Spanish junior Iñaki Lejarreta says, “Of course my uncle (former Teka and ONCE star Marino Lejarreta, the 1982 Vuelta champion and the last man to complete the Tour, Giro and Vuelta in the same year – all in the top ten) is my hero.”
Well, the way his nephew dominated the junior men’s field, maybe the roles will soon be reversed. But unlike Marino in his famous 1990 mountain stage win in the Tour at Pontarlier, Iñaki knew that there was nobody ahead of him and raised his arms victoriously as he crossed the line more than two minutes ahead of his nearest competitor.
At the end of the first 12km lap, comprising one each of the Vail Village, Golden Peak and Lionshead loops, Lejarreta already held a 23-second lead over a four-man chase group. Norway’s Lars Petter Nordhaug, Australia’s Trent Lowe, Costa Rica’s Henry Mendez Raabe, and France’s Romain DeWaele were all working together, but they had no answer to the relentless speed of the Spaniard. The closest American, Adam Swartzbaugh, was already 3:45 in arrears.
Lejarreta, hailing from the town of Berriz in the Basque state of Vizcaya, 30km from Bilbao, had expanded his lead to 1:55 when he finished his second lap only one minute slower than his blazing 34:46 first lap. The son of Marino’s brother and former Teka teammate Ijmael, Lejarreta used his genetic advantage to continue growing his lead. The four behind were still together and had no hope of closing the gap, as only the 5.5km Vail Village and 2km Golden Peak loops remained.
On the long 700-vertical-foot Village climb, Nordhaug attacked his three companions and had about 10 seconds in hand at the course’s 2713-meter high point. “I went as hard as I could to hold my lead on the downhill and up the (Golden Peak “Stairway to Heavin’”) climb,” he said, after crossing the line in second, 2:14 behind the Basque champion. After him, Lowe and Raabe had come down Golden Peak together, but the diminutive Australian took a page out of his much bigger countryman and former world dual champion Wade Bootes’s book. He cut inside of the Costa Rican, not backing down in the subsequent bumping, and forced the Central American to use his brakes. This little tangle gave Lowe a healthy gap he carried to the line for the bronze. DeWaele followed, exhausted, a minute later.
The stylish Spanish champion with the cycling pedigree demonstrated great class and maturity, as his comments after the race were anything but self-centered. “I dedicate my victory to all of the people who believed in me, and to all of the victims of the terrorists,” he said afterward. His family will be proud of him.
1. Inaki Lejaretta Errasti, Spain, 20.37 miles in 1:33:35; 2. Lars Petter Nordhaug, Norway, at 2:14; 3. Trent Lowe, Australia, at 2:31; 4. Henry Raabe Mendez, Costa Rica, at 2:44; 5. Romain DeWaele, France, at 3:58; 6. Frank Lehman, Germany, at 4:31; 7. Jurg Graf, Switzerland, at 5:44; 8. Rene Henke, Germany, at 6:09; 9. Alexei Medvedev, Russia, at 6:44; 10. Thibault Legastelois, France, at 6:53; 11. Marco Kipfer, Switzerland, at 6:56; 12. Adam Quadroni, Italy, at 7:01; 13. Emmanuel Velencia, Mexico, at 7:04; 14. Michal Talavasek, Czech Republic, at 7:07; 15. Adam Coates, Canada, at 7:08; 16. Lukas Flueckiger, Switzerland, at 7:47; 17. Krzysztok Kuzniak, Poland, at 8:08; 18. Philip Spencer, Great Britain, at 8:13; 19. Mike Felderer, Italy, at 8:16; 20. Jordan Aveyard, Great Britain, at 8:35; 21. Martin Grad, Slovenia, at 9:41; 22. Daniel Van Der Ploeg, Australia, at 10:02; 23. Simon Richardson, Great Britain, at 10:28; 24. Rudi Van Houts, Netherlands, at 10:48; 25. Aiden Lefmann, Australia, at 12:11; 26. Anze Bizjak, Slovenia, at 12:16; 27. Ryan Edwards, United States, at 12:21; 28. Paul Werner, Australia, at 12:30; 29. Frederic Bussieres, Canada, at 12:31; 30. Dan Birkholm Anderson, Denmark, at 12:34; 31. Marek Nebesar, Czech Republic, at 13:04; 32. Peter Hatton, Australia, at 13:08; 33. Adam Swartzbaugh, United States, at 13:10: 34. Nick Waite, United States, at 13:27; 35. Hannes Wenzl, Austria, at 13:27; 36. John Paul Pearton, South Africa, at 13:29; 37. Markus Kaufmann, Germany, at 13:31; 38. Hugo Chavez, Mexico, at 13:46; 39. Simone Lanteri, Italy, at 13:59; 40. Bostjan Pahovnik, Slovenia, at 14:39; 41. Andy Guptill, United States, at 14:43; 42. Johannes Groenewald, South Africa, at 15:16; 43. Aaron Bradford, United States, at 15:24; 44. Will Routley, Canada, at 15:38; 45. Jan Jedlicka, Czech Republic, at 15:54; 46. Colin Eggleton, United States, at 16.44; 47. Dany Garcia Fallas, Costa Rica, at 16:51; 48. Felix Schmidt, Germany, at 16:57; 49. David Schmets, Belgium, at 17:01; 50. Makoto Hirose, Japan, at 17:33; 51. Ricardo Escuela, Argentina, at 17:59; 52. Pavel Adel, Czech Republic, at 19:08; 53. Javier Puschell, Chile, at 19:55; 54. Pedro Munez, Chile, at 21:22; 55. Daniel Van Tonder, South Africa, at 22:52; 56. Michael Galland, Belgium, at 25:08; 57. Graham Slater, South Africa, at 29:41; 58. Fernando Munoz, Chile, at 30:41; 59. Ryan Iddings, United States, at 33:34; Gion Manetsch, Switzerland, -1 lap; Loic Guerin, France, DNF; Ismael Esteban Aguero, Spain, DNF; Apolonio Carniero Pinto, Brazil, DNF;