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UCI World Champs U23 RR - USA and Canada Team Reports
By Staff
Date: 9/29/2007
UCI World Champs U23 RR - USA and Canada Team Reports

U23 National Team puts two in top 30 of World's road race

After 172 kilometers of racing, Tom Peterson emerged as the fastest American from the 168-rider field in the U23 menís road race at the UCI Road World Championships on Saturday. Peterson placed 29th in a field-sprint finish that was won by Slovakian Peter Velits ahead of Australian Wesley Sulzberger and Jonathan Bellis from Great Britain.

Craig Lewis, who became the latest American to sign with a UCI ProTour team after inking a deal with T-Mobile on Friday, finished 30th as the only other U.S. rider in the lead group. Peter Stetina, finished 93rd, 11 minutes, 12 seconds off the pace of the leaders and Max Jenkins placed 110th at +16:24. First-year U23 competitor Tejay Van Garderen withdrew midway through the race after awakening with a fever on Saturday morning.

The nine-lap race was marked by several significant breakaways but ultimately came down to a 50-rider sprint despite the selective nature of the course profile. Once in the final kilometer, Lewis was the first rider to jump but was quickly overpowered by much of the field in the final dash to the line. Without a pure sprinter on the roster, the team was still able to place Peterson and Lewis in the top 30 as both avoided an eleventh-hour crash in the closing meters.

"I thought our chances were pretty low once the last group came back together," Peterson admitted about the teamís prospects in the final sprint, "but youíve got to give it a go. On the last lap there was a group of about 13 riders away and I looked at Craig like Ďwhat do we do, theyíve got 25 seconds?í and he told me there were a lot of strong guys out there and to just see what happens over the next lap and be aggressive and see if we can get to the front and get away or something."

Once the group made contact with the last break of 13 riders with about five kilometers remaining, the speed of the peloton was too high for any more attacks to succeed. "It was going really fast. There was no way we were getting off the front there" Peterson recalled.

Compared to previous editions, the intensity of the U23 road race in Stuttgart was heightened earlier than expected according to Noel Dejonckheere, USA Cyclingís U23 national team director. "A world championship race usually happens in the last two laps, so the plan was to go as long as we could," he explained. "Guys started racing hard early and I think by the time the end came around they just didnít have the juice to pick it up that last little bit."

"I think the only major thing we had working against us is that we really didnít have a big sprinter that can climb a little bit. Tejay was sick this morning, and if you look at Jenkins and Stetina, they are still pretty young and donít have so much experience. I think the other two guys rode as well as they could. They were in the first group but neither of them are true sprinters."

Dejonckheere, who also directs the USA Cycling National Development Team year-round at its home base in Izegem, Belgium, also put Saturdayís performance in perspective given the increased level of competitiveness in the U23 category and a young squad that featured three 20-year-olds and a 19-year old (only Lewis loses his U23 eligibility next season).

"I hope they pick something up from this year. The world championships for Under 23ís isnít a world championship like before anymore if you have guys that did the Giro díItalia already this year racing. There were maybe 25 or 30 riders who are on European Pro Continental Teams that do the Spring Classics and other major pro races and guys who have won category-1 pro races this year in there. You really canít say itís like an amateur race anymore. Itís beginning to reach an extremely high level compared to how it was a few years ago."

Menís under-23 race: surprise finish for the Canadians

In the menís under-23 road race, Peter Velits of Slovakia won in a sprint over Wesley Sulzberger of Australia in second and Jonathan Bellis of Britain in third. The top Canadian in the 171.9 kilometre race was Christian Meier, in 37th who finished with the main pack. David Veilleux was 62nd (1:59 behind) while Keven Lacombe was 84th (9:41 behind). Brad Fairall and Ryan Anderson did not finish.

Canadian team manager Kris Westwood said the Canadian riders tried to set Meier up for a strong finish. "The goal was to have him up front when the attacks started before moving into a breakaway. We were in the mix but the race didnít unfold to our advantage. It became a defensive race and finished in a sprint."

"I had cramps on the last climb in the final lap and I fell behind the pack about 100-metres of the top of the hill. At that point, the lead pack was chasing a breakaway rider and the pace was very fast. I felt good in the pack but Iím disappointed not to finish with the first group," said Veilleux who was pleased with his improvement from last yearís worlds. "I still have two years to ride in this category and Iíll get better."

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