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By Andrew Hood
Cadel Evans erased a career of close calls with a daring attack on the final climb to drop a super-star group of riders to win the 2009 world road cycling championships.
The Aussie climbed out of the saddle in the closing kilometers of the 259km epic battle to win the most important victory of his career. No one can say Evans doesn’t attack anymore.
“This is for all the critics I’ve had this season,” Evans said. “I have seven worlds medals from mountain biking at home, but none of them are gold. People say I never win, but today I won something pretty big.”
Fresh off third overall at the Vuelta a España, Evans becomes the first Aussie to win the elite men’s road race title. He broke down in tears after winning the rainbow jersey, repeatedly kissing his wedding ring, which he hangs around his neck on a chain.
“I live in this area and this is my home-away-from-home for me. I’ve been thinking about these worlds for two years,” Evans said. “When things didn’t go as I had hoped at the Tour this year, so I immediately began to think about the Vuelta and the worlds.”
Russian Alexander Kolobnev claimed silver and Joaquin Rodriguez saved Spain’s honor to take bronze as the pair trailed in 27 seconds in arrears in one of the most action-packing finales in recent worlds history.
“I think I could have had the legs to win today, but Cadel was just too strong for me on the final climb,” said Kolobnev, who also won silver at the Stuttgart worlds in 2007. “I am still very satisfied with the race. I didn’t want to risk that the others caught me from behind and then have to sprint against the others. Silver is a good result on such a difficult course.”
The road and Olympic gold medalists, Samuel Sánchez (Spain) and Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland), ran out of gas in the medal hunt, crossing the line fourth and fifth, respectively, at 30 seconds back.
“It was a lottery today and I played my cards,” Cancellara said. “Of course I wanted to win today. The Spanish were marking me and I did what I could. I won the gold medal in the time trial and today proves to me that I am capable of winning the road title. I will keep trying.”
Attacks out of all-star break
The 2009 worlds followed the script, with an early no-hope group charging away early and an interesting counter-attack with some heavy hitters like Alessandro Ballan (Italy) and Tom Boonen (Belgium) at 12 laps into the 19-lap battle.
Things unfolded as expected when the main pack swept up the remnants of the break and the real fight began in earnest with two laps to go.
Gorazd Stangelj (Slovenia) surged away from an elite 19-man breakaway on the Acqua Fresca climb. Trailing after him were Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg), Luca Paolini (Italy), Oliver Zaugg (Switzerland) and Joaquin Rodriguez (Spain).
The first real accelerations among the favorites fractured the main pack, with most of the big names represented in a front group of about 30 riders. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway) was among the top names to get gapped.
Cancellara put down the hammer out of the fragmented front group to bridge out to the Zaugg group, with about 30 trailing riders desperately trying to hang on. Damiano Cunego (Italy) was with a nine-rider split, but refused to pull through, allowing more teammates to pull up.
Other names to make the selection were Evans and Simon Gerrans (Australia); Ivan Basso and Filippo Pozzato (Italy); Philippe Gilbert (Belgium); and Kolobnev.
Pozzato and Basso turned the screws on the second climb, with Kolobnev, Cancellara and Gerrans hanging on. In their wake, Boonen popped after riding most of the stage in a breakaway.
The hard effort whittled the favorite group down to 20, with Spain still having its three leaders in position, with Valverde, Sánchez and Oscar Freire along with Rodriguez from the early break. In there for Italy were Basso, Cunego and Pozzato.
Alexander Vinokourov (Kazakhstan) attacked on the flats, with Valverde and Arvesen marking the moves. It all came down to the final lap.
How it unfolded
Warm skies and raucous crowds welcomed the pack for the 10:30 a.m. start. Fans poured in from nearby Italy and the biggest cheers went up for the Italians and the hometown Swiss.
It didn’t take long for the inevitable early, no-hope break to form. Attacks came on the second of two climbs featured on each lap, with sprinter André Greipel (Germany), Yukiya Arashiro (Japan), Matija Kvasina (Croatia), Christoph Sokoll (Austria), Peter Kusztor (Hungary) and Jan Barta (Czech Republic) pulling clear.
