ZOLDER, Belgium (October 12, 2002) – Crashes and cold temperatures greeted the junior men's and elite women's peletons at the 2002 World Road Championships in Zolder, Belgium on Saturday. Arnaud Gerard (FRA) won the junior men's event in 2:50:17 with Jukka Vastaranta (FIN) taking the silver medal and Nicolas Sanderson (AUS) the bronze.
American Tyler Farrar (Wenatchee, Wash.) posted the top American result placing 16th in the junior men's road race. Teammates Oliver Stiler-Cote (Arundel, Maine) and Nathan Mitchell (Phoenix, Ariz.) finished 35th and 36th respectively. Zachary Grabowski (Lafayette, Colo.) placed 98th .
Dede Demet-Barry (Boulder, Colo.) was the top American woman placing 16th. Sue Palmer in 67th was Canada's top performer. Susanne Ljungskog (SWE) rode away with the gold medal with Nicole Brandli (SUI) and Joane Somarriba Arrola (SPA) taking the silver and bronze medals.
Barry reflected on the conditions and course: “It was an interesting race. By the 9th lap, I didn't get the feeling that there was going to be a breakaway. There had been a couple of attacks, but it was easier to stay in the peleton. And then the rain started & and everything changed. The course became so slippery & there was a lot of paint on the course that made things really slick and because we're racing on an auto racing track, there must be some oil mixed in the track, too. So a lot of riders started crashing.”
The crashes ended the hopes of many riders – including Team USA's Amber Neben, who crashed in the seventh lap. Laura VanGilder (Cresco, Pa.) and Kimberly Bruckner (Boulder, Colo.) also endured a crash in the final lap of the ten-lap event but were able to get back in the race- finishing 52nd and 56th respectively.
“I feel really fortunate to have not crashed and finished the race”, said Demet-Barry. “Once the rain started, I think about half of the peleton went down. In fact, at the very end of the race as we started our final descent, I actually rode over a bike I just thank God that I was able to hang on. It took a little time to catch up again with the front group. I'm not particularly happy about finishing 16th, but I felt that I did the best I could under the conditions.”
“It was really interesting because the girls who ended up in the breakaway at the end of the race are really strong climbers,” said Demet-Barry. “We all thought that the strong sprinters would win this race. But the breakaway riders rode aggressively the whole race, and when the rain started, it was harder for the peleton to chase. It was good to see Susan [Ljungskog] win because she's been strong all season – she's a worthy World Champion.”