A comprehensive view of the 2002 Road World Championships, with a list of all Medalists and the Final Medals Table.
By a first look at the medals table, you may easily realize that the main winner of these Championships, in national terms at least, is Italy. After two extremely disappointing editions, the "Squadra Azzurra" was back in full power: three Ggld medals, one silver and one bronze say a lot by themselves. But not enough: it should be also added that one of three gold medals was taken in the "big" race, Sunday's EMRR, and especially that it wasn't a single man's victory, but the result of an extraordinary team effort.
After years of self-destructing attitudes, of riding against each other, such that somebody ironically said the Italians' behaviour was part of the "WC charm", the "Azzurri"finally proved they can also do some good things when selfishness is left aside. The pictures of Petacchi sacrifying all of his podium chances (a man that outpsrinted Zabel more than one time in the past weeks could have some) to help Cipo, and of the whole team with their arms raised to celebrate the win of a one-day teammate (at least for most of them), like it was their personal victory, are perfect portraits of the Italian triumph in Belgium.
Other good omens for Italian cycling were the victories of foreign riders usually wearing the jerseys of Italian trade teams. Lithuania's Tomas Vaitkus thanked his Trade Team manager Olivano Locatelli (Zoccorinese-Vellutex) after winning of the U23 Time Trial, and Elite Women's RR Champion Susanne Ljungskog of Sweden did the same to her Trade Team Manager (Team Aliverti-Kookai). Also ITT Gold Medalist Zalfia Zoubriov was often seen riding on Italin roads with the jersey of Chirio-Forno d'Asolo squad on. AAns last but not leats, there's a bit of Italy even in Santiago Botero's triumph, as the coach of the National team giving Colombia a first Gold medal was Italian Gianni Savio. Of course the rider's legs played the most important part in that historical achievement, but also the "veteran" coach of the Colombian team could get one of the greatest satisfactions in his career.
Not every race where Italians were involved had a good outcome for them though: the worst things came from the Elite Women competitions. The lack of good performances by the Italian ladies is becoming a constant feature in this category, proved by the results of the last Giro d'Italia (only a Italian in the top 10 Overall) and confirmed by what they were (not) able to do at the Worlds.
But Italy was not the only winner in these Championships. Just look at the medals table and you'll see Russia take the gold twice, and silver once. Russia is a strong country, especially in Time Trials, and you may expect more talented boys and girls coming from the Moscow and surroundings to win on western Roads in years to come.
Colombia (the only successful country of the American continent in these Championships) and Sweden got their first Gold medals, with even a bronze for a fairheaded Swede in the Junior's Women Road Race, while Lithuania partially made up for the disappointing performances in the Elite Women category thanks to Vaitkus' triumphal ride.
Good results also for Holland, that might have grabbed also a silver medal in the U23 Road Race, but you all know the story of Hans Dekkers' disqualification. Orange was not the main color of these Worlds, but DP's writer Anita van Crey and her compatriots can be satisfied anyway.
Switzerland (4), Germany (4) and Australia (3) got plenty of medals, with the Aussies being the only English-speakers to climb the podium. None of them was the most coveted one, but although fans could legitimately hope in a victory for McEwen and/or Zabel, and the German ladies, their balance for the World Championships should not be negative. But when will Nicole Brãndli stop adding one silver medal after another to her steadily growing collection ?
Also Portugal is worthy of a mention, thanks to ITT sensation Sergio Paulinho. Will the U23 Bronze medalist follow Azevedo's steps and become a pro cycling star, at ONCE perhaps ? And don't forget Finland, with Jukka Vastaranta's being runner-up in a Junior Men's RR marred by too many crashes. Falls and multi-rider pileups were a constant feature (probably the worst one) of these Championships.
The "half full, half empty bottle" award should go to both Spain and France. The Iberians put three medals in store. A good thing. But not the Rainbow Jersey this time. A bad thing. Seems like they somehow repeated at the Worlds the frequent TdF performances of the "Spanish Armada": lots of talent, but still lacking something you'd need to blow opposition away. Or maybe they just stumbled into someone better.