Four chased out, with Gorazd Stangelj (Slovenia), Mauricio Ardila Cano (Colombia), Olegs Melehs (Latvia) and Volodymyr Zagorodny (Ukraine) to form the day’s main breakaway.
The gap opened to 10 minutes after six laps and Italy’s Marzio Bruseghin and Spain’s Ruben Plaza led the pace in the main pack as the race slowly gained momentum. Bruseghin led the pack across the start-finish line for six consecutive laps.
In lap 12, the main bunch sprang to life when Italians Michele Scarponi and Giovanni Visconti surged out of the pack on the Acqua Fresca climb. Quickly marking the move were two Belgians, Francis De Greef and Greg Van Avermaet, and Spain’s Dani Moreno.
Bridging out were reigning world champion Ballan, Spain’s Joaquin Rodriguez, Switzerland’s Michael Albasini, Holland’s Johnny Hoogerland, and Germany’s Paul Martens to form a group at 3:20 back.
There was another chase group of another dozen behind featuring the likes of Boonen, Aussie Michael Rogers and Luxembourg’s Kim Kirchen at 3:59. The main pack, with all the big guns saving their matches for the pending shootout, trailed at 5:38 back.
The two groups joined on lap 13, giving Italy and Belgium four riders and Spain three in the front group, with Russia and Norway leading the chase from behind.
In the group were: Ballan, Luca Paolini, Giovanni Visconti, Scarponi (Italy), Carlos Barredo, Rodríguez, Juan José Cobo (Spain), Boonen, Avermaet, De Greef, Bert De Waele (Belgium), Albasini, Zaugg, Rubens Bertogliati (Switzerland), Rogers (Australia), Dmitriy Fofonov (Kaz), Sergio Paulinho (Portugal), Lars Bak (Denmark), Hoogerland (Netherlands), Geraint Thomas (Great Britain), Christoph Sokoll (Austria), Martens (Germany), Volodymyr Starchyk (Ukraine), Vladimir Karpets (Russian Federation), Kirc hen (Luxembourg), Leonardo Duque (Colombia), Christophe Riblon (France), Rein Taaramäe (Estonia) and Venezuelan climber José Rujano.
At the end of 13 laps, the dwindling lead group were still up the road at 3:28 ahead of Rujano, with the Ballan-Boonen group at 20 seconds adrift. The main pack roared through at 4:32 back.
The Ballan-Boonen group brought the difference down to 1:53 after 14 laps, with the main at 2:59 back. Nothing was decided yet.
Things remained on a slow simmer. The day’s main break was reeled in and the Ballan-Boonen group whittled down to 19 riders following some attacks by several riders, including Rujano and Hoogerland.
With two laps to go, the gap was at 1:19 when the fireworks started.
Final lap to glory
Vinokourov attacked again out of the elite group of 20 riders in the bell lap to hold a promising gap at the base of the Acqua Fresca climb. Kolobnev and Hoogerland quickly bridged up, but the Russian took a huge dig, and left them in his dust.
In his wake, the Italians and Spaniards were eyeing each other. Cancellara attacked to draw out Gilbert, Sánchez and Alejandro Valverde, with Matti Breschel (Denmark) and Cunego latching onto the wheel. Evans dug deep to grab the group just before a technical descent.
Cancellara punched the accelerator on the harrowing descent to put pressure on the Spaniards and Italians. Sánchez, another one of the peloton’s best descenders, caught Cancellara’s wheel, but wouldn’t pull through.
Valverde pulled a cheeky move, attacking on the left side of the road along a divider leading into a snaking, S-turn to open a small gap.
Spain still had Rodriguez, Sánchez and Valverde, with Cunego, Cancellara, Gilbert, Evans, Kolobnev and Breschel riding without teammates.
Then Evans gave it a dig on the final climb, dropping Kolobnev and Rodriguez, with Cunego chasing out of the favorites, who seemed to be cautiously eyeing each other up.
“I knew, with three Spanish in the group, that when one of the Spanish guys went, no one would chase,” Evans said. “When Spain made a move, I wanted to be there.”
Evans opened up a five-second gap, with Rodriguez sitting on Kolobnev’s wheel. Behind were Cancellara, Sánchez, Valverde, Breschel, Cunego and Gilbert.
