World Championships Cycling News, September 29, 2008
Edited by Sue George
Ballan solos to cycling's famed rainbow jersey
By Gregor Brown in Varese
Ballan – a smiling world champion
Photo ©: AFP
Alessandro Ballan topped off Italy's supremacy in the final of the 2008
World Championships Sunday to take the rainbow jersey solo, ahead of teammate
Damiano Cunego and Denmark's Matti Breschel. The victory on home soil adds to
a small but impressive list of wins by the 28-year-old that includes the Ronde van
"I did not expect this; I knew was going strong but to win the Worlds
is always difficult. ... I imagined when I took that turn in to the track that
I would be wearing the rainbow jersey," Ballan said in a post race press
conference. The famous blue, red, black, yellow and blue stripes of the World
Champion's jersey rewarded his solo gamble. It is a gift that is worthy
of a rider who often dedicates himself to others.
In addition to his 2007 Ronde
van Vlaanderen win, Ballan won the Driedaagse
De Panne and Hamburg
Cyclassics in the same year. This spring he missed out on the big win in Paris-Roubaix, where he finished third, but showed that he was back on target in the fall with a
stage win and one day in the maillot oro at the Vuelta a España.
Ballan was not the rider chosen as the leader of the Italian team. He dedicated himself instead to helping Paolo Bettini taking a record
third-straight World title in what was to be the defending champion's final
race in a 12-year career. After the peloton captured the day's three-man move,
a second and decisive move formed under the impetus of the new World Champion.
Ballan bolted to the front on the second half of the Ronchi climb in the penultimate
circuit with 21 kilometres left of the 260.2-kilometre race. He took with
him Belgium's Greg Van Avermaet, Matti Breschel (Denmark), Spain's Joaquím Rodríguez
and Germany's Fabian Wegmann. The move gained importance with the addition of
Ballan's teammates Davide Rebellin and Cunego Dutchman Robert
Gesink, Austrian Christian Pfannberger and Ukraine's Andriy Grivko.
Rebellin kicked into action on the final time up Ronchi. He was marked and
Ballan countered. Rebellin went again and then Cunego tried as well. The actions
weakened their rivals for the final blow.
Alessandro Ballan pedals in front of
compatriot Damiano Cunego
Photo ©: AFP
"We all started the race for Paolo Bettini ... Last night, we did not
have a second strategy the plan was for Paolo and it was never to be
like this," explained Ballan. "He was going
very well, but he had all of Spain and the other nations watching him.
"I always attacked at that climb [Ronchi] because I thought it was the
most dangerous point," he continued of the 17.35-kilometre circuit, which
also included the climb of Montello. "I talked with Paolo and he wanted
to make a hard race for the sprinters. At the end, it went well."
Indeed, the race went so well that Italy had three men in the final 12-man move that took shape
as the race zoomed to the converted horse track dubbed "Mapei Cycling Stadium".
The heat was building for Italy to take action and drop some rivals. Ballan
went into action at 3,000 metres out in the heart of Varese.
"I was a little uncertain. I tried before on the climb, I did not decide to do this when I saw this finish in the preview. I heard the roar of the fans
and they gave me the strength it was very difficult, but I gave it all.
"I was not alone in those final kilometres; I was joined by the roar of
the fans. They helped me to finish my race. I was only thinking not to be caught.
... I thought of the women's and under 23 races, how the finish worked."
Read the complete
Breschel wins bronze
Matti Breschel (Denmark)
Photo ©: AFP
Matti Breschel won a bronze medal at the elite
men's UCI Road World Championships on Sunday, thanks in part to the
help of fellow Dane Chris Anker Sørensen.
Sørensen made several attempts in front groups and was eventually
joined by riders including Breschel, making a total group of 13 for the
final selection. He then picked up the pace so no more riders would be
able to join the leading bunch.
