World Championships 2002
When Cipollini took off, from about 150 meters from the finish line with the road in slight descent (53x11), he opened a hole.
McEwen nearly fell behind the leaders, helpless in the face of so much power. It may be that the Australian and Zabel had expended a bit too much energy in the struggle of heads and shoulders desperately trying to get in behind Super Mario.
But it was not humanly possible, in only 150 meters, to “jump” the incredible Cipollini who had been impeccably launched by his team-mates Petacchi and Lombardi. For McEwen to win, he would have had to make up at least 3 meters in the 7 seconds that separated him from the finish line: letting loose a burst of enery 3%-5% greater than Cipollini’s (1600-1800 Watts)!
It was the fastest World Championship in the history of cycling: an average of 46.538 km/hour, and thus the shortest in terms of time: 5 and a half hours. An exceptionally fast course, wide road, favorable weather: too easy to ride in a group, to try to make the race difficult and selective.
Also, Durand’s break away kept the pack quiet for over 2 hours, at about 44 km/hour. But when the pack is spread across a wide road, “compact”, the displacement of air it causes pushes even the leading riders forward, reducing fatigue.
The only serious challenge came from Millar, Camenzind and Wrolich: a nice piece of work at about 50 km/h, that was held calmly in check by a slightly elongated pack led by Italians, Poles and Australians with legs still full of energy.
Then came an acceleration from Musseuw, countered by Bettini, and a lap at an average of 51.143 km/hr that gave control of the race to the Italian national team which was truly superlative in strength and determination.