The two-time Tour de France runner-up Aussie powered his way up the Novazzano, whose summit was 2.5km from the finish line in Mendrisio, taking 13 seconds at the top of the climb.
Kolobnev and Rodriguez took their time in responding. That hesitancy, and the fact that Valverde and Cunego were riding further back, marking each other with Cancellara, ultimately played into Evans’s hands. The Aussie hung on to cross the line alone, with Kolobnev and Rodriguez in his wake.
Many wondered why Valverde and Sánchez didn’t react.
“We had to respect Rodriguez,” Sánchez said. “I had great legs today and I think I could have won. I’m 31, but I never look back. Today is over and I am not going to have regrets. Spain showed we’re the strongest again and we won a medal, which is more than some teams.”
It was a hometown victory of sorts — Evans lives only five kilometers from here, in Stabio, and said this year’s course — as opposed to the 2010 course in Geelong, Australia, where he lives for three months of the year — provided his best chance to become world champion.
“This course suits me better than the one in Geelong and I think I proved that today,” said Evans. “It’s also an answer to those criticisms that I’ve had, saying I never attack.”
• North Americans: Craig Lewis led the Americans with 59th at 5:20 back. “Probably one of the hardest days I’ve had on the bike,” Lewis wrote on Twitter. “I’m happy with how I feel and looking forward to the Italian races next month.” Tim Duggan was 79th and Tom Peterson was 94th and with Jason McCartney 98th, all at 10:54 back. Tom Danielson, Tyler Farrar, Andrew Bajadali and Brent Bookwalter did not finish. Meanwhile, Michael Barry (Canada) had an excellent performance with 18th at 2:44 back
- 1. EVANS Cadel (AUS) 6:56:26 (37.777 kph)
- 2. KOLOBNEV Alexandr (RUS), at 0:27
- 3. RODRIGUEZ OLIVER Joaquin (ESP), s.t.
- 4. SANCHEZ GONZALEZ Samuel (ESP), at 0:30
- 5. CANCELLARA Fabian (SUI), s.t.
- 6. GILBERT Philippe (BEL), at 0:51
- 7. BRESCHEL Matti (DEN), s.t.
- 8. CUNEGO Damiano (ITA), s.t.
- 9. VALVERDE BELMONTE Alejandro (ESP), s.t.
- 10. GERRANS Simon (AUS), at 1:47
- 11. WEGMANN Fabian (GER), s.t.
- 12. ARVESEN Kurt-Asle (NOR), s.t.
- 13. SÖRENSEN Chris (DEN), at 1:59
- 14. HOOGERLAND Johnny (NED), at 2:02
- 15. FREIRE GOMEZ Oscar (ESP), s.t.
- 16. BASSO Ivan (ITA), s.t.
- 17. CARDOSO Andre Fernando S. Martins (POR), at 2:44
- 18. BARRY Michael (CAN), s.t.
- 19. IVANOV Serguei (RUS), s.t.
- 20. KROON Karsten (NED), at 2:50
- 21. POZZATO Filippo (ITA), s.t.
- 22. DUQUE Leonardo Fabio (COL), s.t.
- 23. MOERENHOUT Koos (NED), s.t.
- 24. SZMYD Sylvester (POL), s.t.
- 25. DE WEERT Kevin (BEL), s.t.
- 26. VINOKOUROV Alexandre (KAZ), s.t.
- 27. KIRYIENKA Vasil (BLR), s.t.
- 28. ZAUGG Oliver (SUI), s.t.
- 29. CHAVANEL Sylvain (FRA), s.t.
- 30. KONOVALOVAS Ignatas (LTU), s.t.
- 31. BOTCHAROV Alexandre (RUS), s.t.
- 32. VALJAVEC Tadej (SLO), s.t.
- 33. LÖVKVIST Thomas (SWE), s.t.
- 34. PAULINHO Sergio Miguel Moreira (POR), s.t.
- 35. BRAJKOVIC Janez (SLO), s.t.
- 36. GESINK Robert (NED), at 3:01
- 37. RUBIANO CHAVEZ Miguel Angel (COL), at 3:21
- 38. BOONEN Tom (BEL), s.t.
- 39. DE WAELE Bert (BEL), s.t.