The race was more or less decided three kilometers from the finish line,
when Italian Alessandro Ballan made a strong attack. Sørensen got
little help from the other 11, and he was unable to reel in the Italian
rider. In the final sprint Breschel was the only one able to prevent a
pure Italian podium as Damiano Cunego took second and Davide Rebellin
took fourth. Sørensen would finish 13th
"This is huge! I'm extremely satisfied with getting a medal at the
World Championships at the age of 24," said an elated Breschel according
to a team press release. "My career at this level has only just begun
so I'm very happy to be standing here with a medal.
"Of course I was sitting in the group at end hoping to take the
rainbow colored jersey, but this is amazing though. I owe Chris and the
other Danish guys a big thanks for all their hard work they have
a big share in this medal too."
Boonen angry with race outcome
By Hedwig Kröner in Varese, Italy
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
Former World Champion Tom Boonen was rather unhappy with how the elite
men's UCI road World Championship road race went for him, and his
team. While he was the designated leader for the Belgian squad, the attacks
of his teammates in the final lap of the event annihilated his chances
of the race coming down to a sprint.
"We had an agreement in the team. I had good legs for a sprint.
If it would have ended in a sprint, I stood a 90 percent (chance) of winning.
I didn't fear those last few climbs," he said after the finish.
With one lap to go, everything was still possible for Boonen as he was
leading a second chase group about 30 seconds behind a move including
his teammate Greg Van Avermaet, Alessandro Ballan, Matti Breschel, Joaquin
Rodriguez and Fabian Wegmann. "Van Avermaet's move [with 21 km to
go - ed.] was good, but when Nuyens and Van Goolen went for it [on the
penultimate climb shortly afterwards - ed.], they broke our agreement.
Now, that's not how you're going to win a race! They should have stayed
with me. We talked about all of this before the race, and then they attack!"
Nuyens, who finished ninth after making a strong showing in the winning
breakaway, had a different view of how those last kilometres unfolded.
"Boonen, with four and a half laps to go, told us that he was feeling
good. And then, with one and a half laps to go, I heard him say on the
radio 'I can't win anymore.' I was surprised, but we quickly re-organised
the team," he stated.
In any case, the Belgian team ended up without a medal even though they
had been counted on as one of the strongest teams. "Our collective
failed," said Boonen. "It wasn't necessary to jump away in those
breakaways, only Van Goolen's move would have been enough. From what experience
tells me, there are people who have too much ambition."
The Quick Step leader was more than disappointed. "It's a lost opportunity,
as I already know that I won't go to Mendrisio in 2009. I can only console
myself with Paris-Tours now, but it's not the same as becoming World Champion."
Freire: "We raced badly"
By Hedwig Kröner in Varese, Italy
Spaniard Oscar Friere
Photo ©: AFP
The Spanish team, although rated as the second-strongest squad after
the Italians, did not earn any medals in the elite
men's UCI World Championship road race on Sunday, with its best-placed
finisher being Joaquin Rodriguez in ninth position. Top man Oscar Freire
was far from being satisfied as he came in almost five minutes down, within
the big favourites' group including Paolo Bettini, Tom Boonen, Stefan
Schumacher and Sylvain Chavanel.
The three-time World Champion said that the Italian strategy had worked
out, while the Spanish team "rode a very bad race. Italy rode a good
race. But we... we were not at top level. It was important to us to not
initiate breaks, but if a break went, we had to be in it. [Alejandro]
Valverde should have been in that group with [Davide] Rebellin, [Alessandro]
Ballan and [Damiano] Cunego. But he wasn't, and with three Italians, the
escape was validated behind."
The final move including the three Italians went clear on the penultimate
climb shortly after the bell rang for the last lap. The sprinters' group
was then some 30 seconds behind, and it soon became clear that interests
within that bunch were not in Freire's favour. The riders sat up.
"Valverde should have been in front. I don't know what happened
to him. Cunego, Rebellin and Ballan should not have been left to jump
without him. Then, behind, nobody was pulling anymore," said Freire,
whose only teammate left with him at that point was Valverde.
Samuel Sanchez, for example, finished 22nd, between the winner's group
and the sprinter's bunch. "Behind, nobody was with us. It was only
Valverde and me. The Belgian team had riders in front... so I think we
did a very bad race."
