U.S. closes world's tied with most medals

MRR906_041.sized.jpg*For a Photo Gallery of Sunday's competition, click here

Salzburg, Austria (September 24, 2006)—The 2006 UCI Road World Championships concluded Sunday with a thrilling sprint finish that resulted in an all-star podium indicative of a world championship-caliber race as a U.S. team comprised of a handful of UCI Pro Tour veterans, emerging world-class talent and domestic pros combined to propel Fred Rodriguez (Emeryville, Calif./Davitamon-Lotto) into a team-best 15th-place finish.

The United States closed out the six-race world championships tied with Germany for the most medals.  Each country won three medals.  The U.S. claimed a gold (Kristin Armstrong), a silver (David Zabriskie) and a bronze (Christine Thorburn), all in the individual time trial competitions, while Germany earned a U23 men’s road race gold medal and a pair of silver medals in the elite women’s road race and elite men’s road race. Nations steeped in cycling tradition – France, Switzerland and Russia – each earned two and six countries each took home one.

Sunday, the U.S. fielded a nine-man team in the 198-rider, 165-mile elite men’s road race.

In the closing kilometer of the main event, a four-man group of Paolo Bettini (ITA), Erik Zabel (GER), Alejandro Valverde (ESP) and Samuel Sanchez (ESP) escaped from the peloton before Bettini slipped around Zabel in the final dash to the line to add a world title to an illustrious résumé that also includes the 2004 Olympic Gold medal.

MRR906_039.sized.jpgIn the field sprint just two seconds later, Rodriguez placed 11th to give the U.S. a 15th-place finish on the day.  The result came despite a lingering knee injury that hampered him throughout the day.

“My knee was pretty bad out there,” said Rodriguez after the finish.  “I was pretty much riding with one leg.”

Rodriguez’ teammate during the season on the Belgian-based Davitamon-Lotto squad, Chris Horner (Bend, Ore.) was in the peloton at the end, placing 47th as the next-best American after attaching himself to a major late-race move that had enough horsepower to succeed, but hesitated just a bit too much.
Other U.S. finishers included Christian Vende Velde (Boulder, Colo./CSC) in 68th, Patrick McCarty (Allen, Texas/Phonak) in 102nd, Guido Trenti (Framingham, Mass.) in 107th and Danny Pate (Boulder, Colo./TIAA-CREF) in 118th.

With 12 laps of a 13.67-mile circuit, the first-half of the six-plus hour race was dominated by a 12-man breakaway that included Team USA’s Tyler Farrar (Wenatchee, Wash./Cofidis).  Tactically, the race was expected to go one of several ways – ending in either a mass field sprint, a sprint from a small group of riders, or a breakaway that escaped on one of the course’s two major climbs along the way.  Prior to the race, the majority of the peloton was unsure of how the race would pan out, but a growing number of opinions seemed to favor a field sprint.  With Farrar in the early break and several other major teams represented, the U.S. was content to sit comfortably in the pack as the time gap swelled to over 15 minutes at the end of the fourth lap. Farrar did his fair share of work to ensure the break’s success for as long as possible, but the peloton, led by the Swiss and Australian squads, eventually reeled the move in with roughly 20 miles remaining in the race. 

MRR906_033.sized.jpgUltimately, Farrar spent nearly 115 miles in the break before falling off the pace on the tenth lap, his work leaving co-team leaders Rodriguez and Horner fresh enough to follow any late-race attacks.

With the peloton intact midway through the bell lap, Guido Trenti (Framingham, Mass.) tagged a move just before the first ascent before the short-lasting break of three riders gained only a slight advantage. 

Over the top of the first climb, a flurry of attacks resulted in minimal gains and a select group of riders that included Horner managed to separate themselves from the bunch, but the peloton reconnected immediately after the descent with less than six miles remaining.

“With one to go, on the first climb, that move of six or seven attacked, so I went across,” explained Horner of his presence in a group that also included heavy favorites Bettini, Alexander Vinokourov (KAZ), Michael Boogerd (NED) and Valverde. 

“It looked like a good move, but we hesitated too much and it was brought back.  That’s one of the problems I have right now coming of the Vuelta (a España).  I have the form to go with moves like that, but I just couldn’t help drive it.  I’m just missing that spark.”

It quickly became clear to Horner that the race was going to end en masse, a style that suited Rodriguez more than anyone on the U.S. squad.
“After that, you could tell it was going to be a sprint, so I just looked after Freddie from there and made sure he was in the front group going up the last climb.” 

