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2002 Road World Championships - CM

Hasselt-Zolder, Belgium, October 8-13, 2002

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Day 4 - October 11: Espoirs Men Road Race, 166.4km

Complete Live Report

Start time: 12:30 CEST
Estimated finish time: 16:15 CEST

13:37 CEST    47 km/119 km to go
Welcome to the Under 23s road race, covering 13 laps of the Zolder circuit; apologies for a slightly delayed start to our coverage this afternoon.

After a brisk opening hour's racing, the riders have covered nearly four laps of the circuit. A group of seven riders is a good half a minute clear: Olsson (Sweden), Knees (Germany), Coyot (France), Pchelkin (Russia), Bates (Australia), Garcia Marin and Elorriaga (both Spain).

13:48 CEST    56 km/110 km to go
The weather has clouded over a bit after the bright if cool conditions that the junior women raced under.

The leading seven are still together with half a minutes lead over a bunch which is well string out. One of the British riders has just punctured; it will be a hard chase back, particularly after a few of the problems you get with neutral service; he pulled the new wheel over and had to stop a second time. At the front of the bunch a green train has formed - the Irish team working for the heavily tipped Mark Scanlon, who will be riding for AG2R next year.

13:57 CEST    64 km/102 km to go
The Irish efforts are rewarded and the septet are caught as the race turns into the motor racing circuit to complete their fifth lap; Coyot jumps and stays a few seconds clear, but it looks futile.

14:07 CEST    69 km/97 km to go
Even with the group caught the pace stays high, with repeated attacks and accelerations as riders continually skirmish to get another break started.

The motor racing circuit is naturally wide open, but the painted and raised insides of the corners look as though they could cause problems as the bunch sweeps over them if it rains, particularly on the chicane into the Gilles Villeneuve bend.

14:15 CEST    76 km/90 km to go
At the end of the sixth lap the continuous attacking has brought the average speed is up to 44.6 kph, but the bunch are still together. One multiple attacker is Alexander Bespalov, silver medallist in the time trial; the Swedish and Belgian teams have also been prominent in the action for the last few kilometres.

14:24 CEST    83 km/83 km to go
As the race gets to half distance, Tobias Lergard (Sweden) has taken advantage of a brief period of respite (one of the Belgians just punctured) to put in a solo attack; he has a lead of a mere 12 seconds, though. Tom Southam (GB) is trying to get across to him.

14:28 CEST    87 km/79 km to go
A crash at the back of the bunch brings five or six riders down, including a Norwegian, a Croat and representatives from all three Baltic states. Lergard has been swept up on the tailwind section and Geoffroy Lequatre (France) has jumped clear on the Sterrewacht, but he is only a few seconds clear as they come over the line at the end of the seventh lap.

The race speed and the lack of a convoy of team cars behind the race is making it more or less impossible for victims of crashes and mechanical problems to get back.

14:38 CEST    
Sweden's Jonas Olsson, the first attacker of the day, has retired, but his team - one of the most active so far - is still sending men up the road. Prominent by their absence are the Italians; given their record in this category, this probably indicates team instructions rather than any particular weakness.

14:48 CEST    102 km/64 km to go
Coming up to the end of lap 8, there are two men clear: Simon Gerrans (Australia) and Pablo de Pedro (Spain); they have just a handful of seconds lead over the bunch which is still flying.

14:54 CEST    106 km/60 km to go
The two are caught, but the Spanish promptly put launch another attack with Francisco Gutierrez who has Ruslan Gryschenko (Ukraine) - last year's bronze medallist and riding for Landbouwkrediet next year - as company. An Italian is finally visible launching the chase, but there seems to be less organisation than there has been before. The gap rapidly stretches to 15 seconds, more than we've seen for a while.

The victims of earlier problems are now retiring, unable to get back with the race. They include local hope Gert Steegmans and the USA's Mark Fitzgerald

14:58 CEST    
The lead duo are caught by a handful of riders including Belgian Kevin de Weert, but there is no agreement and they sit up; Slovenia's Jure Zrimsek jumps clear.

14:59 CEST    
Zrimsek is joined by Arnaud Coyot (France) as the bunch behind them slows up a bit coming up to the Pitsberg climb; they have 10 seconds lead.

15:03 CEST    116 km/50 km to go
Four laps to go and Zrimsek - a stage winner in the Dutch Olympias Tour - is doing most of the work. They have 10 seconds lead over the line as the bunch starts to pick up speed again. Tamouridis of Greece tries to bridge the gap.

A crash in the pit/feed zone brings down a Canadian, an American a Czech and a Belarusian. All back up, but there is no easy way back up to the bunch.

Tamouridis has been joined by Christian Knees (Germany) and Volodymyr Zagorodny (Ukraine) as they leave the motor circuit again.

15:08 CEST    119 km/47 km to go
The three chasers catch the two leaders and go straight through, the five settle into a rhythm quickly, but the bunch are still hot on their heels.

