Events

Ukraine’s Popovych takes u-23 road race

He's only 21, but Yaroslav Popovich from Ukraine already seems like a seasoned veteran. And he should fit right into the pro peloton when he joins the Domo team next year. One quality that will stand him in good stead in the paid ranks is his ability to overcome the pressure of expectation. He was expected to win Friday's grueling under-23 road race -- and he did. A year ago, he came up short by three seconds at the world's, beaten into second place by the young Russian Evgeni Petrov. And if Popovich hadn't had to race the final lap-and-a-half stuck in the 53 chainring after his front

By John Wilcockson

Photo: Graham Watson

He’s only 21, but Yaroslav Popovich from Ukraine already seems like a seasoned veteran. And he should fit right into the pro peloton when he joins the Domo team next year. One quality that will stand him in good stead in the paid ranks is his ability to overcome the pressure of expectation. He was expected to win Friday’s grueling under-23 road race — and he did.

A year ago, he came up short by three seconds at the world’s, beaten into second place by the young Russian Evgeni Petrov. And if Popovich hadn’t had to race the final lap-and-a-half stuck in the 53 chainring after his front derailleur broke, he might have won the title then.

Nothing broke this year, though. After Popovich’s Ukraine national team had proved themselves as strong as the talented Italian squadra — chasing down every attack or working with early breaks to keep them in control — the man himself decided to start riding near the front as soon as the 14-lap, 169.4km race entered its closing half.

Popovich soon went with a nine-man chase that joined a dangerous-looking six-man break on lap 8, and then on the next lap he controlled a different 13-man group that went clear on the main climb. Neither attack stuck, but the Italian-based Ukrainian was on the alert when his 20-year-old teammate, Ruslan Gryschenko, went with a sharp attack by the French team leader, Christophe Le Mevel, up the hill on lap 10.

“I knew I was the favorite coming into the race,” Popovich said, “so we had a plan worked out, and we followed it to the letter…. I decided to attack with four laps to go.”

Well, as that key lap began (lap 11), Le Mevel and Gryschenko held a 17-second lead on a regrouped pack that still numbered some 40 riders (down from a start list of 155!). Riding strongly in the group was world time-trial champion Danny Pate. The tall American– with his last teammate already gone — didn’t get involved in the in-fighting that was about to erupt; but he would give the U.S. fans something to cheer in the upcoming finale.

But what happened in the opening five minutes of lap 11 was crucial. First, the two breakaways were caught just as they began the first short, steep uphill. Over the top of this brief ramp, Italy’s Giampaolo Caruso suddenly counterattacked, and was followed by Ireland’s former junior men’s road champion, Mark Scanlon. The attack become three when Belgian team leader Jurgen Van Goolen crossed; but as the main climb began, this trio was passed by Portugal’s nearly man of the time trial, Sergio Paulinho. Right behind the homeboy came Popovich, who dashed past all these attackers — from which Caruso was the only man to latch on.

Just over 44km remained, and the perfect move had happened. Caruso had five teammates still in the group behind, while Popovich had Gryschenko. Those team riders were more than enough to control any chasers, while a big, big bonus is that during the season Caruso and Popovich are teammates on the powerful Zoccotinese-Vellutex amateur squad.

The two were soon riding in perfect synchronicity, with identical lemon-colored shoe covers pounding out a rhythm that would take them to a one-two finish. They competed this critic lap 11 in the fastest lap time of the day: 16:21, an average speed of 44.4 kph. Impressive for a 12.1km loop that contained 620 feet of climbing!

Popovich and Caruso took the bell with a 1:26 lead over the chase group of 21, in which Pate had twice made strong uphill attacks in an attempt to generate a real chase group. But the Italians were simply too powerful.

Pate was a threat

Pate was a threat

Photo: Graham Watson

On the final lap, Australia’s Allan Davis (who finished seventh in the 2000 world’s under-23 race) made a brave solo attack on the first climb, and looked as though he would stay clear to take the bronze medal. But just at the same time Popovich decided to break clear of Caruso — at the same spot used by Nicole Cooke in the earlier junior women’s race — Davis was caught the other Ukrainian, Gryschenko.

It just so happens that Gryschenko is also on that Zoccotinese team, and so when he dropped Davis on the final descent, we had the rather bizarre sight of three clubmates racing on their own to the three medals. It all looked so professional.