MRR906_045.sized.jpgIn the ensuing miles, an onslaught of desperate attacks were launched by riders not usually considered top sprinters including Vinokourov and David Rebellin (ITA).  But just when the conclusion looked destined for a mass sprint finish, Valverde and Sanchez pushed the pace and opened up a tiny gap, brining Bettini and Zabel with them.  In the four-up sprint, perennial powerhouse Zabel looked as though he’d streak to the world title, but Bettini snuck around him for the win.

“We had Freddie in good position going into the finish,” said Horner.  “After working with him all year, I knew what he needed, but those four just opened up a gap and whoever was on the front, I think (Australian Stuart) O’Grady, should have closed it for (Australian sprinter Robbie) McEwen.”

Like the elite women’s race on Saturday, the men rode a tactically solid race and placed riders where they needed to be to give themselves a chance at a medal.

Highlights for the U.S. team throughout the week include Armstrong’s world title in the elite women’s time trial on Wednesday, Thorburn’s medal in the same event, and Zabriskie’s silver medal in the elite men’s time trial.

Armstrong became the third American woman to accomplish that feat, joining Karren Kurreck in 1994 and Mari Holden in 2000.  Zabriskie’s silver was the first medal for the U.S. in the elite men’s time trial since the discipline was added to the world championship program in 1994.

2006 UCI Road World Championships
Salzburg, Austria
September 19-24, 2006
Final Results

Elite Men’s Road Race
1. Paolo Bettini (ITA) 6:15:36
2. Erik Zabel (GER)
3. Alejandro Valverde (ESP)
15. Fred Rodriguez (Emeryville, Calif.) +0:02
47. Chris Horner (Bend, Ore.)
68. Christian Vande Velde (Boulder, Colo.) +1:53
102. Patrick McCarty (Allen, Texas) +6:19
107. Guido Trenti (Framingham, Mass.)
118. Danny Pate (Colorado Springs, Colo.) +6:59
DNF. Chris Baldwin (Boulder, Colo.)
DNF. Jackson Stewart (Los Gatos, Calif.)
DNF. Tyler Farrar (Wenatchee, Wash.)

Elite Women’s Road Race
1. Marianne Vos (NED) 3:20:26
2. Trixi Worrack (GER)
3. Nicole Cooke (GBR)
12. Amber Neben (Irvine, Calif.)
34. Christine Thorburn (Menlo Park, Calf.) +2:07
38. Kristin Armstrong (Boise, Idaho) +2:07
DNF. Kim Anderson (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
DNF. Kimberly Bruckner (Boulder, Colo.)
DNF. Tina Pic (Dahlonega, Ga.)

U23 Men’s Road Race  
1. Gerald Ciolek (GER) 4:00.50
2. Romain Feillu (FRA)
3. Alexander Khatuntsev (RUS)
18. John Devine (Dixon, Ill.) +0:05
41. Thomas Peterson (Boulder, Colo.) +0:05
86. Craig Lewis (Spartanburg, S.C.) +0:35

Elite Men’s Time Trial
1. Fabian Cancellara (SUI) 1:00:11.75
2. David Zabriskie (Salt Lake City, Utah) +1:29.97
3. Alexandre Vinokourov (KAZ) +1:49.72
26. Chris Baldwin (Boulder, Colo.) +4:41.82

Elite Women’s Time Trial

1. Kristin Armstrong (Boise, Idaho) 35:04.89
2. Karen Thurig (SUI) +25.57
3. Christine Thorburn (Menlo Park, Calif.) +29.36
10. Amber Neben (Irvine, Calif.) +1:26.81

U23 Men’s Time Trial

1. Dominique Cornu (BEL) 49:28.42
2. Mikhail Ignatiev (RUS) +37.10
3. Jerome Coppel (FRA) +44.66
30. Steven Cozza (Petaluma, Calif.) +2:47.45
40. Brent Bookwalter (Comstock Park, Mich.) +3:53.79

About USA Cycling
Recognized by the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Union Cycliste Internationale, USA Cycling promotes American cycling through its 56,000 members and 2,000 annual events. USA Cycling associations include the BMX Association (BMX), National Off-Road Bicycle Association (mountain bike), U.S. Cycling Federation (road/track), the National Collegiate Cycling Association and the U.S. Professional Racing Organization (professional men’s road). For more information visit
www.usacycling.org or contact, USA Cycling Director of Marketing and Communications, Andy Lee at 719-866-4867.  

This Article Published September 24, 2006 For more information contact: