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With three Italians in the eight-up sprint at the end of Friday’s heated 173km Under-23 world championship race, odds were stacked against Fabio Duarte.
So the pint-sized Colombian uncorked a daring attack with 400m to go to leave the remnants of the winning breakaway choking on his fumes and deliver a huge upset against the heavily favored Italians racing on home roads.
Italian Simone Ponzi pounded his right fist on the handlebars in anger and frustration at the opportunity of a lifetime to settle for silver in front of national crowds after the Italians opened the door for the slippery Duarte.
“I felt very strong in the race and I was saving my legs. I decided to jump early. I am a climber and not that great of a sprint, so it was the only way to win,” said Duarte, who won in 4 hours, 17 minutes, 2 seconds (40.5kph). “I decided to risk it all and thanks to God I am the world champion.”
John Degenkolb out-kicked Ben Swift (Great Britain) to snag the bronze and give Germany a medal in every event through four days of racing so far at the Varese road world championships.
Tejay Van Garderen led the Americans across the line in 25th as part of a second chase group that came through at 33 seconds back.
The five-man American team missed the winning breakaway with about 70km to go when a five-man break took over from an early attack that fizzled under mounting pressure from the favorites.
“You have to have a little luck and good legs to do well at the worlds, and we didn’t have either today,” said Peter Stetina, 52nd at 33 seconds back. “There were a lot of moves early and we were waiting for the later part of the race. In the end, my legs just didn’t feel that great and I couldn’t follow when I needed to.”
Riding the same course that the women and men will use on the respective road races this weekend, 170 starters rode 10 laps on the 17.3km circuit course under once again superb racing conditions with sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-70s.
A key five-man break settled in for the decisive final three laps, with two Italians (Damiano Caruso and Daniel Oss), two Germans (Degenkolb and Dominik Nerz) and Duarte. Swift and Frenchman Cyril Gautier bridged out with two laps to go and held nearly two minutes on the tiring pack.
Danny Martin (Ireland) made a brave attempt to break the deadlock in the pack and bridge across, but his effort failed in the final lap.
The seven leaders slowed on the final assault up the Ronchi climb, with the Italians purposely slowing down to let the superior sprinter Ponzi bridge across.
Following Ponzi’s wheel were Russian Egor Silin and favored Portuguese rider Rui Costa. Dutch rider Dennis Van Winden also took a huge effort to latch on with less than one kilometer to go, but he faded in the final sprint to finish ninth at seven seconds back.
Despite its numerical superiority, the Italians decided to play the sprint with Ponzi rather than try to send one of its three riders on the attack in the final flat 4km after the Ronchi climb.
Ponzi couldn’t believe it when Duarte punched the accelerator with 400m to go and held off the chase to tip over the apple cart in front of a throng of Italian fans waiting in the finish line grandstands.
“The last curve he surprised us with an early attack, but to be on the podium here at these worlds is very important for me. I’ve sacrificed all season to be ready for this, so I am very happy despite silver,” Ponzi said. “I came back to the front on the last climb. I spoke with my teammates and we agreed to work for the sprint for me. Caruso and Oss weren’t feeling so great after being away in the breakaway. They did a huge pull for me, but the Colombian anticipated us. We tried to pull him back, but he was going too fast and I did my sprint anyway.”
Duarte takes Colombia’s first gold medal in the U23 category, an important milestone for the 22-year-old who jumped into the bigs last year with Diquigiovanni only to suffer in the intense European scene.
“I had a lot of bad luck last year. I was far from my family and I wasn’t very mature. I just wanted to return to Colombia,” said Duarte, who won a stage in the 2007 Tour of Colombia. “Now I have matured and I hope to come back here again to race.”
That U23 gold medal around his neck just might be his meal ticket back to Europe.
