13.10.2001 World Champ. - ind. RR POR CM WEL
Exclusive Report by InfoCiclismo Correspondent Nico van Aelstyn
Rasa Poliekeviciute of Lithuania today won the gold medal in the elite women's road race. Her teammate Edita Pucinskaite, who won the gold in '99, took second in the three-up sprint to win silver today. The indomitable Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli took the bronze. The three covered the ten laps of this grueling 12.1 km circuit in a little over three hours at an average speed of 37.8 km/hr.
Road races of this caliber have certain rituals. The mass start begins with the riders gathering about 100 m behind the start line, more and more cyclists rolling down from the riders' area beyond the line. A few are seen zipping back the other way, responding to the announcer's occasional calling of the numbers of those that had forgotten to sign-in. Then each country's team is called forward one at a time, the riders rolling up to the start line to the applause of the crowd. Many countries are represented by only one rider, the largest teams have six; all were warmly received. Soon nearly all were at the line. Mari Holden was at the front of the pack opposite me; she look focused, the rest of the US team behind her.
At this point one last rider came rolling up to the front of the peloton from the riders' area. She un-clipped one foot and swung the bike around right in front of me, backing into the peloton. The photographers facing the start line suddenly realized that this rider was Jeannie Longo, fresh off winning the time trial gold medal, and they all moved over to get her
photo. As she chatted amiably with a British rider next to her, I was struck not by how small she is -- nearly all the riders here are -- but by how weathered she is. Unlike the many young cyclists around her, the skin of her arms and face reflect the years of riding in the sun. She will turn 43 this Halloween.
The photographers were cleared; the riders stopped chatting; they got that "race look" of focused determination. And then the gun sounded and they were off.
I took a different approach to today's race. After watching the mass start, I headed off down the road after the peloton. I wanted to get the feel of the race out on the circuit, and of the fans along the way. In the VIP area opposite the riders' tents there was a large Dutch marching band, all dressed in baggy orange T-shirts and funny hats. The oom-pahing was
actually pretty tuneful, and certainly got the race off to a festive start.
I watched the racers do six laps during my walk to the halfway point. The riders' eagerness was evident at the outset, as they did the first loop at a fast pace of 18:31 (39.2 km/hr). I didn't know this out on the course, but I surmised it as quite a few riders were dropped right away during that opening lap. That trend continued throughout those opening laps. And it
was not just the usual suspects of the small teams; the Italians, Belgians, Swiss and Russians were all well represented amongst the stragglers. Some soon adopted easy tempos and were seen chatting. Others carried on all alone as hard as they could for as long as they could. Notable amongst these was Ireland's sole rider, Susan O'Mara, whom I saw getting out of the saddle and giving it her all even though she'd been dropped in that opening lap. Another one was Martha Luz Lopez, one of Colombia's two riders. She too was dropped in the first lap, yet kept riding as hard as she could. On Lap 4 I saw her giving it her all on the second climb, with that dreaded large UCI van right behind her -- the one with the bright red brooms posted on the front of it. (She somehow managed to hang for one more lap after that; the officials pull riders from the course when lapped by the leaders.) The hard pace and grueling course caused nearly half of the riders, 40 of 103 at the start, to abandon or get pulled by the officials.
Along the way I passed all sorts of fans, all appearing to be enjoying the beautiful day, mostly sunny but not too warm, and the fine racing. I passed groups waving the flags of Holland, Belgium, Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Slovenia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Euskadi, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Many were dressed in flags or other goofy outfits and had painted their faces. A group of Ukrainian girls stopped me to ask if I had a marker so that they could finish writing the names of their heroines on their faces. (Unlike some other European races I've been to, today's crowd was pretty mixed, both in age and gender.) Not surprisingly, the Dutch, Belgians and Italians were the largest groups. The Norwegians made up with enthusiasm what they may have lacked for numbers though: a contingent of about ten wearing Norwegian flag jerseys and Viking helmets waved flags and toy swords and chanted and whooped as they walked the course. All of these
multinational fans cheered equally for all the riders, regardless of their place on the course or their country. Occasionally they'd get into friendly cheering contests with each other while waiting for the next bunch of riders to come by.
I didn't see any American flags along the way. I saw a banner from a fan club in California, but it turned out to be La California -- Paolo Bettini's home village in Italy. (Several Italian and Dutch riders had their own fan clubs there.) I did encounter a few American fans atop the second hill. One of them, Aaron from Sonoma County, California, is racing on a small team in Italy. He said he'd ridden the 1985 worlds course near Treviso, Italy (where Joop Zootemelk won the gold and Greg Lemond the silver), and that by comparison this course was much harder.
