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World Championships - Elite Men's Road Race - LIVE
 
By Staff
Date: 10/3/2004
World Championships - Elite Men's Road Race - LIVE
 

Hello, good morning and welcome to the last day of the Worlds 2004 in Verona. Today is THE day the elite men conquer their gold, silver and bronze. Who will take home the rainbow jersey? Follow the action here, press F5 for regular updates. Commentary today: Bart Hazen of cyclingfx and Marco Pinotti's site, Jan Janssens, Andrew McDobbin, Anita van Crey and podofdonny.

10.00 CET
The start. At the first row we do see all the Spaniards, ready to defend Astarloa's title. Crowds are siding the streets. At the back of the pack it is Paolo Bettini riding quietly (as much as he can....), still enjoying the sights in Verona.

The race runs over 18 laps of the Torricelle circuit (featuring the 3.4-km. Torricelle climb, whose average gradient hovers around 4%, with the max. gradient going up to about 7%). The map of the circuit is as follows:

The race is now 2km underway with the Spanish riders in front of the race while "Il Grillo" Paolo Bettini rides in last position of the peloton. They are now on the 1st climb of 18 of the Toricelle. It seems Bettini did forget his computer thingy on his bike which tells him his speed and so on and he asked the organisation for special permission to have it handed over by one of their mechanics (since it is not allowed to take anything - normally meant for beverages and food) in the first parts of the race. Christophe Le Mevel from France is the 1st rider in the attack today. Christophe is during the season riding for Credit Agricole. He takes over 30 seconds quickly.

10.17 CET, first lap
Le Mevel has been a pro since 2002 and hasn't won anything so far. This year he was 3rd in a stage of the Tour de L'Avenir and in 2003 he was 2nd in stage 2 of the Route du Sud and won the mountains jersey in 2003 Tour de L'Avenir. Christophe is born on 11 Sept. 1980, so he is now 24 years old. He has been riding his whole pro career so far for Credit Agricole. Our young French-gun has already 1.05 on the peloton. Le Mevel passes by the feedzone, where it is not allowed to hand over any food or drinks during the first two laps.

Paolini did start with his long sleeved jacket on, but decides it is already warm enough to get rid of it. Since the riders had to stand at the start a longer time, it was a smart decision to have something warmer on then.

The peloton is taking it as easy-going as we suspected...uh...expected. Le Mevel crossed the finish line for the first time today, with a gap op 1.30". Still 17 laps to go. At the second climb of the Torricelle a countryman of Vainsteins takes over the commands of the bunch, immediately followed by a Spaniard in his wheel. Raivis Belovochiks working in the peloton, presumably for Romans Vainsteins. You would think they'd save their men for a little bit later in the race and let the Spaniards/Italians take their responsibility...

A teammate of his said that Romans is in good shape and that he thinks that Romans is a serious candidate for a good ranking. But it's indeed a little bit early to let Raivis working. Fact is: it's not always a handicap to be with a very small team at the worlds....nobody looks your way to get work done, and you can slide along with every acceleration.

10.38 CET, second lap
Vainsteins hasn't a contract so far for next year because there was no place anymore in Lampre, due the fusion between this team and Saeco. So he has to search for another team and the Worlds a good place to show himself. But that goes also for other riders without a contract for 2005 so far. Le Mevel has 1.23 left. There are a lot of fans and family of riders present in Verona. Still there are some left at home at the couch, nervously eating fingernails and so on when their loved-ones do race.

Dutch Gerben Löwik has his father present at the spot, mom and sis are joined together in front of the tele. Gerben's sister also webmasters his website, which probably will be re-styled, since Löwik switches from Chocolade Jacques to Rabobank next season.

Back in the race it is again Belovochiks pulling hard, and then attacking...but he doesn't get away. There are already a ton of people at the sides of the road, and the race has yet to 'really' start. Murillo Fisher from Domina Vacanze is the 1st rider who abandoned today. Fisher is Brasilian.

10.46 CET, into the third lap.
A Swedish rider tries to escape from the peloton...no reaction of the peloton so far. Paolo Bettini and Simeoni talking in the peloton...which is interesting, cos Bettini recently had to testify in the case Simeoni vs. Armstrong. He was on Simeoni's side during the whole thing, unlike for example Nardello. And the same Nardello is also in the Squadra Azzurri, I'm wondering if these 2 (Nardello and Simeoni) are roommates...The Swedish chaser is nr. 198, Jonas Ljungblad. And Sergei Yakovlev, the Kazak rider, is riding more than 1.00" behind the peloton.

I'll guess he has had a flat tire or crashed in the descent of the Torricelle. Belovochiks broke loose from the peloton and is now going after Ljungblad and the lone Frenchman. In this race, ten countries are allowed to start with 12 riders. Two countries start with 13 riders while Spain is allowed one rider more since Astarloa won last year and the Olympic champion is allowed to start as well. So home country Italy has thirteen riders as well. Freire at this moment finds himself in the front of the bunch already. Normally this is no spot for the Spaniard this early in the race. In Lisbon he was, until three laps from the finish, way way behind. Santi Botero woke him up, whispered in his ear there might be a massive spurt coming up and brought him back to the front lines. The result, we all know: Freire won and went home the champion. The current situation: Le Mevel -> Ljungblad @ 50 seconds -> Belovochiks @ 1.05 -> peloton @ 1.52.

10.59 CET, 4th lap.
While our commentators are seriously fighting sleep as the race tends to be a bit on the boring side in these early these stages, we do see it raining attacks at the moment, Belohvosciks catching up Ljungblad and a British rider who also tried to get away. But the rider from Britain is back in the peloton, they don't let him go. Ljungblad and Belohvosciks are caught by the peloton and a British rider tried again to get away. The Brit rider is Charly, last name Wegelius.

