Posted by Editoress on 10/3/10
Hushovd's win gives Norway's its first elite men's road race title
Thor Hushovd gave Norway their first ever elite men's road title in the premier event of the Road World Championships on Sunday. Hushovd outkicked fellow Scandinavian Matti Breschel of Denmark and Australia's Allan Davis. Pre-race favourite Filippo Pozzato of Italy finished fourth. Canada had only one finisher - Svein Tuft in 85th place. Dominique Rollin and Christian Meier were both dropped, and did not complete the race.
The race came close having a completely different ending, after a break of five gained over 23 minutes on the 82 kilometre opening segment from Melbourne to the finishing circuit in Geelong. The break came within 50 seconds of completing a lap before the peloton entered the circuit, which would have theoretically disqualified the entire field - except for Esad Hasanovic (Serbia), who was chasing on his own, halfway between the leaders and the pack.
"The [slow start] changed nothing – slower or faster," commented Hushovd. "But I was really scared on [what would happen] if the [breakaway] lapped us. I didn't know what the rules were if a breakaway lapped the field."
The five riders - Diego Alejandro Tamayo Martinez (Colombia), Jackson Rodriguez (Venezuela), Mohammed Said Elammoury (Morocco), Oleksandr Kvachuk (Ukraine) and Matthew Brammeier (Ireland) - attacked before the race had cleared Melbourne, and their lead began building quickly.
As the race went by the You Yangs mountains, with 30 kilometres still to go to Geelong, the gap was approaching 23 minutes - maxxing out at 23:30 - and the U.S. team finally went to the front to limit any further damage.
Team USA at the front chasing
Once the race entered the 15.9 kilometre circuit for 11 laps, that gap began to fall, with Belgium moving to the front for their man Philippe Gilbert. The Moroccan rider Elammoury dropped off the lead group after one lap, but the other four continued to work together steadily.
Initially, the gap came down slowly, with none of the teams willing to commit too many resources to the chase. With four laps completed, the gap was still 16 minutes, and it was starting to look like this break had a chance. However, a lap later the Spanish and Italian teams decided to get serious, and they quickly knocked four minutes off the lead.
The higher pace was having an impact on the peloton, with riders falling off the back on the climbs. With 100 kilometres of racing left the gap was down to ten minutes, and 20 riders had split off the front of the peloton, including defending champion Cadel Evans, Stuart O'Grady, Simon Gerrans (all Australia), Gilbert, Pozzato, Vincenzo Nibali, Matteo Tosatto and Giovanni Visconti (all Italy). Many members of the peloton came back after the climbs, but the pattern was set: each lap more riders were shed, and less managed to get back on each time.
"I thought that big attack with five laps to go surprised us all," said Hushovd. "I was hesitating on whether to go or not but I saw [Oscar] Freire and a few guys sitting back so I didn't go. I had Edvald Boasson Hagen in front for Norway so that was good enough, and then Spain and Russia controlled it."
By lap seven, Kvachuk had dropped the rest of the break and was continuing to push on himself, but the writing was on the wall, and his gap was down to five minutes by the end of the lap. Two laps later, he was less than two minutes in front, and the Italians were really starting to apply pressure, with the Ukrainian finally caught late in the lap after 220 kilometres out in front.
Oleksandr Kvachuk spent over 200 kilometres at the front
Nibali launched a serious attack halfway through lap nine, which decisively decimated the field. He started lap ten with a 22 second gap on a chase group containing Evans, Gilbert and Pozzato, and the main bunch at 49 seconds, being driven by Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland). But it was too early, and the bunch came back together to start the last lap.
Gilbert finally made his move on the Montpellier climb, with Evans reacting instantly. The Belgian had 14 second at the top of the first climb, and was 22 seconds clear by the top of the second climb.
With six and a half kilometres to go, the chase was being lead by Evans, Paul Martens (Germany), Alexandr Kolobnev (Russia), Koos Moerenhout (Netherlands) and Frank Schleck (Luxembourg). But the chase was not organized, with most of the chasers looking to Evans to do the work.
At 3.4 kilometres to go a group of 20 caught the Evans group and then pulled a tiring Gilbert back with less than two kilometres remaining. Vladimir Gusev (Russia) and Janez Brajkovic (Slovenia) immediately counterattacked, and were joined by Niki Terpstra (Netherlands), but the field was having none of it, and as they swept around the final corner for the 500 metre uphill run to the finish there were 25 riders in contention.
Hushovd moved into the lead on the left hand side of the road with 150 metres to go, and easily held on to take the title.
"I think I did a good race, I didn't panic and of course I paid with this in the end. Of course, the last lap was really hard when Belgium attacked with Phillippe Gilbert, but I think the wind was too strong out there, so it was too hard to stay in front alone. In the sprint I just focused on myself and to not make any mistakes. 'Just don't mess it up' I said to myself so many times in the last kilometre and, yeah, I think I did the perfect race out there today."
The championships ended on a high note for Australia, with Davis taking the third medal for the host nation, giving them a bronze to go with gold (Matthews in the U23 road race) and silver (Durbridge in the U23 time trial).