Photo Gallery

Results

1. POPOVYCH Yaroslav (Ukr), 04:02:43;
2. CARUSO Giampaolo (I)at 0:17;
3. GRYSCHENKO Ruslan (Ukr), at 1:32;
4. KOLOBNEV Alexandr (Rus), at 1:43;
5. LJUNGBLAD Jonas (S)s.t.;
6. DAVIS Allan (Aus);
7. VAN GOOLEN Jurgen (B);
8. SOLARI Luca (I);
9. PFANNBERGER Christian (A);
10. BENNATI Daniele (I);
11. INGEBY Kristoffer (S);
12. WEGMANN Fabian (G);
13. PATE Danny (USA);
14. LE MEVEL Christophe (F);
15. ANZA Santo (I);
16. QUADRANTI Antonio (I);
17. MUGERLI Matej (Slo);
18. BERNUCCI Lorenzo (I);
19. DE WEERT Kevin (B);
20. LAVERDE JIMENEZ L. (Col);
21. LAGUTIN Sergey (Uzb);
22. WEENING Pieter (NL);
23. PAULINHO Sergio (Por);
24. NUNEZ BATICON Israel (Sp);
25. ZEPIC Marko (Slo);
26. SHARMEN Robin (GB);
27. GOUSSEV Vladimir (Rus);
28. BONDARI Dumitru (Mda);
29. WILLEMS Frederik (B);
30. TIMOCHINE Mikhail (Rus);
31. ROGINA Radoslav (Cro);
32. BILEKA Volodymyr (Ukr);
33. KUPKA David (Cz);
34. PERRY James (SA);
35. AREKEEV Alexandr (Rus);
36. SCANLON Mark (Irl);
37. BOONEN Tom (B);
38. KAZLOU Aliaksandr (Blr);
39. RUCKER Stefan (A);
40. LINDEZ DEL PERAL Javier (Sp);
41. TALABARDON Yannick (F);
42. AL Thys (NL);
43. ERIKSEN Thomas Brun (Dk);
44. RAUDSEPP Tarmo (Est);
45. ELTINK Theo (NL);
46. LARSSON Gustav (S);
47. RUCKSTUHL David (Swi);
48. IRIZAR ARANBURU Markel (Sp);
49. STARCHYK Volodymyr (Ukr);
50. PINEAU Jérôme (F);
51. MELEHS Olegs (Lat);
52. MURAVYEV Dmitriy (Kz);
53. SESTAK Petr (Cz);
54. BARKER Yanto (GB);
55. DEJEWSKI Tomasz (POL);
56. KOHL Bernhard (A);
57. MARTINS Gilberto (Por);
58. PAAJANEN Juha (Fin);
59. MIHOLJEVIC Hrvoje (Cro);
60. ZOLEDZIOWSKI Gregorz (POL);
61. SABIDO Hugo (Por);
62. CREED Michael (USA);
63. BROCO Hernani (Por);
64. ROHREGGER Thomas (A);
65. ALBASINI Michael (Swi);
66. KOFLER Patrick (A);
67. LENGYEL Tamas (Hun);
68. KUCHYNSKI Aliaksandr (Blr);
69. DYRING Rasmus (Dk);
70. ARATO David (Hun);
71. ARDILA CANO M. (Col);
72. DEMARIN Massimo (Cro);
73. MIRANDA Helder (Por);
74. GILBERT Philippe (B);
75. BODNAR Lukasz (POL);
76. BESPALOV Alexandr (Rus);
77. NOSE Tomasz (Slo);
78. LYNCH Denis (Irl);
79. BAATOUT Riadh (Tun);
80. KAUFMANN Thomas (G);
81. DANCULOVIC Tomislav (Cro);
82. HOUSE Kristian (GB);
83. JOHO Markus (Swi), all s. t.

Did not finishKRIVTSOV Yuriy (Ukr);
BAUSCH Gusty (Lux);
SCHLECK Frank (Lux);
WURTH Benn (Lux);
BARANAUSKAS Aivaras (Ltu);
VAITKUS Tomas (Ltu);
BATES Gene (Aus);
DAVIS Scott (Aus);
GERRANS Simon (Aus);
LERGARD Tobias (S);
RENANG Petter (S);
BADER Vincent (Swi);
LOOSLI David (Swi);
BAUMANN Eric (G);
LANG Sebastian (G);
SCHUMACHER Stefan (G);
FABISOVSKY Ladislav (Cz);
CSOMOR Zoltan (Hun);
VOROS Benedek (Hun);
ZSOMBOK Gergely (Hun);
RUTSKI Raman (Blr);
SOBOLL Yauheni (Blr);
HALSTUCH Daniel (Isr);
DIONNE Charles (Can);
LAROCHE Jean-François (Can);
PARISIEN François (Can);
ALBERTS Jamie (GB);
SWITHENBANK Neil (GB);
TAMOURIDIS Ioannis (Gr);
MCQUAID Gary (Irl);
NALLY Dermot (Irl);
DUQUE Leonardo (Col);
IBANEZ GONZALEZ C. (Col);
GONZALEZ DOROTEO Ruben (Sp);
ROVIRA POUS Jaume (Sp);
SMIRNOV Serghei (Mda);
HERVE Cédric (F);
PORTAL Nicolas (F);
BAK Lars Ytting (Dk);
OREDSSON Thomas (Dk);
KANANEN Kimmo (Fin);
VASTARANTA Mikko (Fin);
VEIKKANEN Jussi (Fin);
SHKARPETA Denis (Uzb);
OTSUKA Jun (Jpn);
SATO Tomoya (Jpn);
TSUMURAYA Takashi (Jpn);
AINSALU Markku (Est);
LEBEDEV Andri (Est);
BREISETH Lars (N);
LOITEGAARD Kjetil Groven

Others:
13. Danny Pate (USA), at 1:49;
26. Robin Sharmen (Gbr), at 4:44; 34. James Perry (SA), at 7:32; 54. Yanto Barker (GB), at 12:23.