of Svein Tuft (Canada) and Dave Zabriskie (USA). The Team Columbia rider flew over the Varese worlds course in 52'01 minutes as the only rider to average more than 50 kilometres per hour.
"It was a perfect day for me, the course was perfect, the weather was perfect - it was my day," said Grabsch at the post-race press conference. The usually quiet man from Wittenberg, Germany, surprised many of his rivals on the fast parcours around the town of Varese, which allowed him to fully express his potential.
"The course was very fast, raced with an average of 50 km/h. It was different to Beijing [where he finished 14th - ed.]. It was perfect for me, as it was so fast. There weren't a lot of climbs," he explained.
The 33 year-old Grabsch is a late bloomer. He is in his 11th year as a pro cyclist, as he started his career in 1997 with Agro-Adler Brandenburg. From 2001 to 2006, he spent six years within the Swiss Phonak team, where he slowly progressed, but nevertheless remained a faithful domestique to the squad's various leaders. In 2007, already German champion in the race against the clock, he won the first time trial of the Vuelta a España on a similarly fast course. This season, he added a total of four wins to his palmarès, and topped it all off with the rainbow jersey.
The German therefore does not come out of nowhere, even if few cycling observers had him on the radar for today's victory. "Last year, I always had good results in the time trials I rode," he said about his progress as an athlete. "Four years ago, at the Vuelta time trial, I was fifth. Last year, I was fourth in the World Championships and German champion. This year, I defended my national title in front of Stefan Schumacher, who - only a few weeks later - wins both Tour de France time trials."
Grabsch himself was not included in Columbia's Tour de France squad, "which left me quite frustrated back home," he said. "But I made up for a it a bit at the Tour of Austria, winning a stage. I knew then that I was strong [today], but I didn't know I was that strong!."
His brother Ralf, himself a pro with team Milram, had nevertheless sensed that Bert could be up for the podium at the Worlds in Varese. "He worked towards this goal for years," Ralf Grabsch said. "He told me before the worlds that the course suited him. After his strong results in the last few months, I thought to myself that he could be up front this time."
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Columbia team manager Bob Stapleton added, "Bert really benefited from the improvements we made on our time trial equipment this year. We also took him to the wind tunnel in San Diego last winter. We knew the course suited him well, especially the flat part, so this doesn't come as a surprise to us."
Asked if the absence of World and Olympic champion Fabian Cancellara had opened up an opportunity for Grabsch this year, the new world champion replied, "The race victory today was open to a handful of riders. Even if Cancellara had started, that would not have been different. Maybe he would have won, maybe not."
Tuft rides to silver despite flat, bike change
By Gregor Brown in Varese with additional reporting from Mark Zalewski
Svein Tuft (Canada)
Photo ©: Riccardo Scanferla
Svein Tuft was the day's surprise at the World Championships in Varese,
Italy. The 31 year-old Canadian is relatively unknown in Europe, but his
silver medal in the 43.7-kilometre time trial and fresh contract with
Jonathan Vaughters Team Garmin Chipotle - H30 will change his status.
While the results show Tuft finished second behind Germany's Bert
Grabsch by 42 seconds and nine seconds better than his new teammate, American
David Zabriskie, but they do not reveal that he did so in spite of a flat tyre that forced him to a stop.
a hole and flatted his front tyre about six kilometres out from the finish. The
following car did not have a time trial machine, but only a standard road
bike. Tuft received a quick change and remained calm.
"It gave me enough of a scare to finish the finale as hard as I could," he
said, but wasn't sure the incident cost him the gold medal. "You never know. We had a quick change. It was close,
but I am happy with where I am at all the same."
A seventh place in the Olympic Games heralded his ascension in the world ranks after his 2007 UCI Americas Tour victory, but it was a third overall at Tour of Missouri which predicted a strong ride in Italy. "The Beijing Olympics was a big confidence builder. I then did Tour of
Missouri, and I had a good ride there. It was a good motivator and I came
here confident," Tuft said.
Tuft signs two-year Garmin-Chipotle contract
Svein Tuft's silver medal in the time trial world championships was a brilliant performance for the Canadian, but rather than earn him a two-year contract with the Garmin-Chipotle team, it merely confirmed the talent which manager Jonathan Vaughters spotted years ago.
Tuft's 2008 performances – a
national time trial championship, the overall at Tour de Beauce, seventh in
the Olympics and third overall in the Tour of Missouri – showed he is ready to take the next step in his career: a base in Europe and a chance to learn the trade from the likes of
David Millar, Christian Vande Velde and Zabriskie on the Garmin-Chipotle team.
It could be that his domestic programme will change and he will race the
Tour de France in 2009 under the team's manager Jonathan Vaughters, who spotted his talent well before his break-out performance in Varese.
"We signed Tuft. Before the Worlds, mind you," said Vaughters to
Cyclingnews. "I've wanted Svein for two years now. He's an
honourable guy. I'm super-excited to have him."