15:13 CEST    122 km/44 km to go
The chasing is not well organised, very stop and go, and the quintet have stretched their advantage to a quarter of a minute. Slovenia's Matej Marin is ostentatiously policing any counterattacks. GB's Tom Southam is again prominent at the front.

15:16 CEST    126 km/40 km to go
The gap closes again and three more riders get across, including Yanto Barker and Tom Southam (GB) and a Swede. The gaps are small but the distance is starting to tell on some of the riders now.

15:22 CEST    
The group are caught by the front of the bunch but gaps are appearing all over the place as the bunch comes over the line with three laps to go, snaking through in one long line.

A quartet remain clear around the bottom of the road circuit but it all comes together through the pit area (for anybody who knows the circuit in the guise for which it was designed, the pits are on the back straight, not in the motor racing pit area proper beside the finish.)

15:27 CEST    
To answer a few of your queries: there's at least one South African still in there, but at the wrong end of the bunch. Mark Scanlon is looking comfortable in the middle of the bunch, although his early team support seems to have disappeared somewhat. However, the five-rider teams are not really big enough to offer full support.

There are more short-lived attacks; as soon as there is a pause in the action someone else goes away but each time they are chased down again.

15:32 CEST    138 km/28 km to go
The most substantial break for a while - a group of seven including De Pedro, Timochine, Bates and TT gold medallist Vaitkus goes clear - they have 14 seconds lead over the Pitsberg.

They aren't going fast enough for De Pedro who attacks alone. The whole race is a lot more ragged than it has been - three hours at 45.7 kph is starting to tell.

Over the line with two laps to go the leaders are just a few seconds clear, and it doesn't last too long.

15:39 CEST    144 km/22 km to go
On the motor racing circuit a more substantial group forms around the previous breakaways, with fifteen or so riders, and for the first time some Italian vests are in there. They have around 150 metres lead as they leave the circuit.

Behind, the British, German and Dutch teams are chasing.

15:42 CEST    
Poland's Mazur shows his strength by bridging the gap to the 16 man leading group, which also includes Bates, Vaitkus, Paulinho, Timochine, Nuyens, Baumann, Kauffman, Zrimsek and Albacini. They still have just 11 seconds lead.

Hans Dekkers, tries to bridge gap but can only get half way and is once again caught by the bunch which is still being led by the GB team.

One of the two Australians in the break attacks on the Pitsberg climb and tries to split the front group.

15:51 CEST    154 km/12 km to go
The race comes back together as they come back onto the motor racing circuit for the penultimate time; Simon Gerrans (Aus), Sergio Paulinho (Portugal) and Ivan Ravaioli (Italy) have a few seconds slender advantage at the bell, but the field come back together on the back of the circuit.

15:55 CEST    157 km/9 km to go
As they come out onto the roads Kevin De Weert (Belgium) goes for a solo effort, but Paulinho brings a group back up to him and the bunch follow.

The bunch is lined out and snaking as riders at the front seek an advantage. De Pedro goes again, and an Austrian and an Irishman - Scanlon - join him. Zrimsek and a New Zealander are up there too, and Belgium's Nuyens and Sebastien Chavanel get up to make it seven leaders.

16:00 CEST    160 km/6 km to go
A crash in the bunch brings down a Lithuanian and two Irish riders. Gryshenko has got across to the leaders. The gap is just 50 m or so.

16:02 CEST    
The break pause for thought for a moment and Nuyens rides them all off his wheel coming up to the Bolderberg roundabout, but it doesn't last and they are briefly back together, then Gryshenko attacks alone at some 60 kph with the tailwind. He can't get clear, though.

16:04 CEST    164 km/2 km to go
90 riders take the Pitsberg climb all together; there is a crash near the front of the bunch on the climb. Antonio Bucciero takes advantage to jump clear and has a fifty metre lead as they turn into the circuit

16:07 CEST    Finish
Timochine leads the chase through the Jochen Rindt turn and Bucciero is caught; at 200 metres to go there is a mass pile up - probably 20 riders down - in the middle of the sprint and it is Francesco Cicchi who comes a very long way round to take it. Hans Dekkers (not the time trialist Thomas Dekker) picks up silver ahead of Francisco Gutierrez. Cicchi came right out of the traffic and was moving about 5 kph faster than the others as he came round them - a class act, and one that must give Mario Cipollini some hope for Sunday. This was the fastest World Championship ever - a record which may only last a few days, though.

Timochine was one of those down and there is a rider who received quite a lot of treatment on the spot but has now been taken away in the ambulance.

1  Francesco Cicchi (Italy)    3.36.28
2  Hans Dekker (Netherlands)
3  Francisco Gutierrez (Spain)
4  David Loosli (Switzerland)
5  Sergey Lagutin (Uzbekistan)
6  Geoffroy Lequatre (France)
7  Grégory Rast (Switzerland)
8  Sébastien Chavanel (France)
9  Jorge Torre (Portugal)
10 Philippe Gilbert (Belgium)

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