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Friday’s Zolder notebook: Guido heads to Fasso; Longo in; Jeanson out and more.

Belgium’s weather turned foul just in time for the road races. Riders woke up to a bone-chilling morning Friday for the junior women’s and U23 road races. Clouds built as the afternoon went on and it never warmed up. Forecasters are calling for a chance of rain Saturday. Italy and Holland were the big winners Friday, with Francesco Chicchi from Italy taking a dramatic U23 bunch sprint marred by a crash in the final 200 meters to the line. Dutch rider Suzanne De Goede won the junior women’s gold medal while American Magen Long took fifth for the best American result so far. Milne's rocky

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By Andrew Hood

Belgium’s weather turned foul just in time for the road races. Riders woke up to a bone-chilling morning Friday for the junior women’s and U23 road races. Clouds built as the afternoon went on and it never warmed up. Forecasters are calling for a chance of rain Saturday.

Italy and Holland were the big winners Friday, with Francesco Chicchi from Italy taking a dramatic U23 bunch sprint marred by a crash in the final 200 meters to the line. Dutch rider Suzanne De Goede won the junior women’s gold medal while American Magen Long took fifth for the best American result so far.

Milne’s rocky road
On the surface, the U.S. team rider Shawn Milne’s 22nd place finish in the under-23 road race doesn’t look all that spectacular, but considering what it took to get there this season, Milne put in an impressive ride in Zolder.

After cresting the final climb near the front, Milne began setting up for the fast finish. “I was like, ‘Wow, I’ve got some legs today.’ I figured I’d try something in the sprint. I can sprint, I’m not a sprinter though,” said Milne, who got slowed by the crash in the closing meters before crossing the line 22nd.

Milne had only two months of European racing experience under his belt, having joined the national team in August. But even making it to that point was an accomplishment.

A year ago, in November, Milne was hit by a van while training on his bike, and broke his fibula, tibia and wristbone, and had three fractures in his skull. “The doctor said that if I didn’t have a helmet, I would have been in a coma for a while, so I was very lucky,” said Milne.

At the time, the prognosis didn’t look too promising. “The doctor told me six to 12 months before I could ride again,” he said.

But Milne was racing again with his Wheelworks-Cannondale team by mid-summer, although his season debut didn’t go all that well either. “I started my season at Fitchburg [at the end of June] because of my accident,” he said. “I fell there, got stitches in my head. I had a bad early season, wasn’t very lucky, but then I went to [Four Bridges of] Elgin, was third there, and things have been going smoothly since.”

Still, Zolder was a long way away from being in the hospital back in Massachusetts. “I couldn’t believe I made the [world’s] team,” he said. “I couldn’t even believe I came over to ride with the national team.”

Milne made the most of it, and those around him realized that his 22nd-place finish, after getting slowed by the finish-line crash, wasn’t too shabby. “For his first year in Europe, that was pretty good,” said teammate Mike Creed.

Creed finished 50th on the day, while the other American finisher, Mark Fitzgerald, was 36th. The other two members of the team, Jon Retseck and Dale Suttle, both crashed out on a day riddled with crashes, although neither was seriously injured.

Trenti expected to sign with Fassa Bortolo
Americans can breathe easy over the controversial selection of Guido Trenti because it looks like the Italian won’t be helping Mario Cipollini after all. Trenti, an Italian with an American racing license, created waves after his selection was announced for the U.S. world’s team. Trenti rode this season with Cipollini’s Acqua & Sapone but is set to sign a contract to join Fassa Bortolo for the 2003 season, erasing any possible conflict of interests for the Italian. Trenti arrived in Belgium Thursday night after spending much of Wednesday sick in Italy with a stomach virus. So now the question begs, will he helping Alessandro Petacchi, Fassa Bortolo’s top sprinter who’s also expected to ride in Zolder? Trenti has insisted since his selection he will race for the Americans and no one else.

Final Italian selection
The Italian team is set for Sunday’s race, with Mario Cipollini headlining a squad that’s favored for the big win. The Italians, however, haven’t won the world title since Gianni Bugno won in Spain in 1992, so the pressure will be on the Lion King. Joining Cipollini are Danilo Di Luca, Paolo Bettini, Alessandro Petacchi, Luca Bramati, Fabio Saachi, Mario Scirea, Luca Scinto, Daniele Nardello, Giovanni Lombardi, Matteo Tosatto and Gianluca Bortolami.

Big crowds
Organizers said Friday 43,000 spectators have watched three days of time trial races at the 2002 road world championships. Spectacular weather has helped bring out the fans, even for the relatively minor junior racing events. Big crowds are expected for Saturday’s and Sunday’s finals despite forecasts for foul weather. More than 25,000 tickets have already been sold for the final-day action.

