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By Kip Mikler, VeloNews editor
The future of Dutch cycling appears to be in capable hands. A strong team effort by the Netherlands helped Kai Reus win the junior men’s road world title on Saturday morning in Hamilton, Ontario. Reus’s win brought the medal total for the Netherlands to six, all captured in junior and under-23 race categories.
Anders Lund of Denmark came second after outsprinting others in the chasing group with Lukas Fus of the Czech Republic placing third to take the bronze medal.
Reus attacked on the final climb of a hard-fought 124km race to take the first solo road victory of the 2003 road world’s. After bridging to a small group of six riders that included American Zachary Grabowski on the last of lap of ten 12.4km circuits, Reus made his winning move on the final ascent of the Claremont Access, the second of two major climbs on the Hamilton course.
Reus had the advantage of a teammate, Sebastian Langeveld, in the final break, which hit the last lap with a slim 21-second gap on the field. At the base of the first climb of that last lap, Reus made an impressive surge to bridge the gap and reach the lead group of six.
“Sebastian was the fastest [in the break], and he told me, ‘If you go, you will break the group,’” Reus said. “I didn’t expect to stay away.”
After the leaders went over the Beckett Street climb and hit the rolling section of road on top of the escarpment, the attacks started coming in the lead group.
“I was probably third, fourth wheel going over the top, and guys would just sprint around me,” Grabowski said.
Grabowski and two others were gapped before the final climb, as the lead group was whittled down to four. Reus made his final move halfway up the climb and hit the final descent of James Mountain Road with a 17-second gap. He held off the charging field by 14 seconds to take the gold with a finishing time of 3:01:30.
With heavy fog enshrouding the Niagara Escarpment in the morning, the race was marred by scores of crashes on the damp, slick roads. The carnage began on the first lap, just 10km into the race, as the field roared down the high-speed James Mountain Road descent. Canadian Kevin Lacombe lost control, sliding sideways and shooting off the road into metal crowd barriers on the right side of the road.
Lacombe was transported immediately to Hamilton General Hospital, the trauma center for south central Ontario, with head injuries. At noon Eastern Standard Time he was listed in critical condition.
About 10 other riders were involved in the same crash that took Lacombe down. Trying to avoid Lacombe, Irish team rider Theo Hardwick swerved sharply and slid out on a wet, painted road stripe.
“We were going quite fast, well over 70k an hour I’d say,” said Hardwick, who was one of about 10 riders to go down. “There was a Canadian guy who went down in front of me and I was trying to avoid him. It was quite wet.”
Hardwick was forced to abandon, saying he was lucky to have only suffered cuts and bruises. Several other crashes occurred on later laps during the day, including a pile-up in the feed zone just after the start of the fifth lap and a last-lap crash in the corner before the finishing straight. American rider John Devine was injured in that last lap crash, and initial reports from the team were that Devine had suffered a fractured collarbone.
Road world’s competition continued on Saturday, with the next race on schedule the elite women’s road race, starting at 12:45 p.m.