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World Championships - CM
Verona, Italy, September 27-October 3, 2004
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Race 7 - Friday October 1: Road Race - U23 Men, 177km
Is the Torricelle really so terrible?
Curse of the rainbow alive and well in espoir ranks
By Anthony Tan
One would expect 12 ascensions of the much talked-about Torricelle climb to be decisive, but in this race five years ago, on an almost identical course, it was in fact the descent which mattered most.
After his team-mates chased down breakaway after breakaway, Italian Leonardo Giordani, on orders from his coach, attacked a 27-strong group on the final lap at the base of the Torricelle. However, a determined chase by Sylvester Szymd, Cadel Evans and Jamie Burrow saw Giordani's lead a slender six seconds at the top of the 3.1 kilometre climb, and it appeared the gli azurri had burned all their matches. But on the descent, the (other) blue train came to the fore as Lopeboselli, Paolini, Tiralongo and Rizzi smothered any attacks - while Giordani laid himself on the line, in fact increasing his advantage to 20 seconds with a kilometre to go... enough to guarantee the gold.
Odds are the race will follow a similar pattern in 2005, with the race likely to come down to a select group of 20-25 riders in the final 30 kilometres. Many will on the lookout for a last-lap attack, so if a 4-5 man move can clear themselves with 2 to 3 laps remaining, this could well decide this year's espoir world champion. If not, look out for a small bunch sprint of no more than 10-15 riders.
Names to watch
Interesting is that in every espoir world championships since Verona in 1999, the winner of the road race has failed to live up to expectations - while the second and third placegetters have often gone on to brilliant careers, rather than the glory boy on the day.
1999 champ Giordani has struggled ever since turning professional for Fassa Bortolo the following year, while Luca Paolini (2nd in 1999) and Germany's Matthias Kessler (3rd) are doing just dandy nowadays. Espoirs winner in 2000, Evgeni Petrov, now 26, had an excellent following two years at Mapei-Quick Step, but after the dissolution of Giorgio Squinzi's superteam, the Russian has floundered the following two seasons.
Yaroslav Popovych on the other hand, second to Petrov in 2000, went on to take the title the following year in Lisbon, and has undeniably gone onto the best pro career out of all winners since 1999, defying the curse of the rainbow jersey. The Ukrainian looked like a potential Grand Tour winner after his time trial victory in Altopiano Carsico at this year's Giro d'Italia, which saw him in the maglia rosa, but succumbed to the might of Damiano 'The Kid' Cunego three days later, eventually finishing fifth overall. However, Popo's future looks bright, signing a deal with master tactician Johan Bruyneel at Discovery Channel until 2007.
Winner on the Zolder circuit in 2002 was Francesco Chicchi, but with a mass pile-up with 150 metres to go taking out most of the favourites, it's not all surprising that Chicchi's cheeky win hasn't led to great heights in the pro peloton.
Similarly, espoir champ from Hamilton, Uzbekistan's Sergey Lagutin, has done little, while Belgium's Johan Van Summeren is at ease at Quick.Step-Davitamon and Monday's time trial silver (and last year's TT and RR bronze) medallist Thomas Dekker is already touted as cycling's 'next big thing', confirming his potential with an overall win at this year's Thüringen-Rundfahrt and victory at the GP Eddy Merckx with partner Koen De Kort.
Similar to the Verona World's of five years past, the 2004 road circuit is one and a half kilometres shorter at 14.75 kilometres, tougher with more ascensions of the Torricelle climb, and in all cases bar the Under 23 men, a longer race overall.
With the start/finish at the Piazza Brà, the pletone head in a northerly direction for three kilometres of flat before the start of the 3.1 kilometre-long Torricelle climb that begins from the Viale dei Colli. The final part of the Torricelle is the hardest, where the Viale dei Colli turns to the Via Santa Giuliana 700 metres from the top, marking the 'Cima Coppi' (highest point of the race).
Cresting the Torricelle with mouths wide open and gasping for air (km 6.1), riders then swoop down the twisty street bearing the same name at breakneck speed for just over four and a half kilometres before two 90-degree right-handers in close succession, the first coming at km 10.7 at the intersection of Vie Caroto and Cipolla. (Definitely a place to grab something to eat, with streets named after carrots and onions... )
Hopefully something a little more digestible awaits with the rifornimento (feed station) at km 12.3, before riders cross the Ponte Aleardi bridge and execute a large 'U' that brings them back along the finishing straight of the Corso Porta Nuova.