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World Championship Cycling News, September 28, 2008

Edited by Sue George

Olympic champion conquers the Worlds

By Ben Atkins in Varese, Italy

Nicole Cooke is now Olympic and World Champion
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
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Nicole Cooke of Great Britain won the women's road race at the UCI World Road Championship in Varese, Italy, on Saturday. She took victory in a three-up sprint with 2006 champion Marianne Vos of the Netherlands and 2004 champion Judith Arndt of Germany.

Cooke added the rainbow jersey to the Olympic gold medal she won in Beijing last month, and became the first Briton to win a senior road rainbow jersey since Mandy Jones took the 1982 title in Goodwood, England. Cooke, Vos and Arndt were part of a break royale that formed on the final of eight laps that also included Emma Johansson of Swede and Trixi Worrack of Germany.

The five riders escaped under the impetus of an attack from Vos on the steep climb of via Montello with just over 15km to the finish, and were originally six until a puncture for Susanne Ljungskog ended her chances. There were several attacks in the closing stages particularly from Vos – when she looked to have made a race-winning move on the final Ronchi climb – and Johansson – when a late attack looked to have taken the others unawares, but in the end it came down to a sprint and the Welshwoman proved to be the fastest.

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"I am very, very happy," said Cooke after the race. "I am very happy following Beijing. When we started I was relaxed because I had met my objective with the Olympics. We had a nice team plan, it was not complicated, it was simple – just to try to do our best. I saved all I had for the finish line and it worked.

"It is great to win and share the podium with great competitors," she added, paying tribute to Arndt and Vos.

"I have a lot of respect for all the riders here," said Cooke in response to a question about Vos in particular. "They are both [Arndt and Vos] former world champions."

Twice in the final lap Vos attacked, possibly casting herein the final sprint. Cooke seemed to deny that this was a mistake by the Dutchwoman though. "I think that she had shown she can win in climbs or win races in sprints," she said. "I was not surprised because the hills are a good place to attack. You can't take anything for granted... . I had to ride my own race. I had to react to her attacks the best I could."

"In the sprint – Marianne started it – I saw the orange jersey come back and just knew all I could do was get into the slipstream and keep going all the way to the line. I did not know what would happen but I just tried my best in the sprint."

In the past six weeks, Cooke has taken Olympic gold and now the rainbow jersey of World champion, something that even she is having trouble coming to terms with. "It was a dream come true in Beijing," she said, "and today as well. I don't think I've realised it yet, after the race it was very busy and there was a lot going on. I think I need some time to let it sink in."

See Cyclingnews' full coverage of the elite women's World Championship road race.

Aggressive Armstrong shapes Worlds

By Gregor Brown in Varese

Kristin Armstrong (USA) in the time trial earlier this week
Photo ©: CJ Farquharson
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An aggressive Kirsten Armstrong (United States) hit out early and shaped the outcome of Saturday's World Championship road race in Varese, Italy. The 35 year-old fought back after Wednesday's disappointment in the time trial.

"I was upset on Wednesday but within 24 hours I was better. I am a competitor and so I am not going to be smiling at the finish line, but I realised the next morning that I can't be on form every day," Armstrong explained to Cyclingnews. She finished 39th in the race won by Britain's Nicole Cooke.

Armstrong went out on the attack early on into the 138.8km race in Northern Italy. Her presence in the group of 12 was a surprise given her status as a favourite to win the race.

"We knew that of the team, Amber [Neben] and I were the strongest with this sort of course. For many years, it seems the US team would follow different teams' tactics, and today we wanted to go out and race our bikes. I wanted to catch the teams off guard. I knew the leaders would be sitting back and I am a leader so I wanted to give it a go. We created a break, but in road racing, you have to have a little bit of luck on our side.

"We created a gap and Amber obviously was our best climber today. It came down to a bigger bunch than we wanted, but I was able to let her relax in the bunch with Judith Arndt, Marianne Vos and Cooke."

The chasing peloton pulled back the move by the penultimate circuit. Team USA missed the final move including five that formed when Vos attacked on the Montello. Armstrong remains happy with the race, a sanctification made sweeter by the gold that she won at the Olympic Games in August.

"The gold medal is the pinnacle of sport – it is mine – and I will always be a good medal winner. I am happy to be an Olympic Champion."

Arndt captures second bronze in aggressive day of racing

Judith Arndt (Germany)
Photo ©: AFP
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Germany's Judith Arndt has followed up her bronze medal in the World Championships time trial with another in the road race on Saturday. Arndt was part of a five-rider break that went clear in the final lap of the technically challenging 138.8 kilometre road race in Varese, Italy.

A hard-fought last few kilometres saw one attack go after another, but none of them worked out. Then in the final sprint for the line, Arndt finished third behind Nicole Cooke of Great Britain and Marianne Vos of Holland.