1. Fabio Andres Duarte (Colombia) 173.35km in 4:17:02 (40.5kph)
2. Simone Ponzi (Italy), same time
3. John Degenkolb (Germany), s.t.
4. Ben Swift (Great Britain), s.t.
5. Rui Costa (Portugal), s.t.
6. Cyril Gautier (France), s.t.
7. Egor Silin (Russian Federation), s.t.
8. Daniel Oss (Italy), at 0:05
9. Dennis Van Winden (Netherlands), at 0:07
10. Damiano Caruso (Italy), at 0:12
11. Ben Hermans (Belgium), at 0:15
12. Rasmus Guldhammer (Denmark), at 0:22
13. Domenik Klemme (Germany), s.t.
14. Nikolas Maes (Belgium), s.t.
15. Martin Schöffmann (Austria), s.t.
16. Elias Schmaeh (Switzerland), s.t.
17. Alexander Kristoff (Norway), at 0:33
18. Maciej Paterski (Poland), s.t.
19. Alexei Kunshin (Russian Federation), s.t.
20. Oleg Berdos (Republic of Moldova), s.t.
21. Simon Clarke (Australia), s.t.
22. Niki Ostergaard (Denmark), s.t.
23. Dmitry Kosyakov (Russian Federation), s.t.
24. Laurent Beuret (Switzerland), s.t.
25. Tejay Van Garderen (USA), s.t.
26. Troels Ronning Vinther (Denmark), s.t.
27. Jose Bone Leon (Ecuador), s.t.
28. Pawel Cieslik (Poland), s.t.
29. Pavel Kochetkov (Russian Federation), s.t.
30. Blaz Furdi (Slovenia), s.t.
31. Simon Geschke (Germany), s.t.
32. Travis Meyer (Australia), s.t.
33. Andi Bajc (Slovenia), s.t.
34. Cameron Meyer (Australia), s.t.
35. Stefan Denifl (Austria), s.t.
36. Marcel Wyss (Switzerland), s.t.
37. Herberts Pudans (Latvia), s.t.
38. Sander Maasing (Estonia), s.t.
39. Chad Beyer (USA), s.t.
40. John-Lee Augustyn (South Africa), s.t.
41. Romain Zingle (Belgium), s.t.
42. Ruslan Karimov (Uzbekistan), s.t.
43. Jacobus Venter (South Africa), s.t.
44. Robert Kiserlovski (Croatia), s.t.
45. Stefano Borchi (Italy), s.t.
46. Patrik Moren (Sweden), s.t.
47. Kristjan Koren (Slovenia), s.t.
48. Vegard Stake Laengen (Norway), s.t.
49. Amador Bikkazakova (Costa Rica), s.t.
50. Ben Gastauer (Luxembourg), s.t.
51. Paul Voss (Germany), s.t.
52. Peter Stetina (USA), s.t.
53. Jan Bakelandts (Belgium), s.t.
54. Vitaliy Buts (Ukraine), s.t.
55. Adriano Malori (Italy), s.t.
56. Andreas Frisch (Denmark), s.t.
57. Jaroslaw Marycz (Poland), at 0:39
58. Dan Martin (Ireland), s.t.
59. Carlos Manarelli (Brazil), at 1:33
60. Rob Ruijgh (Netherlands), s.t.
61. Oleksandr Polivoda (Ukraine), at 1:35
62. Alex Meenhorst (New Zealand), s.t.
63. Mantas Bliakevicius (Lithuania), s.t.
64. Janse Van Rensburg (South Africa), at 1:51
65. Dominik Nerz (Germany), at 1:57
66. Vadim Shaekhov (Uzbekistan), at 2:15
67. Stefano Pirazzi (Italy), at 2:30
68. Christoph Sokoll (Austria), s.t.
69. Vitor Rodrigues (Portugal), at 2:42
70. Wesley Sulzberger (Australia), at 3:45
71. Castroviejo Nicolas (Spain), s.t.
72. Martins Trautmanis (Latvia), at 4:45
73. Eldar Mukmenov (Uzbekistan), s.t.
74. Tomas Mice (Lithuania), s.t.
75. Rafael Andriato (Brazil), at 5:23
76. Daniel Schorn (Austria), s.t.
77. Jonathan Bellis (Great Britain), s.t.
78. Mitchell Docker (Australia), s.t.
79. Tobias Eggli (Switzerland), s.t.