As to Rodriguez, who was in front with the Italians and finished sixth,
Freire said, "Yes, but he wasn't as fast as Valverde."
The Rabobank rider had to settle for a disappointing result. "I
felt good, but sometimes races are like this, just very tactical. Today
was like that. Italy was simply the best team."
Wegmann's "hardest race ever"
By Hedwig Kröner in Varese, Italy
Fabian Wegmann of the German team rode a fine UCI
World Championship road race on Sunday, finishing seventh behind the
new rainbow jersey winner Alessandro Ballan. The 28 year-old was part
of the final, successful breakaway and did not lack much to take home
a medal, save for a bit of energy spent too soon in covering nearly every
move that went during the last few laps of the race.
"If you want to win, you have to be able to follow the moves,"
he said, leaning against his team Gerolsteiner bus after the event. "That's
what I did. It was not a pure race of attrition - you had to attack constantly
to be in front. It was always the same riders: Ballan, (Damiano) Cunego,
(Davide) Rebellin... they were always attacking in the last four laps
and I was always with them, too."
Nevertheless, he admitted that his efforts might have been too much.
"Sure, if you jump with every attack then maybe you pay for it in
the end," he said. "For me, it didn't work out, but the seventh
placing is not that bad, is it! I can be satisfied, I think."
Wegmann added that he felt completely drained after his performance.
"It was one of the hardest races I ever did, I think. In the end,
all I could feel was cramps. It wasn't a bike race anymore, it was...,"
he was left speechless.
"The lest ten kilometres, the climb and the flat part - I felt delirious.
I couldn't think anymore. I just tried to keep somebody's wheel, at any
The German also paid tribute to the new World Champion. "Ballan
was incredibly strong. He really deserved the win today. He's a very active
rider. I really like his riding style and his class."
Lap two crash hinders Barry at worlds
By Daniel Friebe, Procycling Magazine
Photo ©: Jon Devich
Michael Barry wasn't a name on many people's list of favourites for the
UCI World Championship
elite men's road race, but then most people may not know that Barry
recently took his first win in three years - a brilliant solo
effort in the Tour of Missouri - nor that the Canadian had brought
similar form to Varese.
When the Team Columbia man attacked between the Montello and Ronchi climbs
on the final lap on Sunday, Barry briefly looked set to rejoin the leaders
and contend for unlikely top-ten finish. He might have succeeded had he
not been suffering from the ill-effects of the injuries sustained several
hours earlier in a crash on lap two. Or, indeed, if he'd made his move
just a few kilometres earlier.
In the event, Barry was quickly absorbed by the main peloton and would
finish the race in 33rd position. It was a result which, the Canadian
knew, did scant justice to a fine performance.
"I was pretty disappointed, because I crashed early in the race,"
he said. "I had good legs. I felt really good actually. I attacked
on the last lap - I was trying to get away, but it was pretty difficult,
because the group which eventually stayed away didn't even go on a climb
- it was just in the start-finish area. I maybe should have been more
aggressive and gone with them, but I hesitated, because a lot of the favourites
were still in the group behind. Everyone was watching (Paolo) Bettini
and (Alejandro) Valverde. I realized that I'd missed the group and tried
to chase when it was too late."
Barry not only rued the timing of his attack, but also the lap-two crash
which certainly affected his race - and may have curtailed his season.
"I could definitely feel the effects of the crash at the end of
the race," he said. "Someone ran into me on the second lap,
and I hurt my back and ribs. I think I might even have broken some ribs.
I could really feel it when I took deep breaths, and when I was accelerating
Commenting on a World Championship road race which many riders considered
among the toughest in recent years, Barry said that the Italian team was
rewarded for taking the initiative early in the race.
"The Spaniards and Italians started accelerating pretty fast with
about six or seven laps to go, which seemed very early," he said.
"By the end, I think everyone was pretty dead. There weren't any
token attacks on the climbs. As soon as we hit the climb, the group would
slow down, because a lot of people were cramping. The guys who had the
balls to attack got away...."