- 40. DEIGNAN Philip (IRL), s.t.
- 41. BALLAN Alessandro (ITA), s.t.
- 42. MORENO FERNANDEZ Daniel (ESP), s.t.
- 43. FUGLSANG Jakob (DEN), at 3:45
- 44. VAN AVERMAET Greg (BEL), s.t.
- 45. KIRCHEN Kim (LUX), at 4:20
- 46. FEDRIGO Pierrick (FRA), at 4:29
- 47. LJUNGQVIST Marcus (SWE), at 5:20
- 48. STANGELJ Gorazd (SLO), s.t.
- 49. VEIKKANEN Jussi (FIN), s.t.
- 50. RUJANO GUILLEN José (VEN), s.t.
- 51. VORGANOV Eduard (RUS), s.t.
- 52. CUMMINGS Steven (GBR), s.t.
- 53. GRIVKO Andriy (UKR), s.t.
- 54. FAJT Kristjan (SLO), s.t.
- 55. FISCHER Murilo Antonio (BRA), s.t.
- 56. SIUTSOU Kanstantin (BLR), s.t.
- 57. BEPPU Fumiyuki (JPN), s.t.
- 58. BAZAYEV Assan (KAZ), s.t.
- 59. LEWIS Craig (USA), s.t.
- 60. BOASSON HAGEN Edvald (NOR), s.t.
- 61. RIBLON Christophe (FRA), s.t.
- 62. NIEMIEC Przemyslaw (POL), s.t.
- 63. NUYENS Nick (BEL), s.t.
- 64. LLOYD Matthew (AUS), at 6:07
- 65. PAOLINI Luca (ITA), at 7:43
- 66. FOFONOV Dmitriy (KAZ), s.t.
- 67. VOECKLER Thomas (FRA), s.t.
- 68. MARTIN Daniel (IRL), at 8:22
- 69. RUI COSTA Rui Alberto (POR), s.t.
- 70. MIHOLJEVIC Vladimir (CRO), at 10:54
- 71. GARZELLI Stefano (ITA), s.t.
- 72. KVACHUK Oleksandr (UKR), s.t.
- 73. HUZARSKI Bartosz (POL), s.t.
- 74. SERPA PEREZ Jose Rodolfo (COL), s.t.
- 75. OCHOA Carlos José (VEN), s.t.
- 76. MIHOLJEVIC Hrvoje (CRO), s.t.
- 77. SARAMOTINS Aleksejs (LAT), s.t.
- 78. KESSIAKOFF Fredrik (SWE), s.t.
- 79. NIERMANN Grischa (GER), s.t.
- 79. DUGGAN Timothy (USA), s.t.
- 81. REMME Stian (NOR), s.t.
- 82. ALBASINI Michael (SUI), s.t.
- 83. CHACON COLMENARES Franklin (VEN), s.t.
- 84. MANDRI René EST, s.t.
- 85. BRUTT Pavel (RUS), s.t.
- 86. GOLAS Michal (POL), s.t.
- 87. RASCH Gabriel (NOR), s.t.
- 88. WYNANTS Maarten (BEL), s.t.
- 89. MONFORT Maxime (BEL), s.t.
- 90. VELITS Martin (SVK), s.t.
- 91. BOOM Lars (NED), s.t.
- 92. HAMMOND Roger (GBR), s.t.
- 93. LE MEVEL Christophe (FRA), s.t.
- 94. PETERSON Thomas (USA), s.t.
- 95. CHAMPION Dimitri (FRA), s.t.
- 96. ROULSTON Hayden NZL, s.t.
- 97. IGLINSKY Maxim (KAZ), s.t.
- 98. McCartney Jason (USA), s.t.
- 99. FRÖHLINGER Johannes (GER), s.t.
- 100. VELITS Peter (SVK), s.t.
- 101. URAN URAN Rigoberto (COL), s.t.
- 102. TRAMPUSCH Gerhard AUT, at 14:03
- 103. MARTENS Paul (GER), s.t.
- 104. ZAGORODNY Volodymyr (UKR), s.t.
- 105. KARPETS Vladimir (RUS), s.t.
- 106. BARTA Jan (CZE), s.t.
- 107. ROGERS Michael (AUS), s.t.