Luciano Pagliarini now in the contra-attack, he missed a turn but didn't crashed. It's kind of weird - a sprinter who attacks in a circuit with every lap a difficult climb. The famous crash-turn in the downhill part of the Torricelle is now known better as the Zugno-turn, since the Italian women heading for the lead in yesterday's race went down there.

11.10 CET
I'm wondering if Van Petegem still rides in the back of the peloton, because I didn't see him anymore. Or does he change his mind and tactics already. Nah, back of the peloton, I'm sure. Next to attack is Belgium's Jurgen van Goolen. I saw Nick Nuyens over there but not De Peet...Hehe...maybe he dropped out of the peloton. It's raining counter-attacks now.

Le Mevel has 37 sec. on Pagliarini and 52 sec on the peloton. The peloton is a long-stretched line, which says a lot about the pace there now. Le Mevel, Crédit Agricole man, is wearing old Mapei-gloves if I see that well... But it is still early for our Euro-commentator Sir Janssens...who no doubt has had an eventful Saturday night...

Brochard in the mean time has a mechanical and switches his frontwheel. Pagliarini looks like he would parking his bike already against the border. The Russian rider (Efimkin) now joins him, to keep him company during the lonely rides over the course. That duo is 30 seconds behind our brave French leader, Le Mevel...the peloton still on a minute or so.

Uh Jan, Le Mevel has 58 sec. on the duo and 1.25 on the peloton. 1.43 already for the bunch. The Russian is already leaving Pagliarini behind on the Torricelle. The peloton is keeping everything within check at a reasonable distance so far...it's highly unlikely that someone will pull off a Zabriskie today (who isn't at the worlds, btw).

In this more or less quieter parts of the race, riders take their time to check their plumbing and lose some bodyfluids they do not need anymore.... for the American team I'll guess Danielson and Horner are their best men for today. Maybe also Fast Freddy but that depends on how he is doing it on the 18 climbs of the Torricelle.

11.29 CET
Thorwald Veneberg, one of the Dutch riders here in Verona did sign for yet another year at his present team Rabobank. 14 laps to go. The current situation: Le Mevel leading, Efimkin behind him, then Pagliarini, with the peloton following at 2 minutes of Le Mevel. Efimkin...never heard that name before...Same here.

Efimkin is a Russian elite 2 rider, but that's all I know, 5th in the Russian RR this year...so far we did find this out about the Russian rider. And he finished 6th in GP Industria e Commercio Artigianato last year - he's only 22 years old. In today's race, Efimkin is coming closer, 28 sec. behind Le Mevel. The peloton in a very relaxed state now, spread wide over the road. I'm wondering if we shall see Andrej Hauptmann again today, he is a real championships rider. You're telling me, I don't know how he does it. 5th in the Olympics this year, 4th in the Zolder 2002 Worlds and 3rd in the 2001 Worlds.

11.36 CET, one and a half hours on the road already
Efimkin is slowly closing in on Le Mevel, he's at some 10-15 seconds now. Frank Hoj is another of those men who is always up for the big races. But so is old fox Dmitri Konyshev. The older Russian still is present. When he ain't racing, he plays ice hockey as a hobby, together with former pro Andrej Tchmil, who now lives in a new built home at the Garda Lake shores in Salo. The two of them play hockey in Brescia. Just like Dimitri Konychev, the old Russian warrior, and like Ekimov, who's still riding in the peloton. He has a contract for the Italian trade team 2 Team LPR. He will ride also next year for that team I suppose.

Some images from the beautiful city of Verona...exquisite. If my memory serves me correctly, Konyshev took third in the 1989 Worlds. Alejandro Borrajo, who replaced TinTin, is riding for Panaria, a fact apparently unknown to the Belgian co-commentator on television and DS Hendrik Redant..Efimkin reaches Le Mevel, and new situation now: two leaders!! Pagliarini should be hanging somewhere between the peloton and them, but he's probably done for anyway. Nice effort by the young Russian.

Looks like Brazil's chances are hanging in the balance, unless 'B' World Champion Murillo Fischer can take an 'A' one. Murillo is almost home again. He left the race after 1 lap. Well, clearly it's a long shot then. So Brasil has with Pagliarini one rider left in the race but I'm more or less sure he won't complete the race either.

I knew it wasn't a good idea to bet a month's pay on Brazil taking the worlds. Hey, count yourself lucky, man - I put a month on Uzbekistan! Do they even have a team? Yes, one man. Lagutin. Though I'm outraged by that decision, as Sergei Krushevskiy (Oktos) has been in much better form recently. I'm holding out for Great Britain, who have brought quite possibly the worst team ever....Nah only joking. Tom Southam, never heard of him!?! He rides with Amore e Vita. Southam has over a thousand tunes on his iPod; in British cycle magazine Cyclesport, the young Brit advises people what tunes are good. I wish they'd invite cyclists in They Think It's All Over. Jonathan Ross rocks. That show is so funny. For non Brits, that show is on BBC.

11.54 CET
In the meanwhile in Verona, Le Mevel and Efimkin have a 1.43" lead over Pagliarini and 2.55" over the peloton. The peloton is now at 3.00 of the 2 leaders. And Pagliarini is doing a "chasse patat" as they call it in Belgium. I was thinking about shock World Championship road race wins; when was the last one? This seems like the race where it is impossible for an early break to stay away. Lance Armstrong in the rain-battered 1993 Oslo race, before he became a tad more well-known? Rudy Dhaenens in 1990? You never get a 'real' surprise winner, seemingly. The last one was Freire... A "Chasse patat" is a meaningless pursuit.