As for France, a World Title is always a very good thing. But this time it was in quite a minor contest (the Junior Men's Road Race), and although this might be enough for Sweden or Portugal (good countries, but NOT "cycling superpowers") to get into the "winner according to the Daily Peloton"exclusive club, it cannot be the same for a nation like France, historically accustomed to better performances. Legendary Jeannie Longo, aged 44, added just another excellent result to her career, by taking seventh in the EWITT and giving a lesson to many girls that could be her daughters; but you can't pretend Longo-Ciprelli to win always and in spite of everything. And Laurent Jalabert will not be there next year ...
As for losers, there's a certain name you may find here, but not down below. in the list of medal winner: BELGIUM !!!! The host country, a bunch of talented riders, competing on home roads, and in a "home weather" that could be of help, in front of thousands of cheering home fans ! Namely the ideal conditions to get an historical result. Well, they probably made history, but not the way many expected to: Belgian riders didn't take a Top 3 spot in ANY of the 10 races disputed in Zolder !!! Nothing. Absolutement rien. Nada de Nada. And we're talking of the most cycling-mad country in the World, used to get excellent results all through the year, and in past editions of the Champiosnhips of course. We are talking of Eddy Merckx's nation !
The picture of Museeuw (not an average rider, but the"Lion of Flanders", the man that said goodbye to Boonen, Hincapie and the rest and dominated Paris-Roubaix in such a way, the man that at age of 37 could add another World Cup to his impressive Palmares. One of the favorites for the EMRR too) trying to get clear, but immediately chased down by Petacchi and Bettini, and swallowed by the Italian-led peloton, is the best portrait of the Belgian failure in Belgium.
Not even Tom Boonen's words on van Petegem taking the gold came true, while the bunch of talented (or presumably talented) young guns didn't show much of their skills in the U23 Races.
Anybody predicting such an outcome for Belgians one week ago please stand up ... But I wouldn't believe you anyway. NOBODY, but really NOBODY could predict such a flop for the home boys (and girls) !!!
As for English-sepaking countries, I previously wrote that only Australia managed to bring some metal stuff home. There's no U23 race in women's cycling, so Nicole Cooke moved all the way from the Juniors to the "Elite" category. And to be against the best, most experienced riders is not the same as dominating a field of fellow teen-agers. The Welsh is still young, but watch out for her in years to come anyway. As for David Millar, there are no doubts that the Scotsman-Maltese should, and can, do better than he did in the EMITT (6th place) but after the crash during the famous Angliru stage at La Vuelta he didn't get to Zolder in perfect conditions,, did he ? Well, even without Jan Ullrich, these weren't "his" World Championships, that's for sure. He'll be trying again next year
Americans usually do not field their best possible squad for the Worlds, and this edition was no exception to the rule, although next year's Championships in nearby Ontario could be. Despite of this trend, a few USA riders had some good results in recent years, with Danny Pate even taking the gold in the U23 Time Trial no more than 12 months ago.
This year's performances were not the same though, with Magen Long taking 5th in the JWRR and a few more top 10 placing as the only things worthy of a mention. All the fuss about Guido Trenti working for Cipo or Rodriguez proved to be fuss over nothing, as in the final sprint "L'Americano" seemingly was just the leadout man of ... himself. He took 16th, while Fred Rodriguez finished a few places behind.
Gènevieve Jeanson's chances were spoiled by a tendinitis in her left knee, such that she was forced not to take the start in the Road Race and get back to Canada. But winning against the "who's who" of women's cycling could have been a very hard task even for a fit GJ. The same things I said about Nicole Cooke could apply also to the 21-year-old from Lachine. You may legitimately expect the Quebecer to dominate Women's cycling, and NOT ONLY at North-American level, but just in years to come. Maybe starting from next year , with the race held on home roads.
