September 28, 2008 (Varese, Italy) – It’s a beautiful day in Varese for the Elite men’s road race now underway as the men complete 15 laps of 17.35km each, for a total of 260.25km. There are 206 riders racing at the event including three Canadians on the start line – Michael Barry, Christian Meier and Dominique Rollin – but they will have their work cut out as the top teams such as Italy and Spain have nine riders each.
The course runs through and around the city of Varese with two climbs totalling 3,632m – first Montello 1.150km long has an average gradient of 6.5% and then with 4 km to go there’s Ronchi, a 3.130km climb, with an average gradient of 4.5%.
Today’s racing has been overshadowed by the revelations of possible connections between Frank Schleck and Doctor Fuentes of Operation Puerto fame. The Luxembourg team’s hotel was raided on Friday evening, but Schleck, his brother Andy and the seven other members of the team have all been allowed to start today.
Three riders have built up a tidy lead of nearly 15 minutes but the peloton is still not reacting. The leaders are Richard Ochoa (Venezuela), Christian Poos (Luxembourg) and Oleg Chuzda (Ukraine). Canada’s Barry was involved in a crash with Nicolas Roche (Ireland) and others but all recovered. The rest of the bunch is still all together.
The leaders finish lap 6 with a total race time of 2hr 40min and an average speed of almost 39km/h.
They are now on the first climb of lap 7, and despite the enormous lead, now over 16 minutes, the bunch doesn’t look too concerned. But no one is betting on the trio staying away. They are working well together and look pretty comfortable, while the bunch is spread over the road enjoying the sunshine.
The peloton have only just come through the finish line to complete their sixth lap. The lead was timed at just under 18 mins, and it looks as though the Italian team have decided they’ve had enough and have picked up the pace.
The leaders are on lap 8 as Marzio Bruseghin is doing the bulk of the work for the Italians right now still on lap 7 and a number of riders are being spat out of the back. The gap has been chopped down to 16 mins though as the Azzuri blast up the Ronchi climb.
Attacks are coming out of the bunch. Six riders including two Italians, a Belgian, Austrian, Spaniard and Dutchman plus one more have opened up a little gap.
The bunch is all back together as they start lap 8 and have slowed down considerably – the gap now is around 14 mins. Crash – 4 riders – David George, Lars Ytting Bak a Portuguese rider, plus two others are down.
The bunch is bobbing its way up the 1.15km long Montello climb, the Italians are still near the front but not pushing the pace. Germany’s Ciolek has a front wheel change and Paolini (Ita) gets a new rear wheel. Both will make it back to the pack.
The leaders have started lap 9 and a race time of 3h 35min with 138.8km covered – 121.95km to go. Italy’s Bruseghin is on the front of the bunch again but there are no other Italians near him. Two Germans are on his wheel but seem happy riding in his slipstream.
The gap is down to 11:30 as the peloton comes through the finish area and begin the 9th lap – the three leaders are looking a bit tired.
Ochoa is definitely suffering and Poos is also looking a bit pooped on the Ronchi climb at they finish lap 9. Gabriele Bosisio of Italy is helping out Bruseghin – the lead is now under 11 mins.
Apart from Barry’s crash Team Canada is secure in the pack. Nicholas Roche (Ire), Matti Helminen (Fin) and Serbia’s Dragan Spasic have abandoned.
Ukranian Chuzda leads the break through the finish area to start lap ten after 4:04:00 on the road. They have just over 100km to go and the bunch is around 10 min. behind – correction the official time to the break is now 8:42.
The Italian team leads the bunch as they start lap 10 with Bettini near the front and a Canadian rider in the top 20 – time to the break is 7:45.
Ukraine’s Chuzda is now doing the bulk of the work for the break as they begin lap 11 of 15 – the lead is down to 5:30. It’s all blue at the front of the peloton but the Belgians have joined Italy as the bunch will soon start lap 11. The Canadians are riding smart and biding their time staying out of trouble… the gap is now just 4:41.
Ochoa takes on a bottle in the feedzone at the bottom of the 3.130km Ronchi climb. There are loads of fans on the hill and they give the tired breakaways applause as they ride up.
Bruseghin is now going hard on the Ronchi and there are a few gaps appearing in the bunch. The Canadian riders need to make sure they don’t get left behind in the wrong group if the field shreds.
The gap to the leaders is now under 3 mins but the peloton is in pieces. Bettini is at the front with a small group that have a lead of a few metres but it looks like it will all come back together before the start of lap 12.
The leading trio begin lap 12 and get a good round of applause – probably the last time as their lead is now just 1:30.