Helmet rule
The UCI “college des commissaries” released a communiqué Friday reminding riders that all women, U23 and junior riders must wear a rigid, hard-shell helmet while all elite men must wear at least some sort of helmet as is required in any Belgian race.

Longo a go for Saturday
French cycling legend Jeannie Longo has been given the go ahead by team bosses to ride in Saturday’s world championship road race.The 43-year-old Longo, who has a total of 13 world titles, had been unsure of taking part as team officials mulled over whether or not to field younger talent. The veteran champion, who could now bid for a 14th world title only days after failing to defend her time trial crown, also had a very distant relationship with the team.

However her seventh place behind winner Zoulfia Zabirova in Wednesday’s time trial proved good enough for national team selector Patrick Cluzaud.

Longo, the world’s most decorated woman cyclist with close to 700 career victories and 30 medals from world championships and the Olympic Games, won the bronze medal in last year’s 121km road race in Lisbon.

Jeanson to skip road race
Geneviève Jeanson, the two-time Junior World Champion from Québec, will not compete in Saturday’s elite women’s road race.

Jeanson, of Lachine, Québec, will be returning home, suffering from a severe case of tendonitis. Canadian Team Manager Luc Arseneau says Jeanson re-injured her Achilles tendon during the elite women’s individual time trial on Wednesday.

Barely able to walk Thursday morning, Jeanson spent the day at a hospital in Belgium with UCI doctors examining her. Doctor’s orders were that she stay off the bike, and not take part in the road race.

Jeanson has been plagued by the same injury all season, forcing her to drop out of several events, most notably the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England, where she was slated to race in both the individual time trial and the women’s road race. Sue Palmer-Komar of Hamilton took her place, winning a silver medal in the road race.

Competing in the elite women’s road race on Saturday is Lyne Bessette of Knowlton QC, Sue Palmer-Komar of Hamilton ON and Kathy St. Laurent of Rimouski, QC.

Only one for Canada
While the top nations will have 12 riders in Sunday’s elite road race, Canada will send only one rider, Charles Dionne, to the start line. A nation’s number of starters is determined by its UCI standing, and with a ranking of 30th, Canada gets only one slot in the road race.

“Unfortunately, the UCI’s not showing us a whole lot of love,” said Canada’s Eric Wohlberg, who finished 19th in the elite time trial on Thursday. “We’re capable of racing at this level, but right now, Canada’s UCI rating is in the toilet. It’s unfortunate that that’s what’s holding us back, because I think we have the athletes to do it.”

However, with U.S. Postal’s Michael Barry as the only Canadian racing full-time in Europe, the opportunities to improve on that ranking are slim.

“The rest of us are racing domestically in the States,” said Wohlberg. “But you look at the season that Mark Walters had, I’ve had a good season and Gord Fraser’s had a good season, but we’re not making any UCI points for winning races over in America, even though we’re racing against some of the best riders in the world. I hope maybe the UCI will see that in a different light in the near future.”

Friedick all along
While USA Cycling announced earlier in the week that three riders had been added to the U.S. elite road race team, it turns out only Tim Johnson and Ryan Guay were new additions. Mariano Friedick was actually on the team from the start, but never announced with the original roster released by USA Cycling.Start lists
Six Americans will be looking for gold in Saturday’s 128-km elite women’s road race. Kimberly Bruckner, Deirdre Demet-Barry, Mari Holden, Tina Mayolo, Amber Neben and Laura Van Gilder will be riding for the Americans in the field of 114 riders. Pre-race favorites include defending world champion Rasa Polikeviciute, Dutch riders Mirjam Melchers and Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsal, Swede Susanne Ljungskog and time trial winner Zoulfia Zabirova (Russia). The Germans come stacked with talent, including World Cup winner Petra Rossner, Judith Arndt, Regina Schleicher and Ina Teutenberg. Four Americans headline 164 junior men for Saturday’s road race. Tyler Farrar, Zak Grabowski, Nathan Mitchell and Olivier Stiler-Cote with Farrar and Grabowski coming on strong after competing in the time trial Wednesday. Time trial medalists Mikhail Ignatiev (Russia) and Mark Jamieson (Australia) will be likely contenders, along with Thomas Dekker (Holland) and the always reliable Italians.2002 Road Cycling World Championships — Friday, October 11, 2002
Junior women’s road race podium
1. Suzanne De Goede (Netherlands)
2. Claudia Stumpf (German)
3. Monica Holer (Sweden).
U23 men’s road race podium
1. Francesco Chicchi (Italy)
2. Francisco Gutierrez (Spain)
3. David Loosli (Switzerland)
Dutch rider Hans Dekkers finished second but was relegated for a dangerous sprint which race judges said caused the late-stage spill.
Weather Cloudy, less wind, cold, building clouds and chance of rain for Saturday.
What’s on deck for Saturday
Junior men’s road race, 9:30 a.m.
Elite women’s road race, 1:30 p.m.