Vaughters knew the 31-year-old Tuft from their time together on the domestic USA Prime Alliance squad. "He has been around for a while but has never had a chance in the big league, so we want to give him a chance," said Vaughters about the decision to sign Tuft.
Tuft rode for the Canadian Symmetrics team for four years before it dissolved after losing the sponsor, and has put in strong performances in the Americas. "I
don't have a lot of exposure over here in Europe," said Tuft. "This is
the first year where I have been able to of focus on the Olympics and not
hit the end of the season tired. I was able to keep the good form rolling
and come here, fresh and motivated."
Zabriskie puts season's troubles behind
By Gregor Brown in Varese
David Zabriskie (USA)
Photo ©: Riccardo Scanferla
American David Zabriskie closed a difficult season on a high note
with a bronze medal in the World Championships time trial. He finished 52
seconds behind winner Bert Grabsch of Germany and nine seconds off of
Svein Tuft of Canada on the 43.7-kilometre parcours around Varese, Italy.
Zabriskie suffered what could have been
a career-ending crash in this year's Giro d'Italia stage two in Sicilia.
He came down hard on a railroad crossing and fractured his L1 vertebrae.
"I am satisfied. For the season I had it is good for me to have this
result, so I am happy," he said.
Zabriskie worked hard on a comeback in time for the Tour de France, a race
where he held the maillot jaune in 2005, but he was not able to return to
competition until the Beijing Olympics in August.
He finished 12th in the Olympic Games time trial, and confirmed his return with a
win in the US Professional national championships, but said that he still suffers from his injury. "Coming back from the crash in the
Giro was extremely difficult. I talked to [Team Columbia's] Michael Barry;
he said he had back pains for a while. ... I hope that mine will get
better quicker than his."
Zabriskie finished fifth in the Tour of Missouri time trial earlier this
month, but late in the stage race, he confirmed that muscle spasms troubled
"The course suited me better for me than Beijing. It did not have the big
climb. I also had a couple of races since, which helped with my fitness.
I was expecting to do well, and third is good."
Zabriskie's previous performances in the Worlds include 12th in 2007,
silver in 2006 and fifth in 2005.
Leipheimer closes season with fourth
By Gregor Brown in Varese
Levi Leipheimer (USA)
Photo ©: Sirotti
Levi Leipheimer closed out the World Championships and his 2008
season and with a fourth place in the time trial Thursday. The Olympic
bronze medallist finished 1:05 back on winner Bert Grabsch of Germany
and 13 seconds back on USA teammate David Zabriskie on the 43.7-kilometre
course in Varese, Italy.
"I felt strong. After the Vuelta [a España] I have good condition. I was
getting the time checks and I was really surprised," said Leipheimer to
Cyclingnews. He confirmed he will not do the men's road race and
is not scheduled to race for the reminder of 2008.
Leipheimer came off an impressive pre-Worlds run with third in Beijing
and wins in both of the Vuelta's time trials. He bettered Sweden's Gustav
Erik Larsson by four-tenths of a second,
but could not touch the times of Grabsch, Svein Tuft and Zabriskie.
"I came straight here and took it easy for two days. I did a couple of
intervals yesterday to make sure I was open. Looking back, between the
three days of the Vuelta and here, it is just not enough to get that
freshness," Leipheimer stated.
Leipheimer rides for Johan Bruyneel's Team Astana during the year, the
same team that welcomes Lance Armstrong back into the sport for 2009. For
most of September, he dedicated himself helping teammate Alberto Contador
win the Vuelta. During the three-week stage race took his opportunities
with wins in the Ciudad Real and Alto de Navacerrada time trials on his way to second overall.
Northern Italy did not provide the same winning setting as Spain, however.
The early time check had Leipheimer in 16th spot. He improved, as he
typically does through a time trial, to fifth best at the last check.
"It is important to be consistent in all the time trials you do," he said
of the time checks he received in his earpiece. "You need the truth. I
kept hoping that Johan [Bruyneel] would say halfway through... I thought
he was pushing me by telling me I was behind. He was always telling me I
was one second behind [Michael] Rogers, Dave Zabriskie, and I kept hoping
he would switch it and say 'no, no, you were ahead and I was just pushing
He is satisfied with his performance and proud to see two North Americans
on the podium of the World Championships. He noted Grabsch's ability over
fast parcours and preference for pushing big gears.
"Tuft was a bit of a surprise, I know he is strong," he added. "I think
he made a break through and that is great to see."
Millar dejected after time trial
By Daniel Friebe in Varese, Italy
David Millar (Great Britain)
Photo ©: Sirotti
The scoreboard said ninth place and just over half a minute outside the medal places, but the expression on David Millar's face told a different story - one of fatigue and mild dejection.