Five riders have broken away from the pack: Bettini joins team mate Damino Cunego, Spain’s Joaquin Rodriguez, Christian Knees (Ger), and Frenchman Amael Moinard. David Millar (Gbr) is out of the race and Chuzda has dropped his breakaway pals.
Those five have didn’t get very far and now there is another group trying their luck. It’s all on now! The pack comes back together again, but then Hubert Krys of Poland has a go and gets a gap of 20 metres. Krys’ attack is over and Chuzda is finally caught at the top of the Ronchi after almost 170km. Ballan makes a move over the top of the climb.
Ten riders including Bettini, Cunego, Alessandro Ballan (Ita), Hrovje Miholejevic (Cro), Fabian Wegmann (Ger), Kolobnev (Rus), Joaquin Rodriguez (Esp), Garate (Esp), Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Esp) and Kevin De Weert (Bel) are away as they ride down the finish straight to start lap 13 – they have a gap of about 15 sec.
The leaders are disorganized and other groups are joining up to them as they climb the Montello – now Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) attacks. No sign of the Canadians yet but there’s still a fair ways to go.
Le Mevel is caught and it’s Denmark’s turn to go next. Gabriele Bosisio (Ita) adds his name to the DNF list.
The pack is back together again but now Rebellin (Ita) attacks followed by Cunego, Grivko, Wegmann and Rodriguez. We have not seen the Canadian riders and it’s not looking promising. Luca Paolini (Ita) will probably join David Zabriskie (USA) who packed a few moments ago.
Christian Pfannberger (Aut) is also with the small lead group as is a Slovenian rider. Belgium is leading the chasing pack only 100m behind as they begin the penultimate lap 14.
The gap was only 7 sec. and what’s left of the bunch caught the leaders on the Montello. The peloton has shrunk dramatically and unfortunately does not contain any Canadians – it looks as though Barry and Co. will not be able to add to Svein Tuft’s ITT silver medal.
An estimated 75 riders make up the peloton now with 1.5 laps to go and there are bound to be more attacks on the Ronchi in just a few kimometres. Erik Zabel (Ger), who announced his retirement as well, has a mechanical, gets a new bike and sprints back to the pack with a little help by drafting behind the cars in the convoy. Benjamin Noval (Esp) abandons.
Tossato (Ita) grits his teeth as he grinds up the Ronchi. More riders get shot out of the peloton including Juan Manuel Garate (Esp). Ballan attacks over the top of the climb. Others dropping out include Robbie McEwan (Aus), Alberto Contador (Esp) and Andy Schleck (Lux). Ballan’s little group includes Wegmann, Rodriguez, Matti Breschnel (Den) and Van Avemaet (Bel) has a slight lead – the peloton is down to about 50 riders.
Lap 15 Final
The break is joined by Thomas LÃ¶vkvist (Swe) but they’re not working well together. They take the bell which indicates one 17.35km lap remaining and have 14 sec. over the next group. The peloton behind is now in two parts, with 25 riders chasing the break.
The Ballan break is caught by more riders on the Montello and they all start looking nervously at each other. Italy still has three riders up there, including Rebellin, but only two Spanish riders – Rodriquez and Sami Sanchez. Pfannberger is also in the group and Zabel as well. This would be his last chance to grab the Road Worlds title as he’s retiring this season. Time gap to the chasers is 28 seconds.
Good news for Canada and a correction – Michael Barry is in the chase group 28 seconds behind! He must have been hiding and eluded us – he makes an attempt to bridge across to the break but doesn’t get very far. Bettini is also stuck in the pack too and may have given up on his dream of a third title.
There are about 17 riders in the lead group on the final ascent of the Ronchi. Denmark’s Breschel digs in on the climb. Three Belgians are there as well Nuyens, Van Avermaet and one more. Rebellin looks strong and attacks dragging four riders with him. Now Ballan goes and Cunego isn’t far behind.
Pfannberger makes an attempt to get away but there are still three Italians in that little splinter group and they bring him back. Attacks are coming thick and fast. Canada’s Barry is at the front of the peloton but they’re not organized and look well out of it now.
It’s down to wire now as the six leaders approach the final few kilometres. The crowd roars as Ballan makes a great move and gets a gap. He could do it! Breschel is the only rider trying to bring him back, but there is less than 1km to go. He’s going to do it and the crowd knows it.
Ballan gets it, a brilliant win, and well played by the Italian team. 6:37:30 is the final race time.