Paglia should better stop and take his place again in the bunch. It looks like this situation will be staying status-quo for a while: the peloton seems to be ok with the current leaders; and will just keep their lead in check before the big guns start cracking. And the last thing so far I will say is that our Latvian rider Raivis Belohvosciks has taken his place in the boxes, and will see the rest of the race on television. Now Latvia 'only' have 2000 world champion Romans Vainsteins (Lampre) left...This is the perfect time to grab something to eat, drink, or make a sanitary stop...both for the peloton and us at home.

Last lap, the Torricelle was climbed in 8 minutes and 4 seconds. Still our two leaders with Pagliarini doing his "chasse patate" behind them.

Efimkin and Le Mevel ->@2.25 Pagliarini ->peloton @ 4.42. Frank Schleck is riding here today for Luxembourg; he'll be happy to know that his younger brother Andy has signed a pro contract for 2005 with CSC - the same team as him!Nearing the end of the 6th lap now...12 laps to go, or 177kms. Your last name wouldn't be Schleck would it, Andy? I'm English by day, Luxembourgeois by night...The Schlecks are a big cycling family; strange in such a small country. Andy and Frank's father Johnny also rode for five years with Bic between 1969 and 1974, alongside no less than Lucien Aimar and Jacques Anquetil.

12.23 CET
Pagliarini is joking around with the crowd as he is riding at more then 3.00 behind the 2 leaders. He knows it's pointless...but he's shown himself today, which probably was his only ambition. Showing off the sponsor's name....which is Brazil??? But it's all good publicity nonetheless, for himself and the country. Yeah, that would it be I'll guess, because he has already a team for 2005. Indeed, he's off to the brand-new Liquigas squad.

The Italians, Aussies and Dutch have the most men up front in the peloton, making for blue, white and orange coloured spots seen from the air. Either that, or you have serious eyesight problems! Le Mevel's Crédit Agricole outfit is really bulking up for the Pro Tour - Jaan Kirsipuu is coming in from Ag2r, as well as Giro podium-placer Pietro Caucchioli and erratic Hungarian time-trialist Laszlo Bodrogi.

Our two leaders seem to have a good understanding and keep up their lead over a largely lethargic peloton. If they keep going over the Toricelle without really racing hard, there's a chance that non-climbers will survive...but that's all speculation of course. In the meantime our commentary team is diminished to just two, while one of our Dutchies has gone searching for some food and our Brit has taken off to do some work. We see that Astarloa is in the back of the peloton, and we see a few riders with mechanical problems, probably because of a crash. Yes, due to a crash. Löwik and Crake are amongst them. Also Wegmann was involved. Efimkin and Le Mevel leading -> Pagliarini @ 4.25 -> peloton @ 6.13. Rumsas punctures.

12.42 CET
Lap 7, 37.8 kmh average. Efimkin and Le Mevel are starting the 8th lap now. Only two riders so far have quit, Belohvoshicks and Fischer. Ah, the famous Paul Crake, who won several times an atletic race before he start cycling. It was an atletic race which they have to climb the Empire State Building, I believe. Maybe someone knows more about that?!!??! I don't. Ok will google for it, results to come soon...Paul Crake won 5 times the Empire State Building race from 1999 till 2003.

2003: 9 minutes, 33 seconds (male) - Paul Crake
2002: 9 minutes, 40 seconds (male) - Paul Crake
2001: 9 minutes, 37 seconds (male) - Paul Crake
2000: 9 minutes, 53 seconds (male) - Paul Crake
1999: 10 minutes, 15 seconds (male) - Paul Crake
Steadily improving his record, eh. Amazing what one can find on the internet...

During our diversion Löwik managed his way back to the pack. Meanwhile in Verona the Belgian televison-commentators are also having their lunch as well. They do not surrender to a panini with prosciutto, no, they are convicted to to them well-known fries and co-commentator and DS Hendrik Redant even proved himself a connisseur on haute cuisine of fast food when he recognised his food as a fishburger.

13.02 CET
Over five and a half hours of racing. The gap remains big, over six minutes still for the duo ahead of Pagliarini. Great ride by these guys...and especially Le Mevel. He's been going at it today for like, forever. Pagliarini is about to be swallowed by the peloton; he's 6.38 behind the two and the peloton only 7.08. The averages of the laps are dropping by the lap covered. The riders still have about 145 km to ride.

Start of lap 9 now for Le Mevel and Efimkin! We're not even halfway yet though. For the Italian who wins today euro 250.000,00 (about the same in USD) is awaiting him and to share amongst his helpers. That is way over more than for instance the Belgians will pay their winner of gold, silver or bronze, which makes our own Jan Janssens call out over the Italian amount: "Crazy Italians.."

Efimkin is a Russian elite 2 rider and is riding for the Italian Frealpi Denti Bicicleta team. In this year he won the 6th stage in the Giro della Valle D'Aosta, a heavy race in Italy and becomes 12th in the final rank. So he can climb well. Also he won the Giro ciclista della provincia di Cosenza and becomes 5th in the Russian Nationals (Road).If you see him right now, it was a serious candidate I suppose for the world title at the U23 cat. since he turns 23 on 2 November. News from the Belgian team: Tom Boonen seems to be suffering from stomach-problems and took some cola to remedy.

Luciano Pagliarini is from 18.04.1978. He was born in Brasilia but lives for quite a long time in Italy already. He has 7 victories so far - 5 stages in the Tour de Langkawi, 1 stage in the Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia and the Clasica Almeria. He becomes pro in 2001 and rode all these years for Lampre. In 2000 he was already a stagiaire for this team. Meanwhile the bunch is a minute behind our brave Brasilian .

Everything still status quo in the peloton...erh..race. Next year Luciano will become a member of the Liquigas team. Liquigas in now the sponsor of the Azzurri. Also another fact about Paglia is that he crashed together with Svorada in the Giro of this year and that he has problems with his knee for a long time. His first race after the crash in the Giro was somewhere in August if I'm right.