His judgment appeared to be confirmed by the trend we were witnessing. The lead group stayed together over those first six laps (the pace eased a bit after the opening lap, with lap times usually between 19:30 and 20 minutes), but it kept getting smaller and smaller. Mari Holden seemed always to be near the front of that group, and several of her teammates were in it too, notably Amber Neben and the two Kimberlys, Bruckner and Smith.
Everything changed on Lap 7. I heard that Italian Fabiana Luperini attacked, but I'm not sure. At any rate, when they crested the second big hill, the riders were in several little groups of 10 or so. None of the Americans were in the first group, though Susan Palmer of Canada was. I then figured it was time to head down to the finish line, and so hopped a ride in the photographers shuttle.
By the time the riders reached the finish line to start lap 8, they'd formed into two groups of about a dozen separated by only 9 seconds. On Lap 8, that all changed, as seven got away: the two Lithuanians, Poliekeviciute and Pucinskaite, Longo, Mirjam Melchers of Holland, Judith Arndt of Germany, Nicole Brandli of Switzerland, and Susanne Ljungskog of Sweden (the only Swedish rider in the race). Chasing hard though nearly a minute back were the three Italian hopefuls Luperini, Alessandra Cappellotto and Marianna Lorenzoni, the Canadian Palmer, and another Lithuanian, now a passenger, Diana Ziliute (the gold medallist in '98). The deficit was too much though, and the break would not be caught.
The front seven stayed together until mid-way up the second climb when Longo launched a fierce attack. Only the two Lithuanians could stay with her, the other four splintered on the climb. Longo and the Lithuanians got into a rhythm and worked well together on the rolling backside of the course. Melchers and Brandli were the first to recover and were within ten seconds heading into the descent. On the descent, the other two caught back on and the chase group was now four, still less than ten seconds back. Would four catch three on the final few flat-ish kilometers? The buzz in the stands grew and grew as they watched on the jumbotron.
No! There in sight are the three, racing for the line. From where I stood right at the line, it appeared that Polikeviciute started the sprint about 100 m out. Longo was where she wanted to be, right behind the two Lithuanians, but she didn't come 'round in the sprint, and all three crossed the line close together in what appeared to be the same order in which
they'd started the sprint.
Judith Arndt won the sprint for 4th, just nipping Melchers, with Brandli and Ljungskog finishing with them. Ziliute led in the second chase group a minute and half back. With her was Susan Palmer of Canada (10th overall, the best North American finish), the Italians Cappellotto and Luperini (9th & 12th), and yet another strong Lithuanian, the gold medallist's twin
sister, Jolanta Polikeviciute.
Amber Neben was the best US rider, finishing 30th at 4:34, nearly a minute better than the next finisher, Germany's Hanka Kupfernagel, and nearly two minutes better than the next one after than, Anna Millward of Australia. Mari Holden abandoned on the last lap, though I don't know why. At the start of the lap she was the best placed US rider, only 1:40 behind the leaders. The two Kimberlys arrived in the next group behind Millward's at 8:10 back, Bruckner in 40th and Smith in 43rd.
In the riders area after the race the Lithuanians were beside themselves with joy. They have a large support staff and there was a lot of affectionate hugging and kissing going on amongst them all. It's clear that they are all close and support each other. As I was watching them, Longo rolled by on her own, headed to the podium. Seemingly all of the Lithuanians headed over to the podium to applaud their teammates and share the glory; the French riders and staff stayed in their tent. Longo rode alone from the podium to the doping control booth as well. When she was done there, and done speaking with the many French journalists, your humble correspondent approached and asked for a few words in English. Though she
was on her bike and headed out, she cheerfully chatted with me:
NWV: Was it hard in the last stretch being by yourself with the two Lithuanians?
JL: No. I pulled with them. Not the hardest I could, but I worked. I knew I had no chance in a sprint against Melchers and Arndt. I had a better chance with the two Lithuanians. But I missed my sprint! I started, and my 11 slipped down to the 14, and they were gone -- whoosh. I am mad. [She said this last with a warm smile, as she had the rest.]
NWV: It looked like you attacked on the climb.
JL: Yes, it was my chance.
And with that, she rolled off to a well-deserved shower. I kicked myself for not asking her what she thought of this course, as she has seen so many over the years, having held the rainbow jersey for four years running, '85 through '89, and again in '95. What an amazing athlete she is. She's old enough to be the mother of most in the peloton, and she goes right on
winning. You've really got to respect her. She might ride alone much of the time, but in person, at least with the press, she was as pleasant and as patient as could be.
