September 22, 2012 (Valkenberg, The Netherlands) – Canada’s Hugo Houle put on fabulous display of cycling prowess and speed to finish just off the podium in 4th in the 177.3km U23 Men’s road race (11×16.1km) at the UCI Road World Championships in Holland today. Wet roads and cool temperatures greeted the riders for the start but conditions improved through the day with the sky clearing as sunny conditions prevailed.
Houle was in serious contention for the win on the final approach to the finish but threw down the gauntlet a bit too early in the final sprint to the line as Kazakhstan’s Alexey Lutzenko, bulleted up the inside lane to claim the big victory over France’s Bryan Coquard taking second in a near photo-finish sprint ending.
Belgian Tom Van Asbroeck, who looked like he might be the victor as his team set him up beautifully, settled for third as he squeaked by Houle with the slimmest of margins for the final podium spot.
“I kicked a bit early, I got excited, and didn’t wait,” Houle told Pedal post-race. “Still it was a very tough, satisfying race. It was hard to stay well-placed as there were a lot of crashes and unfortunately David was involved in one so there were only two of us at the end. I felt good and tried to stay near the front and on the last lap I saw my chance but went a bit too early…
“I’m happy with my race and I think I can be proud of it. It’s been a great year for me and a big progression – I have to thank my team SpiderTech and all of my supporters.”
Canadian Team Director Gord Fraser, commented “Some days 4th might seem like a result to dwell on… the what ifs. But in this race with a fast and aggressive field, it’s a very fine day for Canadian road cycling.”
Although he just turned 20 years young two weeks ago, winner Lutzenko, looks ready for the big leagues with a spectacular kick in the last 100 meters and a final time of 4:20:15.
The demolition derby up the last Cauberg climb was taking down riders until they regrouped with less than 1km to go after the climb. The furious race saw various attacks but the Kazakhstan team chased them down to shoe-in Lutsenko in what seemed like a possible Belgian win.
The first 52 riders crossed at the same time in a furious bunch sprint as Lutsenko punched through on the inside by the barriers in the final 100 meters to win by barely a wheel.
An early breakaway of three riders, Michael Freiberg (AUS), Jesper Dahlstrom (SWE) and Tomohiro Kinoshita (JAP) attacked on the second lap gaining over 8 minutes with a lone wolf on their scent from Slovenia, Kelmen Stimulak. He got absorbed after three laps but held on long enough to help a chase group of seven swallow up the breakaway trio.
Canadian Antoine Duchesne was in the chase group working hard to set up Houle for the final sprint and ended up 77th. “I had a great race and was happy to contribute this way to see Hugo come so close.” David Boily, another strong contender for the Maple Leaf team, suffered an unfortunate crash and didn’t finish the race but was not seriously injured.
The riders kept tabs on each other waiting to explode on the Bemelerberg and Cauberg climbs. On the final lap Houle look strong as a large group of riders came over the Cauberg for the last time and set up for the sprint with Houle feeling good but attacking a bit early with 200 metres to go while Lutsenko timed his final push just right for the gold.
Note: Lutsenko won’t be wearing the rainbow jersey next year as he has signed a pro contract with Astana, heir to the throne of this year’s surprise London Olympic Games winner, Alexander Vinokourov, who retired after the win. “I was really well-protected today and all I had to do was get ready for the sprint…I hope like Vino that I will have big opportunities to win big races with this team in the future,” said Lutsenko after his victory.
Full results HERE.
Vos Finally Claims Gold
Local favourite and the top contender, Marianne Vos (NED), the London 2012 Olympic gold medalist, who hadn’t won a road world championship since 2006 having settled for second place five times in a row since then, finally claimed the prize she was after, the Elite Women’s road race rainbow jersey.
Considered the main threat to reigning champion Giorgia Bronzini from Italy, Vos gave local fans the pot of gold they were craving in convincing style putting the frosting on a spectacular season-long cake as she also won the Giro Femminile and the overall Road World Cup Series title this year.
On the final climb up the Cauberg Vos countered Aussie Rachel Neylan’s attack with her own assault of the brutal climb leaving Neylan behind while Italy’s Elisa Longo Borghini struggled to keep pace ending up third as young Neylan, seeded 44th, turned heads with her silver race effort.
An early massive crash, taking down 30-40 riders on the second lap, split the peloton early on affecting several big names like Judith Arndt (GER) and Eleonora van Dijk (Ned) while Vos and others like Emma Pooley (GBR) escaped the carnage.
As the peloton regrouped a break of five riders escaped later joined by Vos and Longo Borghini on the penultimate lap. On the final lap two riders from the original break, Charlotte Becker (Ger) and Rosella Ratto (Italy) got dropped leaving five again to battle it out until the finish as the peloton could not reel them in.
Canada’s Joelle Numainville in the main group with Vos for most of the race was the top Canuck in 13th finishing with the first main chase group at 4.37, while Leah Kirchmann was right behind Bronzini in 21st place at 4:49 along with teammate Karol-Ann Canuel in 30th place. Veronique LaBonte arrived in 67th place at 5:39, while Lex Albrecht was outside the time limit.
“It was disappointing to miss the winning break so in the end we did our best for a top placement,” commented Numainville. “With a smaller team than others it was harder to compete but it was a great learning experience. The course was tough but I liked it and I look forward to riding a tactically better race next year.”
Vos couldn’t have written a better script, playing her tactics perfectly, sitting in a top-ten position all day timing her assault to the break perfectly, and then her final attack with the same precision.
At the press conference Vos exclaimed: “It was a long time ago and I nearly forgot (the jersey). It’s a great feeling to have it again…starting off the season with a supercross injury, it was stressful in May but I came back in the Giro d’Italia and won it and the road race in London…so it’s been an amazing season.”
“I knew the Cauberg was going to bad the eighth time, so I kept some energy so it was possible to attack on the steepest part and gave everything I had. It helps when you’ve done it 100, 000 times before, but I have to thank my team that kept to our strategy perfectly,” she concluded.
Full results HERE.