Italy "too strong" for Australia
Photo ©: Shane Goss
Matt Lloyd was the only Australian finisher in the elite
men's road race at the UCI Road Cycling World Championships on Sunday.
Lloyd finished the 260km event in 55th position, 4'53" down on the
winner and in the company of Paolo Bettini, Alejandro Valverde and Oscar
Australian teammates Trent Lowe, Allan Davis, Adam Hansen, Simon Gerrans,
Will Walker and Matt Goss pulled out after lap 12 whilst in the second
chasing bunch that was at 2'25" but with no chance of regaining the
leaders. Michael Rogers and Robbie McEwen called it a day soon after,
leaving Lloyd to fly the flag for Australia.
"It was pretty much on from the start and on a course where there's
around 4,000m of climbing, by the end of the day everyone's legs were
pretty much nailed," said an exhausted Lloyd after the race. "Obviously
with Robbie McEwen and his fantastic history with racing and Allan Davis
who has been doing reasonably well recently we couldn't deny the possibility
of a sprint finish so in light of that we tried to work with those guys
and get them to the finish.
"But as you saw at the finish when it was really 'game on' those
guys couldn't hold on and with Mick (Rogers) trying his best with two
laps to go - he's such a quality rider - so you can see how deep you have
to go in the World Championships - I was fortunate enough to just hang
on longer than anyone else."
Race Manager Neil Stephens said the Italians were just too strong today.
"We went in with a few different options but we were not sure how
Michael Rogers would recover from time trial (Thursday) and we had a couple
of quick riders in Davis and McEwen but as it was the circuit was quite
tough and the Italians really took it to everybody," Stephens said.
"They ramped the speed up right from the start and it proved a little
bit too hard for our fast boys.
"Luckily we had 'Lloydy' who was there with the best of them - Bettini
and Freire and yes he was our best finisher."
Lloyd had worked early in the race for his teammates which in the final
two laps took its toll.
"I personally felt like I was in a body bag and you can try and
do your best to rejoin the groups in front but after six hours it tends
to become not so much wanting to do something but that the ability tends
to disappear," he said. "It's something I hope to improve on
over the next few years."
Australia ended their participation in the UCI road Cycling World Championships
with one bronze medal claimed by 20 year-old Cameron Meyer, in the U23
men's time trial on day one of competition.
Italy topped the medal table with two gold and two silver ahead of Germany
who claimed one gold, one silver and three bronze medals. Australia finished
in equal ninth place of the ten countries that collected medals during
the six days of the competition.
French team frustrated over wrong tactic
By Jean-François Quénet and Hedwig Kröner in Varese,
Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis)
Photo ©: Bjorn Haake
The French team had expected to be the underdog of the World Championships
in Varese but had nothing to celebrate at the end of the week. Since France's
best result before the final event, the elite
men's road race, was Cyril Gautier's sixth place in the U23 men's
road race, the country where the UCI was founded in 1900 ended their Italian
campaign with only one accomplishment to celebrate: its national federation
is no longer politically banned from international cycling after an agreement
was reached between the UCI and the directors of the Tour de France.
In Sunday's elite men's road race, there were no Frenchmen in the 15-man
group that played for the win. The team's captain and best performer of
the year Sylvain Chavanel wasn't too happy with finishing in 53rd. His
future teammate at Quick Step, Jérôme Pineau, finished the
race as the highest ranked Frenchman in 19th position. "We had a
tactic," Pineau revealed. "Sylvain was supposed to wait for
the last lap and I was being saved for an eventual sprint."
Having a pre-determined tactic was a step up for the French team, which
often heads to the race with a see-how-it-goes approach. Since the last
French win by Laurent Brochard in 1997, the French have managed to win
two bronze medals at the Worlds: Jean-Cyril Robin in 1999 and Anthony
Geslin in 2005.