Other transfer news: Michele Scarponi will be riding for Cofidis next season! OOOOOOOh, beware the French girls have to watch out for Michele, or they have his phone-number in no-time (since Michele is a Don Juan on and off the bike, as we know...).

13.20 CET
It's game over for our pal Pagliarini, now it's just the two leaders. Luciano has had his moment of fame. Sandy Casar is the first 'bigger' name who quits the race. Van Summeren is forcing the tempo in the front line parts of the bunch. Pace is set a bit higher now.

UCI chief Hein Verbruggen now has joined the Belgian commentary team on Belgian tele, in commentating and eating fries...The team time trial who is a part of next year's ProTour will be held in Eindhoven. It's a kind of tribute for Hein Verbruggen, who quits as UCI chief. The start is at the "stadshuis" and the finish will be in Helmond. The place where Hein is born. Lemme guess: it will be called the GP Hein Verbruggen?

13.37 9 laps covered
Luciano Pagliarini made a spectacular exit, doing a wheelie in front of his fans before being caught by the peloton. He is giving a spectacular Brasilian show, saluting the crowd, shake hands with them, smiling and riding very slow to the boxes. The leaders start their 10th lap as the peloton finishes its 9th. Our two leaders going up the Toricelle once again...they must be cursing it by now.

Action in the peloton! Nardello and Fothen attack. Eladio Jimenez and a Dutch rider also there. Boonen reportedly still with stomach problems.

Casar quit, he sure has a good reason. His dad passed away yesterday. We offer our condolences to him and his relatives.

The 4 are constantly being joined by other nations, an American and Colombian (I think) rider there too now. The peloton catches up with them though, because Nardello didn't get enough support. Filippo Simeoni goes, but he's not getting away.

Another Italian rider, Luc Mazzanti, attacked, and got a few riders along; hard to tell who right now. Among then Van Huffel, Petito and Calzati. The first group consists of about ten men, but the others are back. Calzati was the Tour de l'Avenir winner by a tiny margin - R.A.G.T. Semences must have been delighted to win it, let alone win anything. The peloton is split into two parts, but the gap is pretty small.

Yet another uphill crash. Number 137, Yannick Talarbardon, is on the ground. Yannick is now riding for Auber'93 but will change to Credit Agricole next year. Talabardon's had a good season with Auber 93, winning the Tour de l'Avenir KOM title and winning three times. Good enough for Crédit Agricole. A fairly large group has broken away from the peloton....some 20 riders in it though we haven't seen who is in it. 120 km approximately to go in this race. Freire and Mancebo showing their colors in the front parts of the bunch. The Ukrainian riders with Popovych are moving to the front.

13.56. 8 laps to go, 118 km.
This is what's left for the two leaders, who cross the finish line again. We see Marc Lotz is riding in the first peloton of 30 riders. The 2nd peloton with the favourites is riding 25 seconds behind. Lotz has also had a visit from the Italian Justice, just as Bettini did. They want to hear his stories about the Armstrong-Simeoni matter in Tour this summer.

The Spaniards in the 20-30 rider chasing group are eliminating every attack..they seem to be putting all their eggs in Freire's basket. Boonen abandons.

Let's hope he recovers from his stomach problems by next weekend, for Paris-Tours. It was Moerenhout in the 1st group instead of Lotz. Frigo, Vainstains and Popovych are in the front group, also Pellizotti. 1.43 lead for the big chasers group. On the Toricelle again. Efimkin and Le Mevel lead, the big chase group trails by 2.46 and the peloton by 4.50.

Some of the riders not selected are in the Belgian TV-studio in Brussels. Apart from home riders De Waele, Mattan and De Weert talking about why they were not selected, there was also breakfast served for Dutch De Jongh (defending the orange colors), Johan Museeuw (the last Belgian world champion so far) and the man from Oz and semi-Belgian Scott Sunderland. As witty as he is in his own diary, he now too comments: "No exciting things to report now, in the peloton all is peaceful, and we can expect that not a lot is going to happen during the next laps; so it's time for that necessary snack break or to get another beer out off the fridge!" [mmm...beer...]

Then Marco Pinotti has right when he said that Romans was in good shape and that we should watch for him (for a top 10 place, he guessed). Going back to Luciano Pagliarini, the Portuguese papers have been speculating that he'll be going to Milaneza in 2005... despite the fact his move to Liquigas has all but been confirmed.

McCarthy is having major trouble hanging on to the chasing group. The Ukranians set the pace. Duma works his butt off. Now the Italians are panicking in the peloton and started chasing - with 4 Italians in one line, Nardello, Simeoni and 2 others. I saw Bettini in front of the bunch so Paolini must not been far away.

McCartney and Schumacher lost their role in the group of 32. Van Summeren is putting the hammer down in the chasing group, pulling 2 riders off the front even. The group of 32 has closed already 2 minutes on the 2 - who are on the climb of the Toricelle. An Italian train working the peloton.

14.15 CET
After 11 laps we can change leaders - Le Mevel and Efimkin are almost caught. Everything is going really fast now, wow. Vainstains is back with his big group after a mechanical.

Group One: Horrillo, Jimenez, Zaballa, Luis Perez, Nozal, Mazzanti, Frigo, Petito, Pellizotti, Pugaci, Popovych, Duma, Calzati, Fothen, Sabido, Vitorino, Baldwin, Trenti, Duque, Ardila, Freddy Excelino Gonzalez, Moerenhout, Van Summeren, Van Goolen, Scott Davis, Fofonov, Vainsteins, Kessler.

It's a bizarre sight, the Spaniards are 5 men strong and have fast man Horillo with them, but still refuse to ride. Yes, because there 2 or 3 main riders in the big group. Horrillo, a philosophy graduate who is strangely partial to Classics, is a pretty poor climber though. He will be in Rabobank-colors next season, due to the help of Freire and others.

