|The last straight of the Worlds was the one for Cipo, when Mario appeared on the podium, his landsmen took over Zolder. They stormed by the policemen who tried to block the roads.....they could do nothing more than just give in. Give in and give over. Some little fights were fought, some battles were won. Zabel impersonated a dissatisfied German, swinging some unhappy remarks towards Australian McEwen.
"After the finish I asked him if he thought we were in a boxing game instead of a cyclingrace. What happened? You will see it if you play back the tape and watch it." |
While the four times winner of Milano-San Remo let loose of his anger, McEwen not move one muscle in his face. Only once his eyes spit fire to the man on the other side of the table. He himself thinks about what happened a little differently than Zabel does. "The last kilometer was a hard one. I came OK out of the last corner, found myself in sixth or seventh positition. There were two Italians in the front, so I knew which wheel to choose. I searched for the wheel of Cipo, but that was a hard job to do. Why? Because Erik Zabel was allready there. So I had to work a little to have it done. I sort of used my hands a little, but you have to do that in preparation for a sprint. While trying to get in the lead, I had to work myself to much through the wind. If that caused me to lose the gold I really can not tell. Of course I am disappointed in me only winning silver."
When McEwen too is asked some questions, the new champion decides once again to attract all the attention and steals Robbie's 3 dl. bottle of water. McEwen once again moves no muscle in his face and when Cipo is enjoying his water, Robbie pulls out a one liter bottle of water which was standing next to him and smiling, drinks a few sips.
Zabel has few to say. While his wife Cordula and son Rick wait outside the press conference room and looking into the world with the same disappointment in their eyes, her husband tells the present press that Il Leone was way too fast. In between almost every word in every sentence he swallows his bad feelings over the outcome and ventilates it to the outside world with firespitting eyes towards the man from Oz.
Cipollini himself felt like the racing-day did only take a few minutes. "I felt extremely good. I was in such a good form I have never been this season so far. In the last part of the race both Petacchi and Lombardi were working very hard to get me in the best possition to win. The whole team worked as one for me. I knew I could take the rainbow jersey home. Everyone in the team just knew what to do. For me it was an easy last kilometre, I was in third postition when we entered the circuit. At about 150 meters before the line I was launched. When I crossed the finish line as the first rider I did not know whether I was dreaming or it was reality. Did not know whether to raise my hands or not. During the race I was very very concentrated. Such concentration never has happened to me so far. Sure I was tensed at for instance Milano-San Remo, but this was a totally different sort of tension. It really was one intense day for me. It looked to me the race only took minutes instead of hours. Today we had a very strong team. We did have some difference in the weeks before, but today all were one. We waited ten years for this. Everybody did his job. It is incredible to win in one year both races I dreamed about, both Il Primavera Rosa and the World Championships. No I do not think this will change my life, I for now am just very very very happy. Realise not I now am wearing the rainbow jersey."
Again one bigger crash marked the last part of the worlds-pro-men-race. While the Spaniards were trying for form a transport train to bring Freire in the best position it was Horillo who moved his bike towards the ground. The following riders all tumbled over him, leaving the two times and reigning world champion by foot. Also Steven de Jongh from Rabobank hit the ground, after finishing 162nd he went to the Antwerp hospital to have his wrist x-rayed. Though the 84.000 spectators saw a somewhat boring race, the Azzuri crowd went out of their mind from joy in celebrating their first pro gold medallist since Gianni Bugno.