By VeloNews Interactive Wire Services, Copyright AFP 2001
Giro d’Italia overall champion Gilberto Simoni’s spurt at the end of the penultimate lap in steady rains brought him his first victory at the Japan Cup cycling road race Utsunomiya, Japan on Sunday.
The 28-year-old Italian covered the 11 laps of the 14.1-kilometer course over the 151.3km race in 4:16:58, beating Australian Cadel Evans, who took second and Christophe Brandt of Belgium, who was third. Evans and Brandt both timed 4:17:49 in a photo finish.
“It was a surprise victory for me, because I hadn’t expected to win,” Simoni said. “I’m glad I was able to show my good performance in Japan. The biggest problem was the rain, so I was careful not to slip on the slopes.”
Japan’s Koji Fukushima and Koki Shinbo took turns to lead the race early on until Switzerland’s Aurelien Clerc and Martin Elmiger caught up with the home pair on the fourth lap. Reigning Swiss champion Elmiger took the lead on the sixth lap and stretched it to 1:38 at the end of the eighth lap.
But Elmiger, who was less than a second ahead of the nine-man second group including Simoni and fellow Italian defending champion Massimo Codol, was caught up on the following lap.
Simoni made a break away shortly before the end of the 10th lap with Christophe Brandt of Belgium just 0.02 of a second behind him as the bell rang to declare the final lap. But the Belgian challenge faded as the Italian steadily stretched the lead and held on for a 51-second victory.
“At the halfway stage, I told Marco (Serpellini of his team) to go ahead while I and Massimo, the last year’s champion, tried to follow him,” Simoni said. “I had expected Massimo to go ahead of me later but he didn’t. That’s why I spurted shortly before the end of the 10th lap. Like our victory last year here, it was a victory of our teamwork.”
Copyright AFP 2001
JAPAN CUP, Utsunomiya, Japan. November 28; 1. Gilberto Simoni (I), 151.3km in 4:16:58 (35.33 kph); 2. Cadel Evans (Aus), 4:17:49; 3. Christophe Brandt (B), 4:17:49; 4. Marco Serpellini (I), 4:18:32; 5. Jo Planckaert (B), 4:18:32; 6. Chris Peers (B), 4:18:33; 7. Mederic Clain (F), 4:18:33; 8. Claude Lamour (F), 4:18:37; 9. Peter Farazijn (B), 4:18:37; 10. Massimo Codol (I), 4:20:35