Bettini has a mechanical. His golden bike seems to be not so untouchable and invincible...the Spanish riders are trying to stop the 32 group. This split is very interesting - I'm not so sure what's motivating it, considering so many helpers for big names are up there. And after 11 laps, the 2 leaders are now caught by the 30 riders, while McCarthy and Schumacher have lost contact. So we have now 32 riders in the lead.

So 32 leaders with about 1.20 on the peloton. Orange joins Azzurri, working their way back to the 32. Garzelli and Bertagnolli have to wait for Bettini to bring him back in the bunch. The Dutch on the front of the peloton, the Italians waiting for Bettini with two teammates following his puncture. Leonardo Duque, who has rode as a stagiaire the last month for Chocolade-Jacques, is leading the pace of the 32.

Also in that lead group is Mauricio Ardila, winner of the Tour of Britain 2004. The L'Avenir winner Calzati attacks - Ardila is riding away too, to catch him. Weening is showing his colors to the public eye as well. He was in great shape coming out of the Vuelta. And he is expected to be one of the new Dutch major riders, alongside Thomas Dekker (whom I really never have heard of....)

So Ardila and Calzati get a working gap on the Torricelle, and other riders start to bridge the gap. The two are both good climbers - and I know at least one of them, for a fact, is diminuitive (Ardila). Calzati and co all come together again up front, but Calzati attacks once more! He gets a small gap.

Swissman Zampieri is attacking at the climb, going after Calzati. In the peloton, everything eases down a bit because of Bettini's mechanicals. It seems Bettini's bad luck with his golden bike has blocked the race a bit. The hunters stay more or less status quo, awaiting The Cricket to join. Calzati forges on up the Torricelle and he is joined by Zampieri as they cross the summit, so now 2 leaders and then the main chasing bunch.

The peloton is going so hard that riders are continuously dropping off the back. Simeoni loses contact. A flash of white smile - it's Boogerd of course. To look at him is to be momentarily blinded. Four leaders: Zampieri, Calzati, Moerenhout and Huzarski, behind the the big chasing group. Huzarski won a breakaway Peace Race stage in 2003, is a teammate to Dennis Kraft at Action-Ati, well known in some www.cycling4fans.de communities.

15.41 CET.
So now, everything is back together behind our leaders. Hoj, Zampieri, Moerenhout, Huzarski and Calzati leading the race! Didn't we said that this morning, that Hoj would show himself at championships. And there he is... So 5 men leading the race, working well together, the peloton lacking a little organisation at the moment. Monfort abandons. Wauters abandons too.

Bettini once again at the back of the peloton arm in the air - Paolo has problems with his knee...the Italians will be starting to look in Cunego's direction now. Luca Paolini drops back to help - will "the Cricket" be bowled over this afternoon? (That's an English pun - we are now joined by podofdonny.)

Cunego, if you didn't know he took the start, would seem to not be there - he plays it very well. The invisible man. True - but the same could be said for Freire - whom you never seem to see until the finish line - or in Zabel's case, not even then. And Van Petegem is also a master at hide-and-seek.

Bettini in conversation with two teammates at the back of the peloton; The Cricket does not seem happy at the moment, as the 5 leaders tackle the Torricelle. An attack by Ukrainian rider Kostyuk again, on the climb. We have seen today a lot of Choco-Jacques riders who attacked (Belohvosciks, Kostyuk, Ardila, Stagiair Duque). Bettini and Paolini still talking to each other, what the hell is happening to the Cricket?! Kostyuk, trying to bridge the gap, passes the Cunego fan club supporters. Bettini off the back...or is this theater?

Petito and Paolini staying with The Cricket. The crowds absolutely huge up this climb - but Bettini still off the back - the Cricket is not chirping today. He does seem to be bothered by the problems with his knee. Still, Italy has many arrows in its bow, and if Bettini is finished, Basso and Cunego, as well as other riders, could do well.

Meanwhile, Dutch world champion sprint and Olympic runner up Theo Bos wins the national title in sprint in Alkmaar. He defeated Teun Mulder. The pursuit was won by Jens Mouris, ahead of Robert Slippens. Bos had already won the keirin.

15.57 CET.
Meanwhile Kostyuk still trying to bridge the gap to the 5 riders, the peloton is under attack again on the climb. It's not looking good for Bettini...he may quit at the boxes at the start/finish. Italy could use those guys helping Bettini for other things.

The five leaders now on the descent, Kostyuk trying to bridge and the peloton with Bettini at the back. Let's see what their lead is at the moment... Meanwhile though, Romano Prodi, president of the European Commission is passing by the course. The peloton is a bit lost without nervous Italians doing all the work. We see Zabel, one of those hard man sprinters waiting for their shot. The gap 1'52.

Bettini did hurt his knee, in working his way back through the cars behind the bunch. He did not fall, but his knee seems to be bothering him more and more as the kilometres proceed. But this does not prevent tea time for the commentators...yep, the good news is...sports malted milk biccies!! I get the ones with the cyclists on them. Michael Barry attacks the peloton.

So the peloton in confusion with Bettini still not looking happy - he's still at the back of the peloton - another country (Spain?) will soon have to start taking some responsibility. Yes, if the Spanish riders are smart they will be starting to place some "bombs" to get away from Paolo.

16.13 CET. 13th lap of 18
Now Bettini starts to move up through the peloton, as they start the climb again. Boonen (out of the race with stomach problems): "I suffered from it since lap 1. Normally one eats a lot on a morning before the start of a race. This though normally improves, today it did not. I ate nothing in the race for 4 hours, so I had no power left and I had to quit."

