By John Wilcockson
After losing the junior men’s time trial by 44 hundredths of a second last Wednesday, 18-year-old Oleksandr Kvachuk from Ukraine was in tears. So close, but so far. On Saturday, Kvachuk put that disappointment behind him and made a blistering solo break, to win the 121km road race by 1:07 over a chase group of four that was brought home by Dutchman Niels Scheuneman — whose silver medal joins the bronze he scored in the time trial.
Commenting on his win, Kvachuk said, “After the time trial I was sad — so today I decided to show that I am a real champion.” He proved that with an astonishing performance.
When the tall Ukrainian decided it was time to prove himself, at the start of the circuit’s main climb on lap 8, 32km from the finish, he was in the pack 53 seconds behind a six-man break that had been clear for the past five laps (60km), while between him and the leaders were two sets of two riders already chasing hard.
Kvachuk took off from the pack like a man possessed, simply ignoring all the riders between him and the front of the race. When he got there, at the top of the climb, only three of the original leaders were left. The Ukraine worked with them for the rest of this eighth lap, but the main group was closing, only 13 seconds as they headed into lap 9.
As he did the lap before, Kvachuk attacked right at the start of the first climb. Those with him could only watch him go. By the top of the second hill, 3km later, he was 45 seconds ahead of a four-man chase group and a minute ahead of the pack. By lap end, with 12.1km still to ride, Kvachuk had a minute on the chasers — Thomas Lövkvist of Sweden, Sven Nevens of Belgium, and two Frenchmen, Mathieu Perget and Jérémy Roy — with the pack at 1:46.
Solo, Kvachuk had just ridden the fastest lap of the morning — 17:03, an average of 42.581 kph, quite an accomplishment on such a hilly course with the junior maximum gear of 52×14.
He didn’t flinch on the final lap, and even added 16 seconds to his lead. Behind, Scheuneman suddenly came to life, attacking solo from the pack. “When I went, I knew that there were two groups ahead, but I didn’t realize it was just one rider in the front.” Riding strongly, the blond Dutchman bridged to the chasers over the top of the main climb, and eventually outsprinted them to take the silver medal. “But I didn’t know I was sprinting for second place,” he said.
The best of the three U.S. finishers was Boulder, Colorado’s Blake Caldwell, who said, “I started cramping in the last two laps. I let them [the main pack] get away over the top of the last climb. I was trying to chase back on, and finished right behind them.” He took 58th place, a half-minute behind the first chase group.
1. Oleksandr Kvachuk (Ukr), 121km in 2:58:43 (40.623 kph); 2. Niels Scheuneman (Nl), at 1:07; 3. Mathieu Perget (F); 4. Sven Nevens (B); 5. Jérémy Roy (F), all s.t.; 6. Thomas Lövkvist (S), at 1:08; 7. Luca Conati (I), at 1:23; 8. Jukka Vastaranta (Fin); 9. Marcus Burghardt (G); 10. Christoph Meschenmoser (G), all s.t.
Also:> 20. Jean-Sébastien Maheu (Can), at 1:23; 22. Marc Bonhof (Can), s.t.; 59. Blake Caldwell (USA), at 1:53; 62. Ignacio Sarabia (Mex), at 2:54; 86. Cameron Evans (Can), at 11:44; 93. Tyler Farrar (USA), at 13:29; 98. Saul Raisin (USA), at 15:19; 101. Ryan Roth (Can), at 16:39.