Spain?s Astarloa Takes World Championships Road Prize
Spain?s Igor Astarloa took the world?s biggest single-day road racing prize Sunday when he sped home first in the Elite Men?s Road Race at the Hamilton 2003 Road World Championships. Alejandro Belmonte Valverde came second for a one-two Spanish finish. <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /?>
Heavy pre-race favourite Paolo Bettini of
Astarloa was part of a six-man escape group that formed on the first climb of the 21 st and last lap of the race. Others in the group were Van Petegem, Michael Boogerd of the
They stayed pretty much together during the first climb up
At first, no one did anything significant. But, suddenly, about half way up, Astarloa sped away from the group. The attack occurred about 3 km from the finish.
It seemed, then, that Bettini would show his stuff -- give chase, overtake Astarloa, and then romp home to keep the Elite Men?s title in Italian hands. The Lion King, Mario Cipollini, would give way to The Cricket, Paolo Bettini.
But it didn?t happen. Bettini responded, but weakly. Astarloa, meanwhile, arrived alone at the summit of the
?Bettini went to sleep,? said Giuseppe Ferrara, the man mainly responsible for bringing the Worlds to
That may be because the powerful 12-member Italian team seemed in control of the race until the last lap. Virtually from the start, the front of the peloton was painted Italian blue. The Italians seemed to be directing this production.
But Astarloa and wasn?t reading their script. If he was following any example, it was that of
?I said it four years ago when we first designed the course -- if someone gets to the top of the second climb with more than 10 seconds in hand, it?s virtually impossible for that person to lose,? said Ferrara.
That?s because the rest of the course dives down the steep and dangerous
Jeannie Longo came within a hair?s breadth of making the course?s last descent work in her favour in Saturday?s Elite Women?s Road Race. She, too, had made a solo attack but her?s was much longer