Another quite disappointing country was Ukraine: the boys in yellow and blue had delighted fans with great performances in past editions (last year in particular, with Oleskander Kvachuk and Yaroslav Popovych as gold medal winners), but this wasn't Ukraine's year. TT specialist Gontchar/Honchar wasn't there, Yaroslav "the Great" Popovych (the undisputed king of U23 cycling in the past season) turned into "Yaroslav the Wise" (a rookie wishing to learn to ride in the pro cycling world too, but not in a hurry to get immediate victories. Just copy and paste the words spent for Cooke and Jeanson. They should be appropriate for Popovych too), and in the U23 Road Race Gryschenko didn't repeat last year's performance, whereas a fast man such as Roman Luhovyy wasn't part of the east-european squad.
Also Ireland (who had a strong team in the U23 RR, and Stephen Roche's son Nicolas competing in the Junior category), Denmark, Norway and Poland had better results in the past. We owe a special mention to Uzbekistan, homeland of "legendary" former sprinter Djamolidine Abdoujaparov: with his 4th placing in the U23 Road Race, Sergey Lagutin came close to take his country into the "medalists club". A great result which even yours truly would have welcomed. Certainly having such a list with Uzbekistan inside, and Belgium outside, would have been a very strange thing.
2002 ROAD WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS - RESULTS
(All PODIUM PLACES)
ELITE MEN'S ROAD RACE:
1. Mario Cipollini (Italy) - 5h30'03"
2. Robbie McEwen (Australia) - s.t.
3. Erik Zabel (Germany) - s.t.
ELITE MEN'S ITT:
1 Santiago Botero Echeverry (Colombia) - 48'08'45"
2 Michael Rich (Germany) - at 08"23
3 Igor Gonzalez De Galdeano (Spain) - at 17"15
ELITE WOMEN'S ROAD RACE:
1 Susanne Ljungskog (Sweden) - 2h59'15"
2 Nicole Brändli (Switzerland) - s.t.
3 Joane Somarriba Arrola (Spain) - s.t.
ELITE WOMEN'S ITT:
1. Zoulfia Zabirova (Russia) - 30'02"62
2. Nicole Brändli (Switzerland) - at 14"70
3. Karin Thürig (Switzerland) - at 15"65
U23 MEN'S ROAD RACE:
1 Francesco Chicchi (Ita) - 3h36'28"
2 Francisco Gutierrez (Spa) - s.t.
3 David Loosli (Swi) - s.t.
U23 MEN'S ITT:
1. Tomas Vaitkus (Lithuania) - 38'40"80
2. Alexandr Bespalov (Russia) - at 41"69
3. Sergio Paulinho (Portugal) - at 1'28"96
JUNIOR MEN'S ROAD RACE:
1. Arnaud Gerard (France) - 2h50'17"
2. Jukka Vastaranta (Finland) - s.t.
3. Nicolas Sanderson (Australia) - s.t.
JUNIOR MEN'S ITT:
1. Mikhail Ignatiev (Russia) - 28'30"37
2. Mark Jamieson (Australia) - at 10"36
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) - at 25"98
JUNIOR WOMEN'S ROAD RACE:
1. Suzanne De Goede (Holland) - 1h59'00"
2. Claudia Stumpf (Germany) - s.t.
3. Monica Holler (Sweden) - s.t.
JUNIOR WOMEN'S ITT:
1. Anna Zugno (Italy) - 15'54"21
2. Tatiana Guderzo (Italy) - at 6"54
3. Claudia Hecht (Germany) - at 7"21
2002 ROAD WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS - MEDALS TABLE (per Nation)
Red = Gold Medals
Blue = Silver Medals
Green = Bronze Medals
ITA: 3- 1-1
RUS: 2- 1-0
SWE: 1- 0-1
FRA: 1- 0-0
HOL: 1- 0-0
COL: 1- 0-0
LIT: 1- 0-0
SWI: 0- 2-2
GER: 0- 2-2
AUS: 0- 2-1
SPA: 0- 1-2
FIN: 0- 1-0
POR: 0- 0-1