"It was amazing," stated Davis. "I am the only one up on the podium, but for sure it was a huge team effort. I thought we rode tactically brilliantly today. With three guys in the main split there, and myself just playing my cards on a small group finish which it came down to, with Freire there, Thor there. As Thor said, Spain and Russia controlled it."
"After 260 kilometres, sprinting after that distance is a lot different. The majority of the races throughout the year it is pretty normal to cramp, especially in an uphill finish like that. I was in a high cadence, and I should have stayed there but I went down a cog and cramped straight away. But there is no taking away from Thor today. Not only in the sprint, but Thor closed the gap in the last lap by himself, and to do what he did in the sprint, there is no taking that away from the World Champion."
- Dom Rollin was out of the race on the first lap of the circuit after stopping with other riders for a 'nature break'. He was less than happy (to put it mildly):
"A junior mistake as well as the race is really unorganized and I am paying the price for it. I saw a couple of guys stop for a pee break including [Germany's André] Greipel, so I stopped with them because it was the last moment we could [stop] before the race really gets on. I left maybe 100m behind [Greipel's] group - there are ten guys in front of me - and as I am leaving and trying to chase back on I realize there is no more caravan, which is unusual."
"I was like, 'where's the cars?'. So I panicked a little bit, but I managed to get back to whatever cars were left behind the field on the first climb, and they just did barrage [allowed no room for riders to move between the cars]. So they had stopped all the cars behind me. Which is something you never do, because I wasn't dropped and there was no reason. So there were two or three guys stuck in the middle of nowhere trying to chase by ourselves back onto the field, and that is when they split the field in two. So, my race is over because the commissaires are a bunch of amateurs that don't know a thing about cycling. And you can quote it like this. I don't care."
"So sometimes we suffer from their decisions, and sometimes their decisions don't make sense, like having the caravan following the breakaway for three laps. Normally if you are afraid of the breakaway coming back on the field you stop certain cars, but you don't stop the whole caravan."
- Christian Meier came to Australia from his wedding, and lasted until approximately the 200 kilometre mark.
"I think the course was a lot harder than what people expected. Everyone after watching the last couple of days of racing thought, 'oh it probably won't be so bad'. Some of the sprinters thought they would have a chance again but it turned out to be a lot more taxing than it showed."
"The hardest part as they said was the hills, but over the top and on the downhills it would string out and gaps would open up every time after the hills. I was hoping for some better legs today but unfortunately that's how it goes. I could tell from the start and the first kilometres that it wouldn't be a good day for me. I was hoping to come down here after I had some good form at the Tour of Britain and I think I have had some pretty good form before that so I was hoping to extend that to the Worlds, but that was probably about the end of the line - the end of the string for me."
On the impact of his wedding last weekend:
"Yeah, I got married last weekend so that was fantastic. My preparation was fine. I was still able to do what I had to do. Unfortunately I still have some more racing to do before we get to jet off [on the honeymoon]. But she [Amber] is obviously a fantastic girl and understands what's going on, so I am pretty lucky that way. My last race is the Tour of Lombardia on the 17th , and we'll take off on the 19th."
- Svein Tuft stayed with the front group until two and a half laps to go, and then rolled in with the main peloton:
"It was one of those things. There is not a lot more to say. You either have it on a course like this or you don't. And today I was just trying to conserve a lot, and stay around the guys I know. I looked at the USA guys who are also my [Garmin-Transitions] teammates and I know they are rallying for Tyler [Farrar - USA], and they are going to do everything they can to keep it together and to keep Tyler there."
"I figured my best bet was to set the climbs with him and kinda stick around those guys. It is all about conserving yourself on these kinds of courses. With 260 kilometres, the lights go out with two laps to go. You can't follow anyone more or less get over the climbs. I just tried to really be conservative but it just didn't pan out. When it really smashed down there, even if you are right there, it is hard to follow those guys like [Philippe] Gilbert. I wasn't in the greatest position, but even if I was I don't know if I had the real snap to go with them. They go on that steep part of that steep climb and they are sprinting all out."
- There was considerable discussion over whether the lack of radios contributed to the near lapping of the field by the break. The three medalists all provided their perspective:
I don't think it changed the outcome of the race too much, because we know what we have to do. The problem is it is hard to know what the time gaps are all the time. I think it is better to have the radio because it is safer, or else the cars have to come up. If they want to talk to the riders they have to drive up to the bunch, and I think this is more dangerous for the riders.
I don't know but the bigger teams maybe would need a radio. It might be easier for Denmark and Norway and other smaller teams. If you are Italian or Australian maybe it would be nice [to have radios] to know what is going on a little bit, especially if you have to pull and are just a helper. But it is true what Thor said.
I think we all know what we are doing. We are quite used to racing with radios so it is pretty hard to adapt 'like that'. I think if you would ask the Spanish they would give you a different answer. They were swapping off with only two riders for a long time, until three guys dropped back from that main split. I am sure that if they had race radio they would have dropped back a lot earlier. But everyone is in the same boat. We have grown up racing without radios, so it is just a matter of getting back into that frame of mind again.
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