Posted by Editoress on 09/25/08
Road World Championships - Men's ITT Varese, ITA
Svein Tuft gave Canada it's first men's road medal at the world championships since Steve Bauer took bronze in the road race at the 1984 Worlds in Barcelona by taking silver in the time trial today. For the European press, it led to a plaintive question in the press conference: "Who are you?"
Svein laughed, and explained that he normally races in North and South America, which is why they won't have seen his name very much.
Tuft's silver behind Bert Grabsch of Germany (and ahead of American David Zabriskie) was even more impressive considering he punctured his front tire with six kilometres to go and had to switch from an aerodynamic time trial bike to a less efficient road racing bike. So, there is the obvious question: did it cost him the world title?
"You can never know about that sort of thing. I think I went through one of the corners a little 'hot', and then in the next corner I could feel the bike squirming around. We had a quick change, so didn't lose much time, and that [speculation] is the sort of thing you can't guess about. At that point I think it was the quickest way; to change bikes rather than fiddle around with a wheel change. I'm definitely happy with where I finished."
The early race leader was Janez Brajkovic (Slovenia), with a time of 53:26.76 for the 43.7 kilometre race. Ten riders later Tony Martin (Germany) bumped Brajkovic by nine seconds, and then Stijn Devolder (Belgium) very briefly took the lead before Tuft came in right behind him to set a new fast time of 52:44.39 . However, Grabsch was right behind Tuft, so the Canadian time trial champion was bumped to second by a substantial margin of 42.79 seconds.
After that, both riders had to wait for the final 12 riders to finish, and confirm that they had finished first and second. Zabriskie, who is still recovering from a back injury suffered in a bad crash at the Giro d'Italia, came in eight and half seconds behind Tuft to move into third, but the seven riders remaining included top contenders such as David Millar (Great Britain), Michael Rogers (Australia) and Olympic silver medalist Levi Leipheimer (USA). Leipheimer is coming off a second place overall finish in the Vuelta a Espana the previous week, and was seeded number one.
Leipheimer came closest to upsetting the leaders, finishing fourth, 13 seconds out of the medals, but it was Grabsch, Tuft and Zabriskie who held on to win the podium spots.
"I knew this morning that I was on a good day," commented Tuft. "Finishing seventh in Beijing sure gave me a huge confidence builder, and then I came back to North America to do some races, and had a good preparation for Worlds. I had a solid ride at the Tour of Missouri [finishing third overall], which set me up perfectly for here."
"This is the first year that I've had the opportunity to focus on the Olympics and the worlds. normally our team starts racing real early, so I'm pretty flat by the time Worlds come around. To be able to start to build up later in the year has been a great experience, and I was able to come to the Worlds fresh and motivated."
"This is pretty unbelievable, and right now I'm just in a state of shock. I knew I could have a good ride after Beijing, but this is beyond expectations."
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