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2011 Road Worlds Elite Men’s Road Race Report and More PHOTOS

by Laura Robinson

September 25, 2011 (Copenhagen, Denmark) – The final day of 2011 Road World Championships came down to the wire and was one for the story books as Mark Cavendish threw down the gauntlet in the final 100m of the Elite Men’s 266km road race to claim the rainbow jersey for Great Britain, a fitting culmination to three years of planning. With his victory Cavendish became the first British rider to bring home the Elite men’s title since Tom Simpson won at the 1965 road worlds in San Sebastian, Spain.

Australian Mathew Harley Goss gave it his best but was pipped at the line by Cavendish settling for the silver while an amazing photo finish between Germany’s Andrei Greipel and 4-time ITT Worlds winner, Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara, ended with Greipel on the podium with the bronze.

Canada’s David Veilleux had a brilliant ride, finishing 19th among the 210 riders with the same time as Cavendish. His finish was even more remarkable given that he only had two teammates – Barry and Tuft – and both were caught behind in the chaotic and dangerous crash at approximately the 200km mark. He was the lone Canadians in amongst the wolves from Britain, Germany, Australia, Italy and Holland who were controlling the race and setting up their sprinters as they rounded the last corner before the finish.

Beautiful Danish weather graced the Road Worlds again as the cycling festivities commenced in the city sentrum on Sunday morning – exactly where the time trials occurred earlier in the week. The Elite men rode the 28km from Copenhagen to Rudersdal where the race circuits began for 17 laps of the 14km route. Norway was out in full Viking force to cheer reigning world champion Thor Hushovd. One woman’s cape read “Thor: God of Thunder” with thunder stroked out and “My Heart” over it.

But it was not to be. Hushovd was caught up in the same unfortunate crash as Canada’s Michael Barry and Svein Tuft, Luxemburg’s Frank Schleck and at least two dozen other top riders, who all got tangled up and spent the last 76km chasing back to no avail. Despite the Nordic location and crazed crowds that numbered 250,000, it was not a day for the Vikings as only Hushovd’s teammate Edvald Boasson took a top ten finish in 8th place.

This day belonged to Great Britain who controlled much of the race and put sprinter Mark Cavendish into an excellent spot as the peloton hit the final kilometre as one hurtling mass to the finish. Cavendish saw his opening and darted up the inside passing Goss for gold in 5:40:27. To their left Greipel and Cancellara were dueling for the bronze as the German prevailed. Cancellara was looking for redemption after being dethroned in the ITT having to settle for third but couldn’t duplicate his effort. Belgium rider Jurgen Roelandts was 5th while France’s Romain Feillu was 6th.

Canada’s Veilleux at his first Elite Road Worlds was very happy with his top-20 placement. “I am very satisfied with the result. It was a long race for me, but I felt good in my preparation last week in Quebec. I played the energy-saving card and waited to the very end to make my move. It paid off, and I was well positioned,” said Veilleux, whose racing season will continue to the end of October.

“The race was never really hard. We cruised at 45-46 km/h on average, and I certainly started to feel the pain at the end. Everyone was in the same boat, going at the same pace. In the sprint, I was right up there with everyone,” continued the 23-year-old Veilleux. “ I did not know what to expect since this was the first time I participated at the Worlds in the elite category.”

“It was a long race so I saved at the beginning. I rode the first 150km behind the peloton. Then, to prevent attacks and falls, I repositioned myself.” Veilleux’s move to the front proved crucial as he missed the huge crash near the end of the race.

“I managed to avoid it and stayed like glued to the lead group which included about fifty riders. My teammates, Michael Barry and Svein Tuft, were caught in the fall, and I found myself alone in the pack. So I decided to keep my energy for the final sprint. “

Veilleux like most in pack were subjected to British rule. “They did a good job to stay ahead. For my part, I did the best I could to place myself well for the sprint. I took a line and hoped that it was right. I’m very happy with my race and with the final sprint. A top-20 at the Worlds is great. This was probably my best race of the season. A season with few accolades, but at which I was serious and worked hard – it starts to pay off.”

Barry was not able to ride after the crash and was out along with other top riders like Britain’s Steve Cummings and Christopher Froome, Bert Grabsch (Germany), Schleck and thirty-three other cyclists. Hushovd and other top contenders like Australian Stuart O’Grady and reigning ITT champ Tony Martin (Germany), finished the race more than five and a half minutes back of the winners.

“I fell quite heavily and sadly, wasn’t able to continue due to my injuries – my knee is swollen and I have strained some tendons in my leg,” Barry told Pedal post-race.

“It was disappointing as I felt very good and was ready to attack and follow the attacks in the finale. I will take a few days rest to let my leg recover and, if I’m okay, will get ready for my next and last race this season, the Tour of Beijing.”

Tuft who was also caught behind the big crash late in the race had better luck than Barry but remained stuck in Hushovd’s group that struggled to get back into the mix and finished well behind the winner. “I was trying to wait for the latter portion of the race to put some pressure on. It was shaping up to be a good day, but unfortunately Michael and I got caught in the crash,” said Tuft.

“Dave was riding so well, and I wish I could have been there to help him move up another 10 spots before that turn so he could be well positioned for the sprint. When you’re out there by yourself, it takes too much energy,” he added.

An early break of seven riders animated the competition from the get-go but no one took this break seriously. Anthony Roux (France), Pablo Lastras (Spain), Robert Kiserlovski (Croatia), Christian Poos (Luxembourg), Maxim Iglinskiy (Kazakhstan), Oleg Chuzhda (Ukraine), Tanel Kangert (Estonia) racked up a time difference of over eight minutes on the field.