80. Eric Boily (Canada), s.t.
81. Jarlinson Pantano Gomez (Colombia), s.t.
82. Mario Contreras (El Salvador), at 6:43
83. G. Obando Brenes (Costa Rica), s.t.
84. Maxime Bouet (France), at 6:46
85. Rafael Valls Ferri (Spain), at 6:51
86. Alexander Porsev (Russian Federation), at 7:32
87. Sörtveit Sondre (Norway), s.t.
88. Jonathan Mcevoy (Great Britain), s.t.
89. Mykhaylo Kononenko (Ukraine), at 9:18
90. Ronan Mc Laughlin (Ireland), s.t.
91. Yevgeniy Nepomnyachshiy (Kazakhstan), s.t.
92. Coen Vermeltfoort (Netherlands), at 9:20
93. Hamed Jannat (Islamic Republic of Iran), at 11:18
94. Gaston Aguero (Argentina), at 12:01
95. Gustavo Alberto Lopez (Argentina), s.t.
96. Kirk Carlsen (USA), s.t.
97. Jaime Suaza Lopez (Colombia), s.t.
98. Gabor Kasa (Serbia), s.t.
99. Christer Rake (Norway), at 12:25
100. Hichem Chabane (Algeria), at 15:31
101. Hossein Alizadeh (Islamic Republic of Iran), s.t.
102. Marius Kukta (Lithuania), s.t.
103. Jose Vega Solano (Costa Rica), at 16:16
104. Gideoni Monteiro (Brazil), s.t.
105. Marius Bernatonis (Lithuania), at 16:19
106. Temur Mukhamedov (Uzbekistan), s.t.
107. Michel Kreder (Netherlands), s.t.
108. Olamaei Mahdi (Islamic Republic of Iran), at 17:12
109. Nazar Jumabekov (Kazakhstan), at 20:03
Did Not Finish
Lukasz Modzelewski (Poland)
Oleg Opryshko (Ukraine)
Rémi Cusin (France)
César Fonte (Portugal)
Connor Mcconvey (Ireland)
Johan Lindgren (Sweden)
Alex Dowsett (Great Britain)
Gatis Smukulis (Latvia)
Jocelyn Bar (France)
Jonathan Monsalve (Venezuela)
Dejan Bajt (Slovenia)
Ricardo Van Der Velde (Netherlands)
Johann Rabie (South Africa)
Carlos Galviz (Venezuela)
Julien Taramarcaz (Switzerland)
Angel Madrazo Ruiz (Spain)
Biel Kadri (France)
Jonas Aaen Jörgensen (Denmark)
Marco Alexandre Ferreira Cunha (Portugal)
Martin Reimer (Germany)
Thomas De Gendt (Belgium)
Chris Barton (USA)
Peter Kennaugh (Great Britain)
Hossein Nateghi (Islamic Republic of Iran)
Tony Gallopin (France)
Klaas Lodrwisck (Belgium)
Henrique Casimiro (Portugal)
Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kazakhstan)
Anacona Gomez W: (Colombia)
Jay Robert Thomson (South Africa)
Michael Torckler (New Zealand)
Joao Benta (Portugal)
Gediminas Kaupas (Lithuania)
Ramiro Rincon Diaz (Colombia)
Dave Vuckets (Canada)
Roger Ferraro (Brazil)
Andrei Nechita (Romania)
Francisco Cazar Espinosa (Ecuador)
Marko Kump (Slovenia)
Muhammad Fauzan Ahmad Lutfi (Malaysia)
Luka Grubic (Croatia)
Siphiwe Sowella (South Africa)
David Veilleux (Canada)
Kristijan Durasek (Croatia)
Redhouane Chabane (Algeria)
Abdelkader Belmokhtar (Algeria)
Sergiu Cioban (Republic of Moldova)
Clinton Avery (New Zealand)
Ryan Anderson (Canada)
Gustavo Francisco Borcard (Argentina)
Gasper Svab (Slovenia)
Aleksandar Dukic (Serbia)
Marijan Perkovic (Croatia)
Andreas Linden (Sweden)
Adrian Honkisz (Poland)
Joel Dion-Poitras (Canada)
Azizbek Abdurahimov (Uzbekistan)
Victor Mironov (Republic of Moldova)
Abdellah Ben Youcef (Algeria)
Anuar Manan (Malaysia)