Bettini Defends World Road Race Championship
Paolo Bettini (
From the start, the racing was aggressive. After just a few km, Robert Kiserlovski (
Stephane Auge (
During the fifth lap, the Italians began to apply pressure. The resulting combustion caused the peloton to split, with 50-60 riders in the first group. A two-minute gap formed between the first and second groups, with the second group falling 2:00 behind the first one. By the end of the fifth lap, the first group was 0:38 behind the leading trio.
During the sixth lap, the first group absorbed the three leaders. Ruslan Podgornyy (
Early in the eighth lap, the first group reeled in Podgornyy. The two groups nearly came together, but 24 men remained in front. They were Bobby Julich (United States); Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Norway); Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg); Jens Voigt and Marcus Burghardt (Germany); Carlos Barredo, Juan Antonio Flecha, and Joaquin Rodriguez (all from Spain); Rene Mandri (Estonia); Stijn Devolder, Philippe Gilbert, and Johan Van Summeren (all from Belgium); Matej Stare (Slovenia); Alessandro Ballan, Alessandro Bertolini, and Damiano Cunego (all from Italy); Vladimir Efimkin (Russia); Robert Gesnik and Karsten Kroon (both from The Netherlands); Simon Gerrans (Australia); Sandy Casar (France); Christian Pfannberger (Austria); Podgornyy; and Luis Felipe Laverde (Colombia). Eventually, Andriy Grivko (
Julich and the Italians drove the lead group. Behind, the Dutch led the second group. At the end of the eighth lap, the two groups were 1:45 apart.
During the 11th lap, the two groups merged. With 50 km left, Ballan attacked, and a flurry of attacks ensued. With 33 km remaining, Davide Rebellin (
With 22 km to go, Rebellin and Kolobnev led the peloton by 0:35. Early in the last lap, the escapees were caught, and the Spaniards continued to accelerate. With nine km left, Bettini attacked, and Frank Schleck (
Because the escape had some passengers in it, a determined chase could have reeled it in. With five km left, an eight-man chase group was only 100 m behind the fugitives. The chase, however, was anything but determined. The break remained at liberty.
With two km left, Kolobnev attacked and was reeled in. Evans followed suit and was caught with 500 m left. Kolobnev took over at the front and led out the sprint with 200 m left. Bettini powered past the Russian for the win.
The result was vindication for the Italian, whom the race organizers had attempted to keep out of the race. Bettini was asked to sign the Commitment for a New Cycling agreement, which committed cyclists to provide DNA samples and to hand over a year?s salary if they tested positive. Bettini is believed to have signed a modified agreement in which he denied being involved in Operation Puerto and in which he refused to hand over salary. UCI refused to accept modified agreements. The race organizers unsuccessfully attempted to obtain a court injunction to keep Bettini out of the race.
Bettini was connected to another doping issue during the week before the race. The German television station ZDF reported that Patrik Sinkewitz had obtained doping products from Bettini when the two were teammates on Mapei/Quick Step. The station claimed to have notes from an interrogation of Sinkewitz, who tested positive for testosterone during the Tour de France and is cooperating with investigators in the hope of receiving a reduced suspension. Sinkewitz, however, denied making the accusation, and Bettini denied obtaining or using doping products. He has threatened to sue ZDF.
When Bettini crossed the finish line, he made the gesture of firing a gun. ?Everyone?s been aiming at me all week,? said Bettini, ?so I decided to try myself.? He said that the week?s stress had come from people outside of cycling with economic motives.
Bettini has become the fifth man to successfully defend a world championship. We can expect to see him show off his rainbow jersey at the Giro di Lombardia. How will he fare? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!