Posted by Editor on 10/14/01
Oscar Freire of Spain has won his second world title, much to the delight of the huge Spanish contingent in Lisbon for the race. Freire won a field sprint ahead of 44 other contenders still in the front group after 251 kilometres of racing, edging his Mapei team mate Paolo Bettini (Italy) and Slovakia's Andrej Hauptman. Canada had one finisher - Michael Barry was in the main bunch, in 78th place. Canada's other starter, Mark Walters, did not finish.
The hard circuit, with 2 climbs on each of 21 laps, meant that the pros were not in a hurry to get to work. There was the obligatory suicide break on the first lap, with Kairat Baigudinov (Kaz) and Alexandru Sabalin (Mda) going clear on the second climb. Sabalin dropped back to the peloton by the fourth lap, but Baigudinov managed to hold on until the 6th before being re-absorbed.
For the next 5 laps the peloton was content to ride together, with most riders picking up food on the 9th and 10th laps as they approached the halfway point. The early morning haze was burning off, and it was starting to get hot. Danish rider Frank Hoj made an attempt 125 kilometres into the race (lap 11), reaching a maximum gap of 3 minutes after 20 kilometres. However, the action was starting to heat up, and Hoj was joined on lap 14 by 5 other riders - Ivan Basso (Ita), Florent Brard (Fra), Daniele Nardello (Ita), Jorg Jaksche (Ger) and Aitor Osa (Esp). The lead was only 37 seconds at this point, and Hoj and Brard were replaced on the next lap by Piotr Wadecki (Pol) and Alexandre Moos (Sui).
The Spanish and German teams were being vigilant, and by the end of lap 16 (193.6 kilometres of racing), everything was back together. The peloton was shrinking under the increased speed, and one of the ones to go off the back on lap 16 was Canada's Mark Walters.
"It was very hard, and it was just too damned fast. Once you're off, you're off - there is no coming back. This was my first time doing the (professional) worlds, so it was a learning experience. I learned a lot about preparation and racing this distance."
Michael Barry, in his second year of racing the pro worlds, was still in the race until the final two laps, when the speed went up even higher.
"I was alright until the last 25 kilometres; it was a struggle. There was a small gap over the top (of the second climb on lap 19), but the guys in front were driving it, so the gap opened up fast. If I had been 10 guys further up (in the peloton), I might have done it. But once you are off, the speed is so high that no one goes across (to the front).
I haven't raced since San Francisco, but also the worlds is different then any other race. All the best guys are here, and it just keeps getting faster and faster through the race. The distance is also a big thing - we don't have that sort of length in North America."
At the front there were now less than 90 riders, with all the main contenders present except for the defending champion, Romans Vainsteins (Lat), who dropped off at the same point as Walters.
Danilo Di Luca and Paolo Bettini of Italy tried something at the 210 kilometre mark, gaining 45 seconds on the peloton, but Bettini was considered much too dangerous to let away, and they were the cause of the split in the field that saw Barry go out the back. With 2 laps remaining the front group was down to 59, and the speed was still increasing on the climbs.
Lap 19 saw the average speed go to 43.8 kmph, and lap 20 took it up to 44.2 kmph. As the remaining riders (now down to 45) tackled the last lap, the attacks were coming continously, with Oscar Sevilla (Esp) trying first, followed by Jan Ullrich (Ger), the favourite who had been lurking in the group all day. Ullrich's attack never gained more than a few seconds, as the Italians and Spanish reacted very quickly, setting the stage for a sprint finish.
Erik Dekker (Ned) started the sprint, at about 200 metres, down the right side. Unfortunately for him, he left a small gap next to the fencing and Oscar Freire came rocketing through in the final 50 metres. Freire was followed by Hauptman, while Bettini went to the left of Dekker (with Erik Zabel of Germany on his wheel). Freire was in no danger, with nearly a bike length between him and Bettini, who just squeaked in front of Hauptman by throwing his bike at the line.
- Michael Barry will be moving to a new team (it looks like a European one). He can not say anything until the team announces it formally, but will let us know right away.
- Mark Walters will probably stay with Navigators. He says that the contract is not signed, but that it looks good.
- The UCI has released the 2002 Road calendar, and Montreal is the only Women's World Cup outside of Europe. Philadelphia is gone, although there is a rumour that the U.S. organizer has had a change of heart and is trying to get the Liberty Classic back into the series. Montreal will take place June 1st, with the Lachine Criterium International Feminin on June 3rd. Beauce will take place June 17-23.
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