1. Alessandro Ballan (Italy) 6:37:30 (39.283 km/h)
2. Damiano Cunego (Italy) 0:03
3. Matti Breschel (Denmark)
4. Davide Rebellin (Italy)
5. Andriy Grivko (Ukraine)
6. Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spain)
7. Fabian Wegmann (Germany)
8. Christian Pfannberger (Austria)
9. Nick Nuyens (Belgium)
10. Robert Gesink (Netherlands)
11. Jurgen Van Goolen (Belgium)
12. Thomas LÃ¶vkvist (Sweden)
13. Chris SÃ¶rensen (Denmark) 0:06
14. Assan Bazayev (Kazakhstan) 0:58
15. Philippe Gilbert (Belgium)
16. Kristjan Fajt (Slovenia) 1:01
17. Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium)
18. Gorazd Stangelj (Slovenia)
19. JÃ©rÃ´me Pineau (France) 1:13
20. Vladimir Karpets (Russian Federation)
21. Sergio Paulinho (Portugal)
22. Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spain) 1:22
23. Steven Cozza (United States Of America) 1:40
24. Hrvoje Miholjevic (Croatia)
25. Rubens Bertogliati (Switzerland) 2:14
26. AmaÃ«l Moinard (France)
27. Alexandre Bazhenov (Russian Federation) 3:24
28. Paolo Bettini (Italy) 4:53
29. Erik Zabel (Germany)
30. Matteo Tosatto (Italy)
31. Dmitriy Muravyev (Kazakhstan)
32. Alexander Efimkin (Russian Federation)
33. Michael Barry (Canada)
34. Thomas Rohregger (Austria)
35. Julian Dean (New Zealand)
36. Janek Tombak (Estonia)
37. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spain)
38. Tom Boonen (Belgium)
39. Oscar Freire Gomez (Spain)
40. Gustav Larsson (Sweden)
41. Frank Schleck (Luxembourg)
41. Sergey Lagutin (Uzbekistan)
43. Karsten Kroon (Netherlands)
44. Alexandr Kolobnev (Russian Federation)
45. Nuno Ribeiro (Portugal)
46. John Gadret (France)
47. Stefan Schumacher (Germany)
48. Janez Brajkovic (Slovenia)
49. Russell Downing (Great Britain)
50. Oliver Zaugg (Switzerland)
51. Roman Kreuziger (Czech Republic)
52. Nicolas Vogondy (France)
53. Sylvain Chavanel (France)
54. Mikhaylo Khalilov (Ukraine)
55. Matthew Lloyd (Australia)
56. Vladimir Gusev (Russian Federation)
57. Lars Petter Nordhaug (Norway) 5:20
58. JosÃ© Mendes (Portugal) 8:15
59. Aleksejs Saramotins (Latvia) 10:33
60. FÃ©lix Rafael Cardenas Ravelo (Colombia)
61. Kjell CarlstrÃ¶m (Finland)
62. Marcus Ljungqvist (Sweden)
63. Tyler Farrar (United States Of America)
64. Borut Bozic (Slovenia)
65. Frank Hoj (Denmark)
66. Maarten Tjallingii (Netherlands)
67. Roman Klimov (Russian Federation) 10:54
68. Hubert Krys (Poland)
69. Peter Kusztor (Hungary)
70. Carlos JosÃ© Ochoa (Venezuela)
71. Geoffroy Lequatre (France)
72. Leonardo Duque (Colombia)
73. JosÃ© Rujano Guillen (Venezuela)
74. Oleg Chuzhda (Ukraine)
75. Olegs Melehs (Latvia) 11:01
76. Lucas Euser (United States Of America) 22:49
77. Yukiya Arashiro (Japan) 22:50
DNS Levi Leipheimer (United States Of America)
DNF Juan Manuel Garate Cepa (Spain)
DNF Kevin De Weert (Belgium)
DNF Christopher Froome (Great Britain)
DNF Gerald Ciolek (Germany)
DNF Kazuo Inoue (Japan)
DNF Stefan Histrov (Bulgaria)
DNF Juan Pablo Dotti (Argentina)
DNF Nebojsa Jovanovic (Serbia)
DNF Alexsandr Dyachenko (Kazakhstan)
DNF Stefan Rucker (Austria)
DNF Volodymyr Zagorodny (Ukraine)
DNF GrÃ©gory Rast (Switzerland)
DNF Stijn Devolder (Belgium)
DNF Bram Tankink (Netherlands)
DNF Mario Aerts (Belgium)
DNF Yaroslav Popovych (Ukraine)
DNF Benjamin Noval Gonzalez (Spain)
DNF Marzio Bruseghin (Italy)
DNF Andrea Tonti (Italy)
DNF Andy Schleck (Luxembourg)
DNF Alberto Contador Velasco (Spain)
DNF Christophe Le Mevel (France)
DNF Ezequiel Mosquera Miguez (Spain)
DNF Danilo Wyss (Switzerland)
