Posted by Editor on 10/13/02
Super Mario has added the world title to his list of palmares, after an impressive display of power by the entire Italian squad. Robbie McEwen (Aus) was second, and Erik Zabel (Ger) third, but they could barely hang on to Cipollini's wheel in the final sprint.
Canada's lone entrant, Charles Dionne, rode an extremely impressive race, always keeping towards the front and looking comfortable among such distinguished company. Unfortunately, in the final 3 kilometres he was delayed by a crash just enough that he lost contact with the front group of 27 riders. Dionne finished 37th, 39 seconds back.
"My plan was to stay at the front as much as possible, and avoid losing positions. I was worried about the distance, because I haven't done a race this big at this length before. The Italian team was pushing the pace at the end to 60-65 kilometres per hour, and when the crash happened a guy went down right beside me. I didn't go down, but I had to break, and then I couldn't close the gap to the front group which opened up. But I'm satisfied; I achieved all my goals this year, and I will sleep with a smile on my face tonight."
Dionne's ride, along with his win in the San francisco GP last month, have opened a lot of eyes. After the race, there were two Euro-squad representatives waiting to talk with him.
"I have talked with some people (since San Francisco), but I was concerned more about a good ride today. I have an agent, so we'll start working on it next month. At this point I am open to all options, both in the U.S. and Europe."
The men's race began under cold and damp conditions, with a mist giving the venue an otherworldy appearance. If the damp had stayed, or even worst changed to rain, we might have seen a totally different race. But it didn't; the ground dried up and the sun began to shine by the halfway point. Frenchman Jack Durand tried one of his patented early solo breaks, but he wasn't given any slack by the Italians, who reeled him in by the end of the first lap, and again on the second.
His team mate Christophe Moreau went next with Kazahkstan's Dmitriy Muravyev, and this duo were clear for 7 laps, reaching a maximum gap of nearly four minutes before being shutdown just after the halfway point in the race.
Next to go, on the following lap, were David Millar (GBR), former world champion Oscar Camenzind (Sui) and Peter Wrolich (Aut). They would get barely more then a minute before the Australians, Germans and Poleschased them down, bringing everything back together by the end of the 16th lap.
From that point on it was all Italy. "We were going 60-65 kilometres all the time" said Dionne. "I was just working to maintain my position, because if you dropped back into the corners, you would come almost to a complete stop and would have to sprint back up to 60 again. It was incredible."
Local Belgian favourite Johan Museeuw went with a little over 2 laps remaining, but Italy's Paolo Bettini quickly joined him, as did Guido Trenti, the Italian who races as an American. This move was extremely short lived, and the final two laps were a death march, punctuated by the crash at the bottom of the climb that completely split things up.
The Italians then delivered Cipollini to the final 200 metres, where he did what he does arguably better then anyone else in the world.
Now, we will have to wait until next year to see what sartorial splendor the always inventive Cipollini can bring to the rainbow world champion's colours.
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