Road

Wednesday’s Zolder notebook: Maybe now it’s Millar time; three added to U.S. roster and more

It was a sunny, blustery autumn day for the second day of competition at the 2002 road cycling world championships. Wind didn’t slow down the winners in Wednesday’s time trial events. Russians dominated the day, with Zoulfia Zabirova and Mikhail Ignatiev winning the day’s gold medals in the women’s and junior men’s respective individual time trials. Millar tops men’s elite fieldDavid Millar goes into Thursday’s men’s elite individual time trial is the favorite in what should be an exciting shootout among cycling’s strongest men against the clock. Defending world time trial champion Jan

By Andrew Hood

It was a sunny, blustery autumn day for the second day of competition at the 2002 road cycling world championships. Wind didn’t slow down the winners in Wednesday’s time trial events. Russians dominated the day, with Zoulfia Zabirova and Mikhail Ignatiev winning the day’s gold medals in the women’s and junior men’s respective individual time trials.

Millar tops men’s elite field
David Millar goes into Thursday’s men’s elite individual time trial is the favorite in what should be an exciting shootout among cycling’s strongest men against the clock. Defending world time trial champion Jan Ullrich and four-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong are the obvious missing players and the start list reveals a race without a clear favorite.

Millar was second behind Ullrich in Portugal last year, but his form could be questionable after his emotional protest at the Angliru stage at the Vuelta a España last month. Vuelta champion Aitor Gonzalez will be breathing down Millar’s neck for the top podium spot. Hungarian Laszlo Bodrogi, strong during the Tour, could be a factor as well as Spanish rider Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano, who abandoned the Vuelta after crashing.

Colombian Santiago Botero, third at last year’s world’s, beat Armstrong at the Tour’s first time trial but was inconsistent at the Vuelta. Russian Viatcheslav Ekimov, the 2000 Olympic time trial gold medalist, could have an outside shot for the podium as well. Leading the Americans are Dylan Casey and Chris Horner. Both are consistent time trialists who could pop for a top-10 with a good ride.

Three Americans added to men’s road team
Fred Rodriguez will have some extra warm bodies for Sunday’s elite men’s road race. Three riders were added late to the U.S. team, something that will help Rodriguez carry him through what’s sure to be a fast and attack-riddled final. The three riders — Mariano Friedick (Jelly Belly), Ryan Guay (Navigators) and Tim Johnson (Saturn) – all compete on the U.S. domestic circuit.

Zolder’s forgotten champion
Zolder is hosting its second world championships. In 1969, a little-known Harm Ottenbros upset the favorites to win the world title which turned out to be the only major win of his career. Ottenbros continued racing until 1976 without much success and then faded away from the sport. Now a counselor who works with the mentally handicapped, Ottenbros told Belgian journalist Noel Troyers that the world title brought him little joy: “Partly it was sheer bad luck. I rode into a ravine at the 1970 Tour of Andalucia and then I broke my wrist at the Tour of Flanders. Because the pressure was on, I started again too quickly and then I had problems with my guts, so there was no chance for success. I was burned out as a racer and then it struck me that cycling did not really matter very much to me. I stayed with it until 1976 because it was my living for awhile, but when I stopped, it was a relief.”

Longo still unsure of road slot
French cycling legend Jeannie Longo has asked team bosses to “stop playing mind games” regarding her selection for a race which could see her win her fifteenth world title.

The evening before today’s time trial, 43-year-old reigning world time trial champion was still uncertain whether or not she will be selected to compete in Saturday’s 131km road race, in which she won a bronze medal last year after victory was snatched at the line. On Wednesday, Longo, bidding for a 14th world title from the defense of her time trial title, finished seventh behind new world title holder Zoulfia Zabirova.

Longo’s results at international level, from a lengthy career which includes no less than 22 world championships, seems to have been ignored by team bosses with whom she has a relationship which could only be described as “distant.” On Tuesday night the fiercely independent champion from Grenoble asked the French to settle her selection dilemma once and for all. “I believe if I’m fit enough to race a time trial on a flat course then I’m also okay for the road race,” Longo said. “They (team) have told me that I’ll only do the road race if I do well (in the time trial), but they should just come out and tell me whether they want me to race or not.”

French team bosses maintained that Longo would only be picked on the basis of her performance Wednesday, giving a boost to reigning champion Rasa Polikeviciute of Lithuania, and her compatriot Edita Pucinskaite, who came second last year.

“If Jeannie does well, she’ll have her place,” said France’s technical director Patrick Cluzaud, though without specifying how well Longo would have to perform in her time trial.

“We just want to assess her fitness.”

Distances finalized
After some confusion in the junior women’s time trial (the 15-km course was reduced to 11.2 km without telling anyone), the local organizers and the UCI technical delegation officially finalized the exact distances of the upcoming races. The men’s elite time trial will be 40.4 km (25.04 miles), a little shorter than they original distance of 43.5 km (26.9 miles). The road racing circuit is also officially a little shorter than original 13-km, coming in at 12.8 km (7.9 miles).

Here are the official road race distances
Junior women: six laps, 76.8 km
U23 men: 13 laps, 166.4 km
Junior men and elite women: 10 laps, 128 km
Elite men: 20 laps, 256 km

2002 Road Cycling World Championships
Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Junior men’s individual time trial podium
1. Mikhail Ignatiev (Russian)
2. Mark Jamieson (Australian)
. Vincenzo Nibali (Italian)
Elite women’s individual time trial podium
1. Zoulfia Zabirova (Russian)
2. Nicole Brandli (Swiss); 3. Karin Thurig (Swiss)
Weather Cool, brisk winds, very sunny, temperatures in the 60s; more of the same expected for Thursday with building clouds.What’s on deck for Thursday Elite men’s individual time trial 40.4-km (25.04-mile) point-to-point course from Hasselt to Zolder.