Good news for Maarten den Bakker, though. He was set to leave Rabobank since they would not renew his contract, but this now seems to be reversed and he might stay in orange and blue for yet another season. Let's hope so, this is one rider of great value to a team. Il Piccolo Paolo though, still in serious problems. He is off the back - hand in the air - his teammates have left him!!!!! Ballerini talks him through it, at least he gives it a great effort. Officially, there is a problem with the Italian communication system and Bettini has to go to the team car a lot to talk directly to Ballerini...which is nonsense of course, but...

Ballerini looks the way he did when he lost that photo finish in Roubaix - er, not too happy. Petito takes off, he now is off the duty of supporting Bettini and is getting himself fully back into the race. The peloton at 2.34 off the leaders.

Sylvain Calzati (FRA), Steve Zampieri (SUI), Koos Moerenhout (NED), Frank Hoj (DEN) and Bartosz Huzarski (POL) over the top of the Torricelle climb - Kostyuk 1:06" back. 2:07 the gap as the peloton crests the Torricelle, and Bettini is still in the back of the peloton. Everybody's looking at the Italians, including the Spaniards.

I think that the race will get a new boost in the last 2 to 2.5 laps. Or like last year, in the last lap. Poor Koos Moerenhout, Frank Hoj chooses him to talk to...and since people who know the Dane know he blabbers and blabbers, Koos now probably wishes he was either deaf or some place else. Frank has learned the Italian blabbering style very well...But all for the podium, all for the good cause, so the Dutchie sticks with it. And so does the tall, 31 year old from Denmark.

Hoj is built as a racer in Belgium. He raced a long time with De Lombarden, a team which delivers great riders. He lived in Nieuwpoort at the Belgian coast, but moved some years ago to Luxemburg (whereabouts all Danes that race do live currently). Frank, in moving around this much, in teams and countries to live in, picked up many languages to blabber in. So never a dull silent moment when he is around.

60 km to go in this world championships. Bettini knows that too, and struggles his way more and more to the front. It looks like Bettini plays a coupe in the theatre; he is now riding in the middle of the peloton, in Paolini's wheel. But we will know that for sure, when he will play an important role in the final. Gilbert has a mechanical and is off the back - the Belgian Squad has lost 3 men already.

The peloton at 2.05 from the 5 leaders, with Kostyuk still swimming between them.

15.33 CET. 4 laps to go.
Sylvain Calzati (FRA), Steve Zampieri (SUI), Koos Moerenhout (NED), Frank Hoj (DEN), Bartosz Huzarski (POL) still with a good gap on the peloton, which is now being lead by the Italians. Ukrainian Kostyuk still trying to bridge. Garzelli is the Italian to set the pace higher, Mazzanti, behind him.

Yet another Torricelle, and more suffering. 4 times to go on that climb - the climb will start to take its toll now - the grim reaper of Verona...and Juliette looks down from her balcony - Paolo, Paolo, wherefor art thou, my little cricket?

Perez Cuapio will have next year another foreign rider in the Panaria team: Moises Aldape Chavez (23 years old) gets a contract just like Grillo (not Paolo), Pozzovivo (4th at the U23 at the worlds) and Allegerini.

Aha! The Dutch riders are grouped in the front of the peloton. Horner is going along smoothly in the Italian Albasini's wheels - Horner figures prominently in the new movie PRO by Jamie Paolinetti - watch for a review here soon. Parkeggio Paolo - game over for Bettini, he's bonking 100%. Get away stupid journalists! Don't interview Paolo at this moment.

Yes - a motorbike journalist decides this might be a good time to interview Paolo - mmm - bet that will be a very short reply from The Cricket. But it's Nardello who's putting the pedal down now, reducing the lead to 1.43, Arvesen and Van Summeren are in his wheel.

Italy has now change their plans, and play everything for Cunego or Basso. And because they're now less in the sprinting department (Bettini out) they'll have to get rid of Zabel, O'Grady and Freire...

Sylvain Calzati (FRA), Steve Zampieri (SUI), Koos Moerenhout (NED), Frank Hoj (DEN), Bartosz Huzarski (POL) over the top of the Torricelle - 58" the gap. Nozal works hard for Spain, and don't forget Hauptmann or Vainsteins. Yes Anitzz, the Spanish seem to have awoken up from their slumbers - and are moving up the peloton with ominous ease.

Hoj is riding away from his companions - Moerenhout working hard to get back in his wheel.

In the meantime Ondrej Sosenka tried to get away. Still, Sylvain Calzati (FRA), Steve Zampieri (SUI), Koos Moerenhout (NED), Frank Hoj (DEN) and Bartosz Huzarski (POL) streaming down the descent, the peloton closing the gap, the race favourite Bettini not looking good, and the Italians stir it up!

15.51 CET. 3 laps + 1 km to go.
About one hour of racing left...and with three laps to go Sylvain Calzati (FRA), Steve Zampieri (SUI), Koos Moerenhout (NED), Frank Hoj (DEN), Bartosz Huzarski (POL) still lead, they turn the corner and race down the flag-laden streets and past the finish line - lap 16. Boogerd and Dekker nicely sneak along the bunch, as does Zabel. Poor Nozal will be working again. And the gap to the peloton is falling but it is still 1:05.

Well well, the Aussies chasing...O'Grady must be smelling the coffee! The Ozzies making the pace now, is Dodger thinking to become world champion for the 3rd time in a week? Astarloa still is looking to renew his title as well, he keeps being present in the pack. Cool statue...yes, dear reader - statues from Verdi are all around the circuit.

And I bet Freire is still awake....or maybe still in his after-dinner-siesta-nap? Talking about Oscar and naptime: in Lisbon, where he won his 2nd title, he was sitting at the back of the main group in the last round, kinda clueless. Botero came riding next to him and said "Dude, what are you doing here?! You gotta sprint in a bit! Take my wheel, I'll take you to the front." Have others work for you and have all your aces in your own hands, ready to play, to beat, and win - and he won...typically Freire.