"It was a great race. The German team was always on top of things throughout the course," Arndt said afterwards.

"We had three of our riders in an early breakaway, then two riders [Arndt and Trixi Worrack] went again in the final move, so maybe that doesn't look so good. But we tried everything, and attacked again and again because we knew that our rivals could sprint better than either of us."

"That didn’t work out. However, I think we can be proud, the racing was positive, aggressive and fun."

Arndt said Vos' two attacks on the final lap, given the Dutchwoman's strong final sprint, had caught her by surprise. "It was unexpected because I know she's so fast at the finish. But at the same time, it's great to see such an aggressive style of racing, with people attacking all the time!"

Arndt, who was World Champion in 2004, admitted that it had been disappointing to come so close to taking gold for a second time in her career, "but that the others were simply better."

"I know it's the usual thing to say when you get beaten but it does happen to be true. It was really like that. As a team we got in the breaks and did our best. That's what matters."

Last race for Wood

By Hedwig Kröner in Varese

Australia's Oenone Wood finished her last race as a professional rider on Saturday at the World Championships road race. Coming in 63rd on the Varese horse track, the two-time World Cup winner was happy to hang up the bike after this season. Moving back home to Australia to be with her family, she said, was her main priority now.

Asked how it felt to finish one's last race, she responded, "Pretty good actually. I was looking forward to having a good end to my career and going home and moving on to new things."

Looking around at the race finish scenery, which she might not be seeing anymore for awhile, the 2005 World bronze medallist had a hard time realizing that pro racing was now a thing of the past. Did it feel strange? "Well, not yet," she said, taking off her glasses and helmet. "I haven't had the time to think about it perhaps. When I go home and won't have to go training every day - that'll probably feel a bit strange after eight years of riding. But I've been away from my family for a long time, so it'll be nice to be back together with them."

Saturday was also the final race for Wood's Australian teammate Natalie Bates, the 2001 and 2002 Australian time trial champion. Bates claimed gold in the Commonwealth Games road race in Melbourne after breaking away from the field for a solo win in front of a home crowd and helped Wood win bronze at the 2005 UCI Road World Championships.

Duarte's positive doping case to be re-opened

By Jean-François Quénet in Varese, Italy

U23 World Champion Fabio Duarte
Photo ©: Sirotti
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The new Under 23 road world champion, Fabio Duarte, may not be able to celebrate as much as he'd like after his win Friday in Varese, Italy. Like fellow Colombian Santiago Botero, Duarte tested positive for testosterone.

The result came during the Clasica de Girardot prior to the Tour of Colombia in July of 2007. Duarte has been adamant that his values were naturally at that level, and the Colombian federation said it would prove so before July of 2008. However, nothing appears to have been done. Furthermore, the UCI said it knew nothing of Duarte's case until Friday.

Duarte was selected by the UCI to ride for its mixed team in the Tour d l'Avenir earlier this year. He returned to Europe in the colors of the French Club VC La Pomme-Marseille, but he wasn't permitted to race as an amateur in France since he was also registered as a member of the Continental team Colombia ès Passion. Prior to the Tour de l'Avenir, he took part with La Pomme in some one-day races in Italy and the Tour of the Valle d'Aosta where he was forced to pull out due to an insect bite.

"We need to check," said UCI anti-doping manager Anne Gripper, admitting she wasn't aware of Duarte's outstanding anti-doping case until Friday. UCI doctor Mario Zorzoli said that a positive test for testosterone had to be confirmed by an IRMS test, as was done in the case of Floyd Landis at the 2006 Tour de France.

"We will re-open his case," Zorzoli told Cyclingnews.

Relaxed Bertagnolli enjoying Varese

By Gregor Brown in Varese

Leonardo Bertagnolli
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Leonardo Bertagnolli is the most relaxed member of Team Italy's squadra azzurra as the elite men's World Championship approaches. The 30 year-old from Trento is one of two reserves for the nine-man team of defending champion Paolo Bettini.

"It is beautiful, but I don't feel any tension because I won't be racing – it is different," said Bertagnolli to Cyclingnews Wednesday evening. "I am in form these days and the team is going strong. I am sorry that I will not be able to race, but I am content to be here and in the team."

Team Director Franco Ballerini named the nine-man team on September 15 and listed Bertagnolli – winner of Trofeo Melinda and Deutschland Tour stage three – and Francesco Ginanni as the two reserves. They will fill in if one of the nine others cannot race. Last year, Danilo Di Luca pulled out due to a doping investigation and Ballerini replaced him with Matteo Tosatto.

