Evans Wins Worlds Road Race
Cadel Evans (Australia), who has been chided for finishing second and third too often and for appearing to lack the killer instinct to win major races, is the world road race champion. With four km left, the Aussie showed a clean pair of wheels to eight companions to win the hilly, 19-lap, 262.2-km UCI cycling world championships road race event in Mendrisio, Switzerland in 6:56:26. Alexander Kolobnev (Russia) outsprinted Joaquin Rodriguez (Spain) for the silver medal at 0:27. Evans is the first Australian World road race champion.
Warm, fair skies greeted the riders. During the first lap, Christoph Sokoll (Austria), Matija Kvasina (Croatia), Peter Kusztor (Hungary), Jan Barta (Czech Republic), Yukiya Arashiro (Japan), and Andre Greipel (Germany) sallied off of the front. Two laps later, Mauricio Ardila (Colombia), Gorazd Stangelj (Slovenia), Volodymyr Zagorodny (Ukraine), and Oleg Melehs (Latvia) bridged up to the move. The break of the day had formed.
By the end of the sixth lap, the escapees led the field by 10 minutes. Italy and Spain, the two teams that were widely expected to control the race, went to the front and began to chase. During the next five laps, the bunch would reduce the break's advantage to six minutes.
During the 12th lap, Michele Scarponi and Giovanni Visconti (both from Italy) attacked from the peloton. Francis De Greef and Greg Van Avermaet (both from Belgium) joined the pair, as did Dani Moreno (Spain). Eventually, defending champion Alessandro Ballan (Italy), Rodriguez, Michael Albasini (Switzerland), Johnny Hoogerland (The Netherlands), and Paul Martens (Germany) bridged up to the move. A second chase group, which contained Tom Boonen (Belgium), Michael Rogers (Australia), and Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg), formed. The first chase group was 3:20 behind the leaders, with the second group at 3:59 and the peloton, which contained all of the favorites, at 5:38.
During the 13th lap, the two chase groups merged. The chasers were Ballan, Scarponi, Visconti, and Luca Paolini (all from Italy); Carlos Barredo, Juan Jose Cobo, and Rodriguez (all from Spain); Boonen, Avermaet, De Greef, and Bert De Waele (all from Belgium); Albasini, Oliver Zaugg, and Rubens Bertogliati (all from Switzerland); Rogers; Dmitri Fofonov (Kazakhstan); Sergio Paulinho (Portugal); Lars Bak (Denmark); Hoogerland; Geraint Thomas (Great Britain); Sokoll; Martens; Volodymyr Starchyk (Ukraine); Vladimir Karpets (Russia); Kirchen; Leonardo Duque (Colombia); Christophe Riblon (France); Rein Taaramae (Estonia); and Jose Rujano (Venezuela). At the end of the lap, this group was 3:28 behind the escapees and 1:14 ahead of the peloton.
After 14 laps, the gap between the chasers and the break was 1:53. During the next circuit, the Boonen-Ballan group reeled in the break. By the end of lap 17, the Boonen-Ballan group was 1:19 ahead of the peloton. Attacks in the group had created attrition. The lead group was down to 10 riders.
And then, to quote John Milton, "All hell broke loose." Stangelj attacked on the Acqua Fresca. Kirchen, Paolini, Zaugg, and Rodriguez followed him. Behind, a series of accelerations took place in the peloton. Then, Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) attacked. The resulting combustion formed a group of about 20 riders, which included all of the favorites. Alejandro Valverde, Samuel Sanchez, Oscar Freire, and Rodriguez (all from Spain) were there, as were Damiano Cunego, Ivan Basso, and Filippo Pozzato (all from Italy). In addition, Evans and Simon Gerrans were in the mix for Australia, Alexander Vinokourov was there for Kazakhstan, along with Philippe Gilbert (Belgium), Kolobnev, and Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Norway).
Vinokourov attacked repeatedly. At the start of the last lap, the Kazakh attacked on the Acqua Fresca. Kolobnev and Hoogerland bridged up to him, but Vinokourov dropped them. Behind, Cancellara attacked, and Gilbert, Matti Breschel (Denmark), Sanchez, Valverde, Evans, and Cunego followed him. Cancellara attacked again on the descent, but he could not shake his companions.
Spain, which had four men in the break compared with one rider each for every other nation represented, appeared to hold the winning hand. Rodriguez attacked on the left side of a road that was split by a divider. When the two sides of the road came together again, Evans attacked at the base of the Novazzano. Kolobnev followed Evans, but the Australian left him behind with Rodriguez. At the summit, 2.5 km from the finish line, Evans led the pair by 0:13.
A determined pursuit might have reeled in the Australian, but Valverde and Sanchez would not chase with a teammate, Rodriguez, up the road. Cancellara, whose express intention was to win both the time trial and road race in front of his compatriots, was being marked by the Spaniards. The Olympic and world time trial champion would settle for fifth in the road race.
Rodriguez said that the closing km were surprising. "I was the entire day in the breakaway," he said, "with the intention of working for Alejandro Valverde, but I believe everybody was watching Fabian Cancellara and when Cadel Evans attacked it was a kind of surprise for everybody.
Rodriguez continued by saying "In the radio Alejandro told me to go on in the lead because there was a possibility for me to win. It is a pity that Kolobnev let a space behind Evans, and I am curious to know what would have happened if we arrived the three riders together." Rodriguez added that Evans was a deserving winner.
For his part, Evans said that he made the world championship road race one of his season's goals when he saw the course. His European home is only five km from the course, and he knows the roads. He feels that this year's course suits him better than next year's, which will be in Evans's hometown of Geelong, Australia.
Evans has acquired the reputation of being passive, of waiting for things to happen in races instead of making them happen. Will this victory, which the Australian forged with a well-timed attack, change his style of racing? Will it give him more confidence? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!
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