Fourth placed in last year's race, Sergey Lagutin of Uzbekistan won the
Under-23 men's crown in Hamilton at the world road championships. The
22-year-old proved to be the hardest man against two other hard men - Belgian
Johan Van Summeren and Thomas Dekker (Netherlands). 172.2km of racing
completed in 4hr 14min 05sec was enough to allow a break of 8 men to outfox the
Lagutin, constantly at the front of the race, had always looked strongest on
Beckett Drive - (a climb that Bettini must relish), and rode a very aggressive
race. On the final bend Dekker made the early move, Van Summeren and Lagutin
were strong enough to respond, but the rider from Uzbekistan powered on to win
by half a bike length.
Also see our live coverage
At the After Race Press Conference
By Marianne O'Brien in Hamilton
The hero of the day, Sergey Lagutin, was a very shy boy on stage. He has won
against the odds and has put the disappointment of Zolder, where he came in 4th
last year, behind him. He was very emotional upon winning, and when asked about
it he said, "If I am emotional this year it is because I have won this year!”
Of course his virtual solo performance to victory is more dramatic if you
consider team tactics. Muradjan Khalmuratov was Sergey Lagutin’s only teammate.
As he tactfully reminded the press when asked if team tactics played a part in a
course like, this he said, "For this race team tactics were not useful for me
because we only had 2 guys, but for bigger teams it would help."
So Gold for Uzbekistan, a country like Liechtenstein, one of the only two
doubly landlocked countries in the world. A remarkable double effort by Muradjan
Khalmuratov and champion Sergey Lagutin to take on the big guys and win.
Italy suffered bad luck during the race, but Holland and Belgium almost rode
the perfect race - when Thomas Dekker was asked about team tactics he replied,
"We got two guys in the break which was good because it allowed us to work
together. In the last regroupment there were two Italians, but the man they were
riding for was stuck back in the peloton; he must be unlucky…"
Johan Van Summeren said, "We always had someone in front, and for the break
we had two in front which was good. I think the team tactics worked."
So say the podium boys from U23 today!
Spotlight on the winner
World Champion Serguey Lagutin of Uzbekistan (and Zoccorinese-Palazzago)
Image courtesy of Zoccorinese-Vellutex-Palazzago
The “Zoccorinese” Factor: Are you a young rider from the former USSR ? Do you want to become a World Champion ?? All you gotta do is move to Italy and sign a contract with Zoccorinese-Vellutex. Indeed the strong amateur team based in Seregno, a city located a few miles NW of Milan, can boast a rider in rainbow colors for the third straight year.
In 2001 it was Ukraine’s Yaroslav Popovych that smoked opposition (another Zoccorinese rider, Giampaolo Caruso, was the last one to get dropped) and soloed to victory in Lisbon. The following year it was the turn of a Time-Trialist, Lithuanian Tomas Vaitkus, who grabbed the gold medal in the “race of the truth”.
Then came Lagutin and his winning sprint in Hamilton, which brought Uzbekistan’s green, white and blue colors back into limelight for the first time since the age of “legendary” sprinter Djamolidine Abdoujaparov, whose “duels” with Mario Cipollini wrote a significant page in the great cycling of the early 90s.
Serguey Lagutin - Some Data: The newest Road World Champion comes from deep inside Central Asia: Serguey Lagutin was born on January 14, 1981, in the Eastern Uzbek town of Fergana, an ancient and significant city on the Silk Road in past times, located not far from a Valley (the Fergana Valley) also known as “the Garden of Uzbekistan”.
Lagutin is 1.82 m. tall, and raced for Fergana’s local cycling team from 1992 to 1998, just to move to Italy in 1999, as he signed a first contract with Palazzago (Zoccorinese). After another season at Fergana, he was back to Zoccorinese in the year 2001. Last year he became Uzbekistan’s National Road Champion. A success he couldn’t repeat in 2003, as he lost to MBK-Oktos’ pro rider Sergeï Krushevskiy in both the ITT and RR. Lagutin competed with the pros in some “open” races too, and took home a decent second place in the Croatian ”Trofej Plave Lagune-Porec II”, in the past month of February. But of course he got his best results, including a World Cup race success. when competing in contests reserved Under-23 and Elite-2 riders.