The Scot had come into this World Championships with designs on a repeat of his 2003 victory in Hamilton - only this time without the performance-enhancing drugs. Not that he needs reminding, but Millar was stripped of his rainbow jersey in 2004, shortly after confessing to the use of EPO ahead of that gold medal-winning performance.
Yesterday he hoped to bring his career full circle in an event which lacked a clear favourite in the absence of Fabian Cancellara, but it wasn't to be. Millar posted the ninth-best time at the first check, after 8.18km, and that was the same position he'd be in after 43.7km.
Speaking to reporters the Garmin team bus serving as the British squad's headquarters for the day, he said it had been "a bad day at the office".
"I thought it started had off good, but then I didn't have it in the second half. It was just average...average me, which is very disappointing, because I was expecting a lot more.
"It's not easy to get it right for a single day," he continued. "There seems to be only one guy who gets it right all the time, and that's Cancellara. Everyone else seems to be a bit hit and miss. It's definitely been more miss for me of late...but, yeah, these seem to be quite unpredictable days. We always seem to get quite an eclectic top ten in these races. To be honest, though, I've put a lot of work into trying to make it predictable and, yet, I still seem to miss out."
Asked whether he had an explanation for falling so far short of his own expectations, Millar shook his head.
"I can't explain it. I thought I'd done everything right. I've done lot of work these last five weeks. I don't know...it's just disappointing, but, then again, five weeks ago I thought it was mission impossible, so to even get to this point was something. Honestly, though, I expected a lot more."
Millar kicked off his season at the Tour of Qatar in January, then raced hard through the spring before making his Giro d'Italia debut in May and riding the Tour de France in July . Most riders would usually head into early hibernation after such a heavy programme, but Millar has fitted in the Tours of Ireland and Britain between two periods of altitude training in the past month.
David Millar (Great Britain)
Photo ©: Sirotti
"I tried something a bit different this time, using the altitude training between the last two races I did and doing a proper taper coming into the Worlds," he explained. "Everything I've done over the past five weeks has been focused on this day, so then to miss out, having sacrificed results in the races I did as preparation, is a bit of a let-down.
"At this particular moment in time, it feels like a very, very long season. If you'd asked me a few hours ago, I felt on top of it, but now, all of a sudden, it feels as though I haven't stopped since January, so maybe I've stretched myself a bit. I'm not feeling my age - I'm feeling the length of the season. It's been a big year for the team."
Millar drew some consolation from the fact that he'll line up in a five-man British team in the men's road race on Sunday. Two years ago in Salzburg, the 31 year old followed up a below-par performance in the time trial with a brilliant if ultimately unrewarded display in the road race.
Millar expects a tough but compelling race on Sunday.
"I think Sunday will be a lot harder than people think," he said. "It's Sod's Law - we've said the last two years that Salzburg was going to be really hard, and Stuttgart was going to be really hard. No-one's saying that about this course so it may well turn out to be really hard. The road races tend to follow a strict pattern - it all comes down to the last lap, and I don't expect this to be any different. A lot depends on the Spanish. I think they'll try to make it really hard, for Valverde."
Disappointed Rogers needs to re-focus
By Hedwig Kröner in Varese
Michael Rogers (Australia)
Photo ©: Hedwig Kröner
Michael Rogers (Australia) had hoped to compete for the victory or at least for a medal in Thursday's time trial, but his final 12th place put him far off his expectations. The three-times world champion in the discipline could not live up to his objectives, even though the run up to the event had been promising with an eighth placing in the Beijing Olympic Games.
"It just didn't come together for me, and I'm a a bit disappointed," he said after the race. "I was relatively confident before the worlds - my sensations and times during training were similar to the years when I won. Now, I have to go back over it with my trainer and see where it didn't get together."
Rogers thought that he failed the proper rhythm especially in the second part of the course around the Varese lake. "In the middle section of the race, I seemed to fade a little bit," he said. "My first split wasn't too bad, and I think I just lost it in the second part. The last ten kilometres weren't the best, but they weren't bad either."
Trying to find out why he performed poorly, the Australian didn't put any blame on his knowledge of the course, or its particularities which would have suited him in theory. "I've known the course for a year; I know every inch of the circuit," he continued. "It's the same course for everyone; there are some flat pieces and some hard climbs, as well as a lot of undulating stuff. From my analysis so far, that's where I kind of lost it, in the undulating sections."
With the world's best so close together at this event, Rogers mused that peak performances can change rapidly within a few weeks. "It's always a difficult thing in an Olympic year to do both. I feel I've been getting better and better as the year went on. Svein Tuft, who was second today - I beat him in Missouri. That just goes to show how quickly things can turn around. He's obviously had the ride of his life today. It's just all about timing."
With three days to go before the road race, Rogers now needs to put his disappointment behind him, as a strong 'Cyclones' contingent is hoping to score a medal. "That's life, now you just have to learn the lesson from it," he concluded. "Now, there's still Sunday to go. I'm a bit sad, but I have to move on."
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