Elite Women Road Race, 121 km:
1. Rasa Polikeviciute (LIT) 3h 12:05 at 37.7 kph (GOLD)
2. Edita Pucinskaite (LIT) s.t. (SILVER)
3. Jeannie Longo (FRA) s.t. (BRONZE)
4. Judith Arndt (GER) at 06
5. Mirjam Melchers (HOL) at 06
6. Nicole Brandli (SWI) at 06
7. Susanne Ljungskog (SWE) at 06
8. Diana Ziliute (LIT) at 01:33
9. Alesandra Cappellotto (ITA) at 01:33
10. Susan Palmar (CAN) at 01:33
11. Jolanta Polikeviciute (LIT) at 01:33
12. Fabiana Luperini (ITA) at 01:33
13. Monica Valen (NOR) at 01:49
14. Marianna Lorenzoni (ITA) at 01:49
15. Caroline Alexander (GBR) at 01:49
13.10.2001 13.10.2001 Champ. du Monde - en ligne / World Champ. - ind. RR POR CM MJU
Junior Men Road Race, 121 km:
1. Oleksandr Kvachuk (UKR) 2h 58:43 at 40.6 kph (GOLD)
2. Niels Scheuneman (HOL) at 01:07 (SILVER)
3. Mathieu Perget (FRA) at 01:07 (BRONZE)
4. Sven Nevens (BEL) at 01:07
5. Jeremy Roy (FRA) at 01:07
6. Thomas Lovkvist (SWE) at 01:08
7. Luca Conati (ITA) at 01:23
8. Jukka Vastaranta (FIN) at 01:23
9. Marcus Burghardt (GER) at 01:23
10. Chris Meschenmoser (GER) at 01:23
11. Thomas Fothen (GER) at 01:23
12. Przemyslaw Pietrzak (POL) at 01:23
13. Artur Krol (POL) at 01:23
14. Jurgen van den Broeck (BEL) at 01:23
15. Timothy Cassidy (IRL) at 01:23
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ROUND 2: GRANOGUE RESULTS
Place Name Team Time
1st Bill Elliston Jaegermeister 1:04:33
2nd Ryan Dewald Beans Rheinhardt @ 1 sec
3rd Sean Groom Snow Valley @ 5 sec
4th Kris Auer LSV/TREK/VW @ 48 sec
5th Szymon Niemotko Somerset Wheelmen @1:30
6th Les Leach Guys @1:35
7th Ransom Weaver Guys bikes @1:40
8th Greg Ferguson Trek/VW @ 2:25
9th Craig Dodson Bike Doctor @ 3:00
10th Jason Moore Beans Rheinhardt @ 5:06
11th Andy Neumann Evolution Racing @ 5:09
12th Nick Shaffer Bicycle Therapy @ 7:40
13th Gary Keblish Century SBCG one lap
14th Glenn Turner Wissahickon one lap
15th Chip Sovek Potomac Velo one lap
16th Andrew Wulfkuhle Wissahickon one lap
17th Peter Schildt Wissahickon one lap
dnf Jon Hansen Hudson Trail Outfitters dnf
dnf Joshue Williams Southern Maine CC dnf
dnf Ed Bush Guys bikes dnf
Place Name Team Time
1st Katie Compton Wooden Wheels 42:02:00
2nd Jenn Leonard Evolution Racing @ 6:29
3rd Josie Shew First State Velo Sport @ 6:53
4th Jessie Peil Snow Valley @ 6:54
5th Thais Silva Wissahickon @ 7:43
6th Sami Fourhier Snow Valley one lap
7th Kime Bare Tri State one lap
8th Jill Morgan Evolution Racing one lap
9th Laurie Webber Wooden Wheels one lap
10th Tammy Ebersole Evolution Racing one lap
11th Kirsten Plehn Independent Fabr. one lap
12th Lisa Vible First State Velo Sport one lap
13th Margaret Cabrinety Chesapeake Wheelmen one lap
14th Donna Anderson Evolution Racing one lap
15th Amy Lowry Fuji one lap
GRAND TOURS RETAIN DATES
The Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and the Vuelta a España will retain their dates in the international calendar, as decided by the International Cycling Union (UCI).
Giro: May 11 – June 2
Tour: July 6 – 28
Vuelta: September 7 – 29www.infociclismo.com