- 108. LOPEZ MARIN Juan Carlos (COL), s.t.
- COBO ACEBO Juan Jose (ESP)
- DANIELSON Thomas (USA)
- MARTIN Tony (GER)
- B(RUS)EGHIN Marzio (ITA)
- HONCHAR Serhiy (UKR)
- MORAJKO Jacek (POL)
- GARATE CEPA Juan Manuel (ESP)
- RODRIGUEZ Jackson (VEN)
- LANGEVELD Sebastian (NED)
- KUSZTOR Peter (HUN)
- KUCHYNSKI Aliaksandr (BLR)
- KNEES Christian (GER)
- DE GREEF Francis (BEL)
- MEDINA MARINO Manuel Eduardo (VEN)
- VISCONTI Giovanni (ITA)
- BERTOGLIATI Rubens (SUI)
- SCARPONI Michele (ITA)
- BARREDO LLAMAZALES Carlos (ESP)
- PLAZA MOLINA Ruben (ESP)
- LUND Anders (DEN)
- FROOME Christopher (GBR)
- FARRAR Tyler (USA)
- HOJ Frank (DEN)
- PATERSKI Maciej (POL)
- BAJADALI Andrew (USA)
- TUFT Svein (CAN)
- KREUZIGER Roman (CZE)
- LLOYD Daniel (GBR)
- BOLE Grega (SLO)
- SULZBERGER Wesley (AUS)
- STARCHYK Volodymyr (UKR)
- ARASHIRO Yukiya (JPN)
- SWIFT Ben (GBR)
- GREIPEL André (GER)
- ARDILA CANO Mauricio (COL)
- FERRARI BARCELO Fabricio (URU)
- THOMAS Geraint (GBR)
- BAK Lars Ytting (DEN)
- KVASINA Matija (CRO)
- HUSHOVD Thor (NOR)
- DIDIER Laurent (LUX)
- BYRON Guama (ECU)
- KASHECHKIN Andrey (KAZ)
- O`GRADY Stuart (AUS)
- MILLAR David (GBR)
- HAYMAN Mathew (AUS)
- CLARKE Simon (AUS)
- TOMBAK Janek (EST)
- BOOKWALTER Brent (USA)
- AMADOR BIKKAZAKOVA Andrey (CRC)
- HEGREBERG Roy (NOR)
- MARES Martin (CZE)
- TAARAMAE Rein (EST)
- VARGAS Freddy (VEN)
- POPOV Evgeny (RUS)
- FRANK Mathias (SUI)
- FIORILLI Tiago (BRA)
- ROCHE Nicolas (IRL)
- SOKOLL Christoph (AUT)
- NISH(ITA)NI Taiji (JPN)
- CRAVEN Dan (NAM)
- BOZIC Borut (SLO)
- NAZARET Magno Prado (BRA)
- MIKHAILOV Guennadi (RUS)
- RAST Grégory (SUI)
- GUDSELL Timothy (NZL)
- VALACH Jan (SVK)
- THOMSON Jay Robert (RSA)
- WILMAN Frederik (NOR)
- VENNELL Jeremy (NZL)
- MELEHS Olegs (LAT)
- PORSEV Alexander (RUS)
- DRUCKER Jean-Pierre (LUX)
- JOVANOVIC Nebojsa (SRB)
- STANNARD Ian (GBR)
- SCHLECK Andy (LUX)
- GARRIDO MAYORGA Martin (ARG)
- HESJEDAL Ryder (CAN)
- SIEBERG Marcel (GER)
- CIOLEK Gerald (GER)
- MEDICI Matias (ARG)
- DOWNING Russell (GBR)
- NYBÖ Haavard (NOR)
- CZIRAKI Istvan (HUN)
- NORDHAUG Lars Petter (NOR)
- IGLINSKIY Valentin (KAZ)
- LUCERO Alfredo Orlando (ARG)
- DAVIS Allan (AUS)
- DER Zolt (SRB)
- IVANICS Gergely (HUN)
- HASANOVIC Esad (SRB)
- OYARZUN GUIÑEZ Carlos Ivan (CHI)
- PYDGORNYY Ruslan (UKR)
- WROLICH Peter (AUT)