World Championships 2004
Another not so selective World Championship yesterday, with about 20 riders in the end to sprint for victory.
Hats off to Oscar Freire for his third title in the last 6 years; it is somewhat indicative that the first 5 riders were all good "sprinters".
And it's not a surprise, in my opinion, as the Torricelle ascent with an average gradient of 5%, made at 26-30 km/h, means too big an advantage for those riders drafting in a group.
Moreover, the following descent, with only 3 curves, allowed recovery rather easily.
"We are the strongest team": these was Paolo Bettini's statement as titled yesterday's 'La Gazzetta dello Sport'; but a much stronger team was Spain, literally dominating the race in the last 2 laps, the decisive ones.
The Spanish Selection simply teamed up the best and fittest riders.
The Italian Team instead counted almost exclusively on the Olympic champion, who actually didn't seem in particularly brilliant shape in the last few weeks.
The declared alternative, Damiano Cunego, didn't particularly impress at the Vuelta, and yesterday he seemed a little inconsistent.
The man with the best shape, Basso, would have needed a much harder race, with teammates setting up fast pulls on the Torricelle climb, and much sooner than the last but one lap.
Who else in the Italian Selection could have made such really fierce uphill pulls, apart from Nardello and Frigo (who did their job!)?
Riders like Rebellin, Simoni, Casagrande, Savoldelli were excluded from the team, for several different reasons - all men who could climb the Torricelle in their turn at a pace that could have more easily "cut off" the legs of the sprinters.
Betting was unlucky yesterday, but some banal accidents often happen just when too nervous or distracted by other issues.