1. Johan Museeuw (Belgium) 6.23.50 2. Mauro Gianetti (Switzerland) 0.01 3. Michele Bartoli (Italy) 0.29 4. Axel Merckx (Belgium) s.t 5. Richard Virenque (France) 0.30 6. Andrea Tafi (Italy) s.t 7. Laurent Jalabert (France) 1:26 8. Davide Rebellin (Italy) 9. Tony Rominger (Switzerland) 10. Bjarne Riis (Denmark) 11. Bobby Julich (U.S.) 12. Gianni Bugno (Italy) 13. Claudio Chiappucci (Italy) 14. Fernando Escartin (Spain) 15. Vladislav Bobrik (Russia) 16. Laurent Dufaux (Switzerland) all s.t. 17. Francisco Mauleon (Spain) 1:28 18. Luc Leblanc (France) 1:29 19. Kai Hundertmark (Germany) 4:09 20. Andrea Ferrigato (Italy) s.t 21. Jeker (Sch) + 5.35 22. Herve (Fra) + 5.37 23. Faresin (Ita) + 6.19 24. Fincato (Ita) 25. Gonzalez-Arrieta (Spa) 26. Puttini (Sch) all s.t. 27. Lebreton (Fra) +11.19 28. Brochard (Fra) 29. Fra. Casagrande (Ita) 30. Moller (Den) 31. Cuesta (Spa) 32. Camenzind (Sch) +12.40 33. Meinert-Nielsen (Den) 34. Guidi (Ita) +12.50 35. Djavanian (Rus) +15.00 36. B. Zberg (Sch) 37. Hamburger (Den) 38. Meier (Sch) 39. Bolts (Ger) 40. Blanco (Spa) 41. Clavero (Spa) 42. Pistore (Ita) 43. Totschnig (Aut) 44. Den Bakker (Ned) 45. Sciandri (Gbr) 46. Andersson (Swe) +25.00 47. Lafis (Swe) 48. Bourquenoud (Sch) 49. Van Der Meer (Ned) 176 starters, 49 finishers
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His final sprint ruined hopes of a home-town triumph as he beat Lugano-born Mauro Gianetti after they had led for the final 30 of the 252-km race over a challenging course.
Michele Bartoli snatched the bronze for Italy, holding off Belgian Axel Merckx, the son of Eddy Merckx who won the last of his three world titles 22 years ago.
Museeuw said: ``I was always scared of what might happen because there were a lot of good riders in our leading group. However, I felt really strong and always held a little in reserve.''
A week ago he said his season was finished but he changed his mind 48 hours later.
Museeuw and Gianetti, who made a two-man breakaway in the penultimate lap and were never under serious threat, were followed home by Italian Michele Bartoli in another sprint finish.
The end was more like track pursuit than road racing with Museeuw, winner of this year's Paris-Roubaix classic in similar circumstances, cruising a wheel's length in front of Gianetti and continually looking over his shoulder, waiting for the Swiss rider to make his move.
But there was never any doubt over the outcome after 15th laps of a 252km race around the hills and leafy avenues of Lugano. When the signal came, Museeuw streaked across the line, arms aloft in victory.
Museeuw, who had announced during this year's Paris-Tours that he would quit cycling, was delighted to have changed his mind.
"This is the greatest victory of my career," he said. "I've won a lot of big races, but this is special, this is something that stays with you for a whole year."
He put the victory down to an error on Gianetti's part, after the Swiss rider failed to exploit his superior climbing abilities in the final hill.
"I wasn't the strongest rider out there today, Mauro was. But I was the smarter," Museeuw said. "In cycling, it's important to use your head.
"I understand how he must have felt, riding in Switzerland, he must have been very nervous. But he knew that I'm very strong in the sprint and that he is better in the hills."
Gianetti had his explanation ready, saying: "I tried to go, but I just couldn't. After 250kms, and having given a lot in the penultimate lap, it was hard to get my legs going."
Museeuw meanwhile had his legs, and his family, to thank for becoming world champion.
"I did say that I was quitting at the Paris-Tours. But it was my family who persuaded me to continue. I trained really hard this week and they were with me, and today I'm the world champion."
"But let's leave the past in the past."
As for the future, a bottle of champagne was high on his list of priorities.
"You can celebrate your birthday with a meal and champagne, and you can also celebrate it by becoming world champion. Tonight, I'll have both."
Museeuw, the Belgian champion in 1992 and 1996, and winner of last year's World Cup series, is mainly a classics specialist, although he has also turned in some fine performances in stage races.
The Mapei rider, who turned professional in 1988, wore the race leader's yellow jersey during the Tour de France in 1993 and 1994.