DNF Andreas Dietziker (Switzerland)
DNF Christian Knees (Germany)
DNF Michael Rogers (Australia)
DNF Martin Velits (Slovakia)
DNF Luca Paolini (Italy)
DNF AndrÃ© Greipel (Germany)
DNF Robert Mcewen (Australia)
DNF Nikita Eskov (Russian Federation)
DNF David Loosli (Switzerland)
DNF Rein Taaramae (Estonia)
DNF Jackson Rodriguez Ortiz (Venezuela)
DNF Philip Deignan (Ireland)
DNF Daryl Impey (South Africa)
DNF Nelson Victorino (Portugal)
DNF Przemyslaw Niemiec (Poland)
DNF Christian Meier (Canada)
DNF Steven De Jongh (Netherlands)
DNF Marc De Maar (Netherlands)
DNF Koos Moerenhout (Netherlands)
DNF William Walker (Australia)
DNF Zolt Der (Serbia)
DNF Sebastian Lang (Germany)
DNF Tom Stamsnijder (Netherlands)
DNF Marcus Burghardt (Germany)
DNF Vladimir Miholjevic (Croatia)
DNF Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway)
DNF Anders Lund (Denmark)
DNF Trent Lowe (Australia)
DNF Martin Mares (Czech Republic)
DNF Sandy Casar (France)
DNF Maxime Monfort (Belgium)
DNF StÃ¨ve Fogen (Luxembourg)
DNF Juan Mauricio Soler Hernandez (Colombia)
DNF Simon Gerrans (Australia)
DNF Allan Davis (Australia)
DNF Christian Poos (Luxembourg)
DNF Richard Ochoa Quintero (Venezuela)
DNF Peter Velits (Slovakia)
DNF Thomas Frei (Switzerland)
DNF Matej Stare (Slovenia)
DNF Matija Kvasina (Croatia)
DNF Gabriele Bosisio (Italy)
DNF Evgeny Petrov (Russian Federation)
DNF Dominique Rollin (Canada)
DNF Hidenori Nodera (Japan)
DNF Adam Hansen (Australia)
DNF Frantisek Rabon (Czech Republic)
DNF Christoff Van Heerden (South Africa)
DNF Jempy Drucker (Luxembourg)
DNF Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark)
DNF Maciej Bodnar (Poland)
DNF Richard Mascaranas (Uruguay)
DNF Vincenzo Centrone (Luxembourg)
DNF Muradjan Khalmuratov (Uzbekistan)
DNF Matthew Goss (Australia)
DNF Lars Ytting Bak (Denmark)
DNF David Millar (Great Britain)
DNF BenoÃ®t Joachim (Luxembourg)
DNF Manuel Eduardo Medina Marino (Venezuela)
DNF Sebastian Langeveld (Netherlands)
DNF Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spain)
DNF Ignatas Konovalovas (Lithuania)
DNF Kevin Evans (South Africa)
DNF Thomas Geraint (Great Britain)
DNF Stephen Cummings (Great Britain)
DNF Martin Elmiger (Switzerland)
DNF Rodger Aiken (Ireland)
DNF David Zabriskie (United States Of America)
DNF StÃ©phane Auge (France)
DNF Franklin Chacon Colmenares (Venezuela)
DNF Markus Zberg (Switzerland)
DNF Dariusz Baranowski (Poland)
DNF Grega Bole (Slovenia)
DNF Rida Cador (Hungary)
DNF Gergely Ivanics (Hungary)
DNF Laurent Didier (Luxembourg)
DNF Darren Lill (South Africa)
DNF Brent Bookwalter (United States Of America)
DNF Gerardo Luis Fernandez (Argentina)
DNF Yavheni Hutarovich (Belarus)
DNF Ruslan Podgornyy (Ukraine)
DNF Maros Kovac (Slovakia)
DNF Erki PÃ¼tsep (Estonia)
DNF Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Norway)
DNF Glen Alan Chadwick (New Zealand)
DNF Ricardo Mestre (Portugal)
DNF Henry Mendez Raabe (Costa Rica)
DNF Luis Fernando Macias Hernandez (Mexico)
DNF Normunds Lasis (Latvia)
DNF Robert Hunter (South Africa)
DNF Matti Helminen (Finland)
DNF Boris Shpilevsky (Russian Federation)
DNF Krasimir Vasilev (Bulgaria)
DNF Dragan Spasic (Serbia)
DNF Ian Stannard (Great Britain)
DNF Claude Wolter (Luxembourg)
DNF David George (South Africa)
DNF Markus Fothen (Germany)
DNF Tiago Machado (Portugal)
DNF Nicolas Roche (Ireland)
DNF Vladimir Tuychiev (Uzbekistan)
DNF Lukasz Bodnar (Poland)
DNF Marek Rutkiewicz (Poland)
DNF Adil Jelloul (Morocco)