National coach Frédéric Moncassin seemed down after France's
poor result in Varese. "I'm disappointed and frustrated because we
could have done better," he said. "The team generally speaking
was at a good level. Chavanel waited, I hope I haven't prevented him from
having gotten ahead."
On the penultimate lap, Chavanel had still looked easy on the second,
more dragging climb of the circuit. Still, the Frenchman had to settle
for the 53rd ultimately, after he gambled that the favourites' group would
keep the race together for the final lap.
He had to realize his race was over when former World Champion Paolo
Bettini stared to shake hands in the chase group, saying his goodbyes
to pro cycling. A breakaway including the later winner Alessandro Ballan
was off the front, as the Italian team's race tactics worked out perfectly
to trap such important contenders as Oscar Freire and Alejandro Valverde
"I respected my instruction," Chavanel seconded the team's
tactic outlined by Moncassin. "I followed the favourites, but in
the end, I got trapped in that sprinter's group around Freire, Boonen
and Bettini," he said, nevertheless smiling. "I wanted to wait
for the final lap to make my move. I should have anticipated. It's frustrating,
as I felt really good."
The Frenchman couldn't help admiring the perfect strategy of the Italian
team, which got the Squadra Azzurra its third rainbow jersey in
a row. "The Italians really played their cards well. Everybody was
deceived! The Spanish, too, lost out completely," he added.
Cozza leads young American squad at worlds
Photo ©: Mitch Clinton
Steven Cozza was the top US rider at the elite
men's UCI Road World Championships in Varese, Italy, on Sunday. In
the elite men's road race, he finished 23rd, 1'40 behind winner Alessandro
Ballan of Italy. The 23 year-old Cozza was racing his first elite worlds
and he equalled the performance of George Hincapie, the best American
finisher at the worlds last year.
Cozza was joined in the race by fellow Americans Tyler Farrar, Lucas
Euser, David Zabriskie and Brent Bookwalter. For Bookwalter and Euser
it was also their debut at the elite world championships. And for the
entire team, with the exception of Zabriskie, the 260-kilometer race was
the longest of their riders' careers.
"The longest race I've ever done was 230 kilometers three years
ago," said Cozza. "Honestly, my goal was just to finish the
race today. But as the race went on, I started feeling better and better
and I kept making all the splits. I was just trying to follow (two-time
world champion Paolo) Bettini's wheel."
Team Director Noel Dejonckheere, who also directed all five of Sunday's
competitors as U23 athletes on USA Cycling's European-based National Development
Team, was encouraged by the young riders' performance.
"Overall, I'm really satisfied with the team today," said
Dejonckheere. "Zabriskie was really here focusing on the time trial
and Brent was added to the team at the last minute and is just getting
over being sick, so to do this well while only having three young guys
at full strength is impressive. I think they did much better than even
they thought they would."
With many of the United States top European or domestic pros either
declining invitations to participate or injured, the door was open for
several young riders to get a crack at what was likely their first of
many elite world championships.
"For a small team to race that well over 260 kilometers against
veteran teams at full strength like the Spanish and Italians shows that
they're only two or three years away from really contending," Dejonckheere
said. "We'll keep moving forward and see what happens."
Unlucky day for the Irish
Nicolas Roche, Philip Deignan and Roger Aiken were short of luck in the
elite men's UCI Road
World Championship road race on Sunday.
Roche crashed in the third lap but was able to rejoin the main field
assisted by Aiken who had dropped behind to help pace him back. Unfortunately
Roche was forced to retire a few laps later with a thigh injury. He was
reportedly headed to the hospital for further investigation to determine
the cause of swelling at the injury site.
Deignan was able to hold on for longer and kept near the front of the
bunch but Letterkenny man struggled with a stomach upset and was unable
to digest the race food. He finally ran out of legs with three laps to
go as the Italians whipped up the race speed and split the bunch into
Mountain biker Aiken did a tremendous ride to help Roche rejoin the bunch
after his crash and he held onto the main field for over 200km before
he finally lost contact.
Only 77 riders out of 207 entries finished the tough race.
Previous News Next
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2008)