Gianetti said: "I wanted to give the Swiss crowd a present today and tried my hardest. At the moment, I just don't know if I'm happy to have come second in the world championship or I'm disappointed at having lost.
"I thought I could win right up until the last 50 metres. And then ..."
"We left it too late," he lamented. "We should have moved a lap earlier. I should be happy to be on the podium, but I'm disappointed."
Museeuw received the rainbow jersey as world champion after outsprinting Switzerland's Mauro Gianetti to claim the men's road title.
The trouble is he already has a favourite jersey, the one he wears as reigning World Cup champion.
``I really don't know,'' Museeuw said after his win. ``I guess one is the same as the other.''
There may be no difference in the fit but the Belgian said there was a difference in his feeling towards them.
He described his latest win as ``the most beautiful of my career'' and added: ``All my wins are special but this one is more so.''
Recognised as a superb one-day rider ever since he turned professional in 1988, Museeuw has compiled 65 victories, including this year's Paris-Roubaix.
The Paris-Roubaix win and four second places have lifted the Belgian to the top of this year's World Cup standings with just two events remaining.
An exhausted Museeuw threatened to retire after the Paris-Tours race a week ago and said then he would not race in these world championships because the mountainous course was too hard for him.
But he had promised coach Eddy Merckx he would take part and he kept his word, appearing at the starting line with 176 other riders.
After his victory Museeuw said he would continue the defence of his World Cup crown and race in the Tour of Lombardy next Saturday. But he was non-committal about the final race in Japan.
``It's true I didn't want to race but I have decided to go on,'' Museeuw said. ``I talked with my family and they helped with the decision. They told me I could do it and not to give up.''
Museeuw's win put an end to Swiss celebrations which had raged since Alex Zuelle's victory in Thursday's time-trial.
Barbara Heeb kept the party going on Saturday when she became Switzerland's first women's road-race world champion.
Museeuw said he was planning something a little more reserved than the clanging of cowbells through the streets of the l
akeside resort which marked each Swiss win. ``This is a beautiful victory. I will celebrate by going to dinner and a having a bottle of champagne,'' he said.
The World Championship's "main event," the elite road race, rolled onto the hilly Lugano, Switzerland course at 9:00 AM this morning. Sunny skies and heated competition have punctuated the 15-lap, 252 km race thus far. Just starting the fourth lap, French rider Benoit Salmon and Andrei Zintchenko of Russia are dangling approximately 2 min 20 sec in front of the pack. The peloton which includes such race favorites as Frenchmen Richard Virenque and Laurent Jalabert, and new world time trial champion Alex Zulle of Switzerland, is carefully monitoring the progess of the lead duo and seems relatively unconcerned with the two-man threat.
By sending Benoit Salmon into the early lead, the French team is re-enacting the same race strategy that they employed in the 1995 World Championships when Laurent Roux shot off the front in an early break. With the squad's leaders, Laurent Jalabert, Luc Leblanc and Richard Virenque, tucked comfortably into the middle of the pack, the other national teams will be forced to begin the chase after Benoit and his breakaway companion Andrei Zintchenko of Russia. Hypothesizing that, after a hard chase, the tired rival teams will not be able to counter any late-race French attacks, the French squad is hoping to stick one of their three leaders on the podium's top spot. Andrei Zintchenko of Russia and Frenchman Benoit Salmon have extended their lead to 3 min 6 sec on a lone rider, Raimondas Rumsas of Lithuania, who is hovering in no-man's land approximately 1 min in front of the main bunch. With only a quarter of today's race in the books, the peloton, which is 4 min 5 sec behind the lead duo, is biding its time as the race favorites prepare their strategies for the inevitable mid-race attacks.
The peloton is starting to react to the early attack launched by Benoit Salmon of France and Russian rider Andrei Zintchenko. At 12:32 PM the lead-duo's advantage was at 2 min 25 sec, and is now shrinking to approximately 1 min 30 sec. The Swiss and American squads are serving as the peloton's locomotives as the real race for the rainbow jersey begins to unfold. Californian rider Chris Horner has been an ever-present force at the front of the pack for the American team. Horner and his teammate Tyler Hamilton are working to keep their team leader, Bobby Julich, in the running for a podium apperance. "Everyone on the team will be working for Julich today," Hamilton said before the race's start. Julich finished his first year on the European circuit with a phenomenal ninth place finish in the recent Tour of Spain and could be a factor on Lugano's hilly course.
With 7 laps remaining in todays 252 km race, Benoit Salmon of France and Andrei Zintchenko of Russia have been absorbed back into the pack. The average speed of the race thus far is hovering near 25 mph, but that pace is now expected to accelerate considerably as the favorites come to the front.