Zampiere and Moerenhout attack on the Toricelle, while Van Goolen quits, Gilbert now too. It's a disaster for the Belgiums, 5 abandons today, a lot of them yesterday at the Women's. Moerenhout is desperately showing himself in order to find a new team for next season, since Lotto-Domo did not want to keep him in their team. Maybe it's indeed time for renewal there with the juniors - cause they rode a good race "en block" yesterday morning.

Michael Rogers working in the peloton, Freire is awake. Rogers is riding his substitute bike, since his original got stolen earlier this week, along others (4 road bikes and 4 tt-bikes were nicked out of their hotel near the Garda Lake). Steve Zampieri (SUI) and Koos Moerenhout (NED) crest the Torricelle. Zampieri is a great gutsy rider who has done great work for Garzelli over the years.

Gilbert says it just was too tough for him today. Calzati caught by the bunch, Huzarski too - The Aussie-led peloton is nearing . Two Australians, then the Spanish, lead the peloton up the Torricelle. The first spaniard we see is the no. 3 of La Vuelta, Paco Mancebo.

French attack in the peloton! David Moncoutié! It's going HARD now over the Toricelle. They're picking up Hoj. Gruppo compatto. They already had Moncoutie too, and Moerenhout and Zampieri, so re-start of the race, now really for real. Calcagni attacks in the descent, 2.5 laps to go! Cunego and Basso attentively up front. Calcagni putting in a big effort - as the peloton regroups and rethinks.

For the first time more or less Vino shows himself a bit, he did hide well for so long...same for Cunego. Calcagni - blonde hair streaming out of his helmet - he had an active race in Vuelta so may well have good legs.

17.10 CET.
Paolini is coming, nice gap for Calcagni. 18 seconds. Ballerini has eliminated Bettini, because Paolo hit his knee at the team car of Italy...so Ballerini is facing a lot in Italy, no Rebellin selected, eliminate your number 1...great job, Franco! Moreni attacks, but reaction by the Spaniards. Calcagni is making hay while the peloton decides who will do the work. Calcagni grabs his late lunch. Still 18 seconds.

2 laps + 1km to go.
In 2000 Calcagni won the Swiss championships time trial in his category, and this year he was second on GC in Tour du Limousin. Also second in the 8th stage in the Tour de Suisse. He was born on the fifth of July in 1977 in Sorengo.

26 seconds for Calcagni at the passage, penultimate lap now! The Australians and Spaniards working, a great wadge of sunny Spanish shirts now near the front the peloton. Garzelli is out. (If the Italians don't win, Ballerini is SO gonna get it.)

Cunego can still save his day, or Basso...or Simeoni! Now that would be funny. VAI PIPPO! Nozal seems to be in his role of driver again, he did this the most part of the Vuelta, bringing Heras the win. Will he accomplish the same, bringing the Spaniards yet another glorious moment?

Calcagni in the meantime battles for the just over 20 seconds lead he has. How long can he keep this up? He's a good TT'er, but still...(Anita has decided she wants to adopt him....)

And for the penultimate time they climb the Torricelle climb - as Calcagni is caught. And another Swiss rider goes his way! Zampieri attacks, but Nozal rolls over him. Karsten Kroon is holding the Dutch national hope high as well, being well placed in the bunch. A handsling from Moncoutie for O'Grady...Freire already in O'Grady's wheel. What a pace Nozal is setting!!

The Spanish steamroller of Freire is putting the hammer down, but the bright yellow shirts of Spain are matched equally by the blue of Italy, Australia still well up.

Van Petegem, Zabel and Vainstains still silent in the pack. Nozal did have great practice in Spain I know, but this must be so demoralising for some others, especially the ones struggling to stick with the back of the pack, desperately trying to hang on and in...Nozal absolutely magnificent - domestique of the year - a serious contender for that award.

Bertagnolli attacks, but the rest come back. We seem to be heading for a bigger group at the finish battling it out...Cunego there, Basso too.

Luis Perez now doing the work for Spain, but Astarloa done. Allan Davis is still there too! A sprinter...So Luis Perez, Basso,Cunego, the three men at the front of the climb. Now Basso attacks! Perez unable to follow him.

Valverde responds, so does Boogerd. But it's a bit late on the climb. Valverde and Vino hanging strong. Van Petegem and Vainstains are gone. Boogerd closing in on Basso on the descent! Basso over the top of the climb has got a good lead, but who is closing on him... it's Boogerd.

Now the Spaniards have to pull everything out of the closet! Oh la la - Basso and Boogerd - a dangerous duo! Yes, two rouleurs. They are reeled in - 5 to 6 Spanish riders in front. Zabel and O'Grady are still present in the front group, so Spain pull it all back together - Nozal, Mancebo, are there.


6.5 hours of racing so far - the peloton down to about 20 riders. Freire still in the first group, O'Grady is also in this group. Freire has a fresh face too. What can Cunego still do, and does Basso have something left after that explosion? Anyone seen Zabel???

The commentators say he's there...(only joking). Nozal again forcing the pace, 7 Spanish riders on the front! The Dutchies still have Boogerd and Kroon present in the front lines - watch out for Kroon.

Bertagnolli, Basso and Cunego are the hope for the Azzurri right now. There's also a US rider at the front, I believe Horner. That would be no surprise. Nozal, Luis Perez, Mancebo at the front of the peloton - it's all red and yellow at the front - a wedge of blue Italy behind, and Horner is there too - Horner would be wonderful, then he can finally sign the contract with Saunier...

LAST LAP!!!!! Who can still threaten the Spanish Armada?! Freire for the 3rd time? To place himself in a list with Binda, Van Steenbergen and Merckx? Frank Schleck still there. Spain versus Italy, Germany with three riders too - Zabel, O'Grady, Freire, Davis and Valverde are the fast men in there.

