Spain and Italy miss out in Worlds
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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Spain and Italy miss out in Worlds

by Agence France-Presse at 3:39 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, World Championships
Spain and Italy put a brave face on their failure to secure the coveted men's rainbow jersey, won in stunning fashion by Australia's Cadel Evans at the world championships Sunday.