Tony Rominger of Switzerland is trying to catapult himself into the rainbow jersey. With 7 laps to go, Rominger countered an attack launched at the base of one of the course's steep climbs by German Udo Bolts and Marco Fincato of Italy. Pulling a group of approximately 8 riders 15 sec into the lead, Rominger is setting a torrid pace at the front. Rominger, who doesn't have the explosive power to dominate a mass sprint, is going for the long haul. "I'm a diesel engine, and while I might not win a sprint, I can roll long and hard for the win," said Rominger before today's start.
As Tony Rominger of Switzerland pulled his lead group to a 30 sec advantage, a fair chunk of the American and Belgian teams were blown out the back of the race on a steep incline. Bjarne Riis of Denmark is present near the front of the chasing peloton, but no one seems ready to assume the responsibility of reeling in Rominger.
With just over 5 laps remaining, Tony Rominger of Switzerland was rejoined by a group of approximately 40 riders that includes all of the race favorites. The lead group is setting a blistering pace in an effort to weed out the weaker contestants and nations. The peloton has split into three distinct groups with the second bunch 18 sec back and the third group at a deficit of 35 sec.
A group of twelve riders is pulling approximately 1 min 15 sec into the lead. The principal players in the escape are Andrea Ferrigato of Italy, Pascal Herve and Pascal Chanteur of France, Belgian Johan Museeuw and Mauro Gianetti of Switzerland. The pack is chasing hard but this group contains a number of dangerous, potential winners
Newly-crowned world time trial champion Alex Zulle of Switzerland has crashed out of the race. In the mass confusion of the feed zone, Zulle, who was not wearing a helmet, went down hard and appeared to momentarily lose consciousness. He was quickly led to a medical tent and it appears that he was NOT seriously injured.
The twelve-man break has extended its lead to 2 min 53 sec. With so many countries already represented in the lead group, the remaining riders in the peloton are hesitant to attack their own teammates. Laurent Jalabert of France is now accelerating out of the pack and is pulling Laurent Dufaux of Switzerland, Italian Michele Bartoli and Axel Merckx of Belgium with him
Laurent Jalabert of France, Italian Michele Bartoli and Belgian Axel Merckx were absorbed immediately by the peloton. The pace of the pack in general, however, has increased considerably and the 12-men's advantage has fallen to near the 2 min mark. The French team is in a panic because, while they do have two men (Pascal Herve and Pascal Chanteur) in the breakaway, it is unlikely that either of them would be capable of taking the victory. The French team leaders, Luc Leblanc, Richard Virenque and Laurent Jalabert, are tentatively pushing the pace at the head of the pack in an effort to rejoin the lead but are also delicately trying not to pull too many adversairies with them.
With 3 laps (50 km) left in the 1996 World Championship road race, the lead held by the 11-man break (the 12th member, Peter Meinert of Denmark, has fallen off the pace) has fallen to 1 min 28 sec. Mauro Gianetti of Switzerland, possibly the escapee with the best chance to take the rainbow jersey, has yet to take a turn at the front as he conserves his energy for the finale. As his group's advantage continues to fall, however, Gianetti will be forced to either attack or concede.
33 km from the finish of today's 252 km road race, the breakaway's advantage is now at just 58 sec. As two Italians, Gianni Bugno and Claudio Chiappucci, captain the chase group, anarchy has broken out in the lead group as attack after attack is launched. First Kai Hundertmark of Germany tried to go off on his own, then Belgian Johan Museeuw, and then Swiss racer Mauro Gianetti finally made his move. The lead group is now comprised of just seven men as the peloton closes in.
With approximately 20 km to go, the peloton is less than 40 se behind the race leaders. In an all-out effort, Johan Museeuw of Belgium and Swiss rider Mauro Gianetti have launched a two-man attack for the win.
With approximately one lap left in the elite road race, Johan Museeuw of Belgium and Mauro Gianetti of Switzerland are holding onto a 22 sec lead over Italian Andrea Tafi. German rider Kai Hundertmark is at 34 sec, Andrea Ferrigato of Italy is at 59 sec and a group of twelve riders that includes Laurent Jalabert, Richard Virenque and Luc Leblanc of France, Swiss rider Laurent Dufaux and Danish champion Bjarne Riis is at 1 min 21 sec.
Approximately 8 km from the line, the 1996 World Championship road race will be decided between Belgian Johan Museeuw and Mauro Gianetti of Switzerland. Italian Andrea Tafi, who was just 22 sec. back, has now faded to a deficit of 52 sec. The main chase group that is led by Frenchman Richard Virenque is out of contention at 1 min 10 sec.
In a no-contest sprint, Johan Museeuw of Belgium easily distanced Mauro Gianetti of Switzerland to become the world road race champion on the day of his 31st birthday. Michele Bartoli of Italy led out the sprint for third and held off Belgian Axel Merckx to take the bronze medal.