Davis would make a fine champion as well, Scott Sunderland mentioned him this morning in the Belgian televison studio. I sure hope, when and if he pulls it off, they have his size of jersey. Otherwise Alan will go home disguised as a Zebra-Juliette, the rainbow dress sweeping the Veronese streets...Alexandre Vinokourov is up in the leading group too.

The last time the Toricelle - Vai vai vai! So Spain will try to keep it for Freire, but the attacks will come. Nozal is gone, Mancebo leading now, with a high pace.

Frigo is there too, but he is off the back. He now has to let go. Luis Perez now picks up the pace. The Spaniards have to look out that they don't isolate Freire on the flat. Rasmussen attacks!! With a good gap, wow!

No response! Still Spain forcing the pace. Rasmussen isn't really getting away, but he is tiring the Spaniards. Serrano gradually closing the gap - an exciting last lap again! Boogerd attacks!

Basso attacks! Freire himself goes. Boogerd past Rasmussen, Basso coming and Freire!! Alexandre Vinokourov attacks! O'Grady is back. Kroon had to let the group go. Boogerd sets the pace higher, together with Cunego. So Boogerd, Freire, Basso, Valverde, O'Grady and Cunego...

Now the descent of the Toricelle - Basso, Freire, Valverde, Cunego, Boogerd, O'Grady. The others at 20 sec. The leaders have a good gap on the guys they left behind now.

The Germans have to work for Zabel in the pursuing group. Boogerd, Freire, Basso, Valverde, O'Grady and Cunego lead the race - 7 seconds. Wesemann and Hondo are bridging the gap. Nailbiting kms... 18 leaders!!!

O'Grady leads the leaders. Ballerini has a serious problem I guess...Horner still there too. Wesemann sets the pace higher.

In 1999 Chann McRae was the hope of the USA, now it's Horner. Hard to say at this moment who will win - there still are a lot of contenders in winnable position. Suddenly the German team have taken hold of the peloton, it looks like it will come down to a sprint showdown. Freire knows the last curve, with 600 metres to go, the best - we're going for a sprint!!

Valverde takes Freire along to the front, Wesemann doing great work, the pace high...Luca Paolini can also sprint. Vino attacks, but is denied! Flamme Rouge!

Perez and Valverde leading out for Freire...man, this sure is nerve-wracking!! Horner at the front. Last curve. Hondo leading out for Zabel, Valverde now, Freire loose, Freire, Freire, Freire number 23!!!!! Triple for Freire! Zabel 2nd - man...

Luca Paolini third. Paolini's sprint probably sealing Ballerini's fate, but Freire stands next to Van Steenberghen, Binda and Merckx...that's some nice company.

A truly dramatic sprint - Valverde did a great lead out and managed to neutralise the German counter attack and put Freire in the perfect position - the rainbow jersey of Freire was a true team effort by Spain, a perfect team play.

Freire was born on the 15th of February in 1976. He currently is in the Rabobank team, where he will be next year as well. He won in 1999 in this same city, virtually unknown at that time, and he repeated the trick in Lisbon in 2001.

Brief Results
1) Freire
2) Zabel
3) Paolini
4) O'Grady
5) Davis
6) Valverde
7) Boogerd
8) Horner

Horner rode a very intelligent race with little support - he proved, as we saw before, that he has the quality to be at the top in European races - which is more remarkable since he has been riding USA style crits all season. And with this 8th place, I would say to Gianetti, give that man a contract, you might need him.

Co-commentator on Dutch Eurosport and Freire's DS, Erik Breukink, sure sounds satisfied and happy with this non-Dutch win. Freire thanks the whole team that worked for him. He says: "Thanks to my team and Valverde at the end - I dedicate my victory to them - I must thank them for my rainbow - it is very special since it is my second victory here."

The Spanish team rode the final two laps with total commitment - hard to remember when a team has dominated a world championship race like that, a great preformance from the lads who gave us sketches of Spain. Nozal, Mancebo, Valverde and Perez deserve a big ovation for their great work.

And now the ceremony: And for the last time we see the scary podium girls who are giving children nightmares all over Europe. The podium girls are actually very pretty - but I'll guess not with these Aida-minded clothes...The USA reader might like to know they are dressed in opera costumes - and look like pantomine dames. I find the one with lime green legs particularly scary. Freire receives his jersey from a girl straight out of Star Trek 10 the movie...

Theo de Rooy is hugging his pet Oscar Freire; Rabobank's director sure looks happy. Zabel hugs Hein. That is a big smile.

Luca is disappointed - Paolini seems to have sort of mixed emotions over his bronze medal.

But it is his 3rd jersey - his second from Verona - a great record - as the gypsy from Il Trovatore by Verdi gives out the flowers. Now the Spanish national song - and stand up and salute. Cheers from the crowd - the bells ring, the Verdi girls leave the stage, Freire is the Prince of Verona and the cycling king of the world!

Freire sticks up three fingers, not to show his nail tips to the crowds, but to point out it is his third Worlds win. And what a year for Freire, Milan-Sanremo, World Champion, 6th stage of the Vuelta as well as other victories - Chapeau! And it's not over. Next week is Paris-Tours.

Well, what a great week of World Championships! We hope you have enjoyed all the great racing as much as we have. We will bring you complete results from today's contest later on, and in the meantime, thank you for joining us this week!

By the way, readers who wish to view today's race on delay can do so over the net at:

http://www.fastweb.it/streaming/raisport.asx  or
mms://fastreal.fastweb.it/raisporthigh

The broadcast times are:
* Sunday 22.20 CEST (20.20 GMT, 13:20 Pacific Time)
* Monday 03.CEST (01.50 GMT, Sunday at 06:50 PM Pacific Time)
* Monday 10.25 CEST (08.25 GMT, 01:25 AM Pacific Time).

 
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