The 2008 team consists of Bettini, Damiano Cunego, Davide Rebellin, Alessandro Ballan, Luca Paolini, Gabriele Bosisio, Marzio Bruseghin, Andrea Tonti and Tosatto. The team heads out every morning for its training rides from Hotel Le Robinie. Bertagnolli joins the other members, including room-mate Cunego, and local professionals every day on the outings.

"Today [Thursday] we did 180 kilometres and tomorrow we will do three to four hours," he said. "Friday we will do some work behind the car and Saturday will be a 'relaxed' day. ... Cunego is calm, I have known him since we were together at Team Saeco, and he never is affected by the tension – very calm."

Bertagnolli announced he will leave Team Liquigas this year to join Team Nippo/Knauf for 2009 and 2010. The team is expanding for next year with the news of its new sponsor Knauf and directeur sportifs Giuseppe Martinelli and Guido Bontempi.

"The team is young but it is managed well. There is Martinelli; he gives me a lot of faith. There is also Bontempi, I know them both well and they both have experience."

Leipheimer dismisses withdrawal claims

By Shane Stokes

Levi Leipheimer (USA)
Photo ©: Riccardo Scanferla
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US rider Levi Leipheimer has dismissed media reports that he pulled out of the US team for Sunday's elite road race at the World Championships, stating that USA Cycling was aware that he would only do the time trial.

"I had never planned on starting, my intentions were always about the time trial," Leipheimer told Cyclingnews this weekend. "I did not pull out of the road race. [USA Cycling's] Andy Lee knew this all along, yet when I arrived in the US, I read his statements saying I pulled out. This is not true."

USA Cycling spokesman Lee told Cyclingnews that Leipheimer, "didn't feel up for the leadership of our relatively young team at the road race".

The Team Astana rider finished up his 2008 season with second place overall in the Vuelta a España, plus fourth place in Thursday's elite time trial. He was 13 seconds behind team-mate David Zabriskie there, narrowly missing out on a bronze medal.

Van Garderen experiences Worlds

By Gregor Brown in Varese, Italy

America's Tejay Van Garderen closed out his fourth World Championships in Thursday's Under-23 road race. Two days after his 42nd place in the time trial, Van Garderen formed part of the five-man national team for the 173.35-kilometre race.

"There were attacks all the time and we were trying to follow moves. I went with that one break that was bridging up. I wish it could have gone further," said Van Garderen to Cyclingnews.

The move did not succeed and Van Garderen settled into a group that contained teammates Chad Beyer and Peter Stetina. The group finished 33 seconds back from winner, Colombian Fabio Duarte.

"The legs are a little flat after a long season. Usually, at this time of the year, I am completely dead and after the time trial, I thought it was the same case. I am glad I was able to finish the races and follow the moves. The US team here does not have a lot of pressure. We proved in l'Avenir we are the main team to contend with, but that is in stage races and we've never really proven ourselves in one-day races."

Van Garderen won stage nine and finished eighth overall in France's Tour de l'Avenir earlier this month.

Van Garderen was pleased to be in Varese even if his team did not medal. "The World Championship you have to do as many times as you can to get your experience. I try to play it down and not get nervous. I have done it twice as the juniors and twice in the under-23 category."

He travels to Spain before closing out his season. "I hope to stay for Sunday and watch the men's race."

Irish men ready for Worlds

Nicolas Roche
Photo ©: Sirotti
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Nicolas Roche, Philip Deignan and Roger Aiken will round out the Irish team in the elite men's road race at the UCI World Road Championships in Varese, Italy on Sunday. The three-man Irish team will be severely outnumbered by the bigger teams like Luxembourg and Italy, who have qualified for nine riders under the UCI regulations for team ranking.

However, Cycling Ireland performance director Frank Campbell is delighted that the team will be riding in the best shape possible.

"The team is looking terrific," said Campbell, "particularly Deignan and Roche. Roche's ride in the Vuelta España was a superb result for him and for the nation as a whole to have somebody back riding in a 'Grand Tour' at such a level. It was superb for him to finish thirteenth overall, get second on a stage and six or seven top tens and if he brings that form to this course it will be useful. This course suits him more than the rest of the team.

"Deignan has just finished the Tour of Poland and although he didn't get super results, he rode very strongly. He's back from Beijing and has already signed for the new Cervelo team next year and he is looking forward to these Championships."

"Roger just has to take the form that he has gained from riding in Ireland in the Rás and the Tour of Ireland. We have asked him to bring that super form with him to help the boys as much as possible," said Campbell: "We don't have enough riders to control the race like the Italians.

"We will have to use the experience and expertise of Roche and Deignan to get Roche to the 200km plus mark as fresh as possible. That's where we think the race will be decided. 260km is unknown for most of the riders here. We have two guys riding here at the highest level and they know what it is all about."

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