By the 9th lap the gap had dropped to 5:15 and then on lap 10 with eight to go (112km) a dangerous group of five riders escaped from the peloton. Belgians Johan Van Summeran and Olivier Kaisen were quickly joined by Italy’s Luca Paolini, Australia’s Simon Clarke and France’s Yoann Offredo. They were 3:25 minutes back of the seven-man lead group which included Offredo’s teammate Roux and had a 45-second lead on the field.

As the pace quickened Poos was dropped and continued to drop back as the 5-strong lead chase group shed him as they caught the leaders by the 190km mark making the lead break 11-strong. They were up just over a minute on the main field, as the big crash had just occurred, dividing the main field into 111 riders in the first group and 59 in the second.

Teams were missing key riders, but because they were not wearing ear pieces, really didn’t know how far back their riders were or if they were even still in the race. Could the break, which now numbered eleven, stay away for good?

The main group still consisted of re-organized teams of Dutch, Belgium, British, Australian, Italian, German, French, American and Spanish as each of them sorted out who had been hurt or delayed by the crash and formulated new strategies if necessary.

Waves of colours swept through the front of the field as the various teams went to the front and played out their plans. Ben King appeared to be the long American rider at the front, with the stars and stripes nearly mixing in with the British “Sky TV” jerseys.  There were no riders from any of the teams in the break that had been designated as “protected.”

At approximately 195km France’s Sylvain Chavanel went for a solo break and was joined by Slovenia’s Jure Kocjan, Russia’s Pavel Brutt, and Holland’s Wouter Poels. But they were shut down quickly as Great Britain continued to drive the pace at the front of the pack.

Italy’s Giovanni Visconti took another run at it with teammate Francesco Gavazzi as the Italians kept sending riders out to try and bridge to the leaders and to stir things up in the peloton. Yet again the British train was challenged but kept calm and continued to control the race running them down now with 48km to go.

At approximately 220km Roux jumped from the breakaway group, which by then could feel the peloton getting closer as TT silver medalist Bradley Wiggins was at the front holding court with one objective – catch the break.

Local fans were thrilled when Denmark’s Lars Ytting Bak jumped and tried a solo break but no one was going to let any break get too far. His move helped bring the peloton closer to the leaders now just 51 seconds back. Then Belgian rider Van Summeren decided to wait for the field, diminishing the lead group even more.

By the penultimate lap Roux had a 14-second lead as Hushovd far behind was watching his jersey slip from his grasp. Maarten Tjallingii (Netherlands) decided to attack but Great Britain quickly put an end to that idea as Roux was now in their grasp as well as all riders in the break were swallowed up.

In flash just before he was caught Thomas Voeckler (France), recent yellow jersey wearer at the Tour de France attacked taking two riders with him, Nicki Sorensen (Denmark) and a Belgian Klaas Lodewyck. They built up an 18-second lead on the bell lap but their move was quickly becoming a thing of the past as Millar and Wiggins took turns working for Cavendish.

Before they were caught Dutch rider Johnny Hoogerland attempted a solo break and bridged to the trio ahead, and he too fell victim to the domination of British will. With 5km it was all together as the teams began setting up for the sprint. The Brits were still in control, but Germany was mixing it up, Denmark was trying to move up on the outside, while a haze of Italian blue spread on the other side.

At 4.5km the Aussies had pushed through the Italian line and by 3km to go looked like they had taken over from the Brits for their man Goss. With 2km to go the Germans moved in front and Switzerland’s Cancellara moved in with them. As they rolled around the last corner before the disputed sprinting area, the Brits started to flex their muscles again rule.

While it appeared as if Aussie Goss would be taking on Cancellara and Greipel, the wily and experienced Cavendish took the inside line and powered by them all in a 53×11 crossing the line first into the history books.

Cavendish admitted his finish had been quite some time in the making. “It’s incredible. It’s a three-year project headed up by my coach. It was three years ago that the course was awarded here. Our planning began then for the rainbow jersey in Copenhagen,” he said, referring to a decision made back in 2008.

“We were 8-strong today but there were thirteen or fourteen pro riders from Great Britain who worked hard to secure as many points as possible to get as many guys here as possible. We’ve established Great Britain as a dominant force in cycling. It’s about working together to do that and we succeeded today. It takes guys at maximum efficiency to win a world championship.”

When asked to compare the sprint to Cap Frehel, the fifth stage of this year’s Tour de France that he won in July, he replied simply, “It was uphill and I won. It’s just like any other sprint, just 15km slower.”

Cavendish kept coming back to what his team meant for him, especially towards the end of the race when the pace was unrelenting. “The attacks came every which way by every nation. We had eight of the best riders in the world riding for Great Britain. They rode out of their skin today – it was incredible. It’s a shame they all can’t wear the championship jersey too. I just did the part at the end.”

Compared to Cavendish’s three years of preparation, Goss took the silver almost by chance. “It wasn’t an ideal preparation,” he said, referring to his season this year that didn’t match the sprinter’s style course of the World. “At the same time it may have been a blessing in disguise.”

He said he didn’t know how he would feel and therefore there wasn’t a plan to put him on the podium, but… “I trained well and raced okay and thought I could do a good job. After 160-170 km I felt good and asked the guys if they could support me.”

Greipel added the course was “…a pretty nice circuit, but not so many opportunities for sprinters. We brought the best team for this race. We were chasing fast with the British team and then the crash occurred. We lost four guys and a pity we lost Tony Martin, but we did our best. They put me in a good position. We had a chance to be the world champion, but I am happy with third place.”

Cavendish was also asked to compare how he feels about the world championships versus the Olympics. “I had a dream about the Olympics and the rainbow jersey. As a British citizen you want to win the Olympics, but as a cyclist you dream of the rainbow [jersey]. It’s a dream come true – incredible. I will wear the jersey this year and the stripes on my sleeve forever.”

Full results HERE.

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