Hamilton event draws 250,000 spectators
When people think of Hamilton the first thing that comes to mind is steel and the tough hard working people who make this city their home. So when the World Road Cycling Championships rolled into town for a week of racing for rainbows it was great to see over 250,000 people come out to witness the tough, hard working men and women of the cycling world show their legs of steel.
The Canadian team had high hopes in both the womens time trial as well as the road race with the Quebec duo of Lyne Bessette and Genevieve Jeanson leading the charge. In Wednesdays Oct. 8 time trial it was Jeanson taking the early lead after the first 25 racers, attacking on the climbs and looking super smooth on the flats.
This was all for not as the big hitters came next with first place being taken by Spains Joanne Somarriba with Germanys Judith Arndt taking the silver and Russias Zoulna Zabrova taking the bronze. Jeanson has to settle for fifth and Bessette 15 th .
In the road race on Saturday the big story was Jeanson failing her blood test, which showed a red blood cell count of 47 per cent, 5 per cent over the legal limit. This was attributed to her sleeping in a tent that simulates high altitude and increases the bodys production of red blood cells, the ones that allow the body to recover more rapidly during intense efforts. Her coaches deny she had any EPO injections. She hopes to be cleared of any doping by her second test which has been sent to Switzerland for analysis and will be released to the media this Saturday. If the test determines that she was doping she could face a two year suspension and not be allowed to participate in the Athens Olympics, where she will be one of the top medal hopefuls.
In the womens road race on Saturday it was a shocked and obviously shaken Canadian team going through the motions as their team leader looked on from the sidelines. After three hours of racing it was the timeless Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli (44 years of age) of France attacking on the last lap, only to be caught in the last 500 metres by five pursuers.
The gold went to last years winner Sue Ljungskog of Sweden, with Mirjam Melchers of Holland taking the silver and Nicole Cooke of Britain taking the bronze. These women showed incredible strength and skill over this 124 km course that featured close to 2,400 metres (8,000 feet) of climbing.
The top Canadian was Sue Palmer of Hamilton coming in 13 th in front of her hometown crowd.
In the mens time trial it was the heavy favourite David Millar of Britian crushing everyone by over a minute, with Mike Rogers of Australia taking the silver and Uwe Peschel of Germany taking the bronze. Millar looked like he was on another planet with his rapid tempo and smooth style. The top Canadian was eight time national champ Eric Wohlberg coming in 25 th .
The big story of the week however was the mens road race which featured more than 5,100 metres (17,000 feet) of climbing over a 260.4 km. course (6 hrs and 30 min.). With heavy pre-race favourite Paolo Bettini of Italy hiding in the main field for most of the race it wasnt until the last five of 21 laps that things took off. Led by Belgian Peter Van Petegems vicious attack on the Beckett Drive climb the field was shattered and down to a select group of five, which included Bettini, Micheal Boogerd of Holland, and the duo of Alex Valverde and Igor Astarloa of Spain.
Going up the final climb they were joined by an amazing Mike Barry of Toronto, who bridged up alone to this very select group. This sent the home town crowd into a frenzy. Barry had no teammates to help him against the 12 Spaniards, 12 Italians and 12 Belgians, a situation which, for those who know road racing, is almost impossible.
On the final half of the climb a solo attack was launched by Spains Astarloa, with no reaction from the gang of five remaining combatants until he had stretched the lead to 10 seconds. From there he descended like a wild man at over 90 km/h to win his first world title. His teammate Valverde took the sprint for the silver and Van Petegem nabbed the bronze.
Canadas Barry came across the line in seventh, which was the best finish by a Canadian at the worlds since Steve Bauer was third in 1984. This should however give Barry a spot on the US Postal Service team for the Tour de France next year as peleton fodder for Lance Armstrongs attempt at six in a row.
Great racing at a great venue in Steeltown.