Archive for the ‘World Championships’ Category
Bad Luck banished.
The untimely crashes, misfortunate mechanicals, eternal second places, this year’s Tour de France debacle, the disappointments and frustrations with his Silence-Lotto squad, the incessant whispers that he’d never win anything of consequence. All gone Sunday in the Men’s World Championship Road Race in Mendrisio, Switzerland. Gone forever and always.
On the final climb up the Novazzano, Evan dropped Alexandr Kolobnev (Russia) and Joaquin Rodriguez (Spain) and took a solo victory by a sweet 27 seconds. He must have had the whole R section of the dictionary in his head: revenge, redemption, relief, reward and — being flat out exhausted — rest and relaxation.
As the media scrum engulfed him, Evan kissed again and again the wedding ring that hung from his neck. It was an absolution, an almost fervent release of all he had endured and suffered. Was that a little heavy on the religious imagery? The man was damn happy the hoard of monkeys were off his back. Fortune finally smiled on the self-described unluckiest man in the peloton.
The five men watching. Rolling in roughly 30 seconds behind the top three finishers were most of the stars, favorites and popular picks. Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) , Samuel Sanchez (Spain), Philippe Gilbert (Belgium), Damiano Cunego (Italy) and Alejandro Valverde (Spain) all had that “oh well” feeling. Too marked, too tactically boxed in and, unlike Evans, getting no help from the cycling gods.
Unable to close the gap, they spent the last kilometers shrugging shoulders and playing a sad game of what-if. Only Cancellara, at home in front of cheering Swiss fans, made a concerted attempt to win with an attack in the penultimate lap. It was a decisive move but not the winning move. Alejandro Valverde, perhaps exhausted from his long flight from his Costa Rican hotel, never had the legs to challenge Evans.
That checkmate move belonged to Evans and it was perhaps the biggest of his career. “I’ve been thinking about this race for two years,” said the Australian. Evans has the rainbow jersey now, yup, that’s him, The Luckiest Man in Mendrisio.
Alejandro, where are you?
Recent Vuelta winner Alejandro Valverde is not checking into a Swiss hotel after bolting from his Italian accommodations.
After a frosty welcome from the Italian ProTour president, who called Valverde’s participation in the World Championships, “shameful and disturbing,” the Spanish rider decided it was safer in Switzerland, a country famous for its neutrality. However, those initial reports proved erroneous.
Valverde has apparently taken extra precautions and left Europe all together and is staying at a modest eco-hotel in Costa Rica. The Finca Valverde is located in Monteverde next to the Cloud Forest Reserve, a popular nature preserve.
“I am well here,” said Valverde. “There are no Italians and I am free to wander the jungle and breathe the fresh air. I saw a tapir yesterday and a three-wattled bellbird. Plus, I like the hotel name. It gives me confidence.”
Valverde has been dogged for years by allegations of his involvement in the Operacion Puerto doping scandal. In May, the Italian Olympic Committee banned him for two years from racing in Italy. He is currently waiting for the Court for Arbitration in Sport to rule on his counter-suit against the UCI and WADA.
For Valverde, the break from Europe appears to beneficial. “My mind is at ease. I walked the butterfly garden this morning. Later I will see the bat jungle, then perhaps tour the coffee farm. The zip-lines look fun, too,” said Valverde.
It remains to be seen how the Spanish team will transport Valverde from Costa Rica back to Mendrisio, Switzerland before the Elite Men’s Road Race on Sunday.
Wow, a Swiss champion on Swiss soil, err, roads. Is there any important time trial that Fabian Cancellara hasn’t won in the last year? Like Mark Cavendish in the sprint, Cancellara is on another physiological level. It just may be time to grab the scalpel, cut him open and find out what’s inside. For the benefit of science and mankind and slow pedaling cyclists everywhere. Or we could just ask his Saxo Bank mastermind Bjarne Riis — Fabian might prefer that approach.
Competitors wake up knowing second place is the best they can hope for. The man they call Spartacus is so much stronger than the others that he could basically ride in a wool toga flapping in the wind and Roman sandals. Race directors might need to impose a weight penalty to give the others a chance — maybe make him carry two six packs of Eichhof beer on his back. Which by the way they call the Swiss Power Beer.
Fabulous Fabian blitzed the 49.8 kilometer course in 57:54. A full 1:27 faster than Gustav Larsson (Sweden). Germany’s Tony Martin took the third podium spot, 2:30 back. The man was so far ahead he had time to drop back into 2nd gear, soak in the vibe and get his post-race quotes together. And crack open one of those aforementioned Eichhof beers. Just kidding.
A crowd of 23,000 cheered Cancellara on — we’re assuming it was about 22,999 Swiss fans. He went out the gate fast, went faster, added more fast and zoomed to a dominating win. Second place Larsson tried to draft when Fabian blew by but to no avail.
Expectations were high for Bradley Wiggins until a chain problem ended his chances. Last years’ Worlds TT champion, Bert Grabsch could only manage 10th place. And uhh, they don’t have a podium spot for that. Maybe a gift assortment of Swiss chocolates. Best placed American Tom Zirbel surprised many with a terrific ride, just 17 seconds from claiming 3rd place.
It was Fabian Cancellara’s day in Mendrisio. He proved once again that he will win any race that has a clock that goes tick-tick-tick.
Alejandro, where’s your trench-coat?
The winner of the recent Veulta a Espana had been staying in Como, Italy in preparation for this weeks’ World Championship races in Mendrisio. But after a less than warm welcome from the Italians, Valverde now plans to bunk at a separate hotel on Swiss soil.
Things got ugly when Vittorio Adorni, the president of the Italian ProTour, called Valverde’s participation the the Worlds both “shameful and disturbing.” Back in May, the Italian Olympic Committee banned Valverde from racing in Italy for two years. The ban didn’t cover staying in Italian hotels or buying Italian leather jackets but Valverde isn’t feeling the love.
In the meantime, while his team searches for a nice Swiss hotel, Valverde has been spotted wearing a fake beard and sunglasses. Keeping a low profile. That’s what champions do.