By Andrew Hood
It took race judges several minutes to decide what French veteran Jerome Neuville already knew – that he won the men´s 15km scratch race in a photo finish.
For Neuville, a former roadie who turned to the track to win two world titles in the Madison, his narrow victory over Argentina´s Angel Colla capped a dramatic race marked by a daring breakaway that held out to the end.
“It was a long race and I didn´t believe it until the end, even at the line,” Neuville said. “I am so glad I didn´t retire after the Athens Olympics. At 30, people don´t want to see progression, but results. I had a lot of pressure on me.”
Neuville tore away with five others less than halfway through the 60-lap race, added to world championship competition for the first time in 2002.The remains of a chase group reeled in the leaders on the final half lap, but
Dutch rider Wim Stroetinga and Italian Danilo Napolitano both seemed boxed out in the final sprint and they had to settle for fourth and fifth, respectively.Pushed on by a rowdy home crowd Neuville held off a late charge from Colla to grab the gold, while Greek rider Ioannis Tamouridis hung on for third.
“I didn´t think we would be able to stay away, but we just held on,” he said. “I didn´t take a day off the past three weeks, working hard every day. Yesterday I didn´t feel so well, so I tried to conserve as much as I could. This is the best moment of my career.”
Commonwealth Games champion Mark Cavendish, who won in the event last month in racing for Isle of Man, couldn´t hang on and did not finish.
Bobby Lea was the only American in the competition, but he was unable to stay in contact with the main group despite a strong start. He finished fourth in a World Cup race in Sydney last month, the best by an American men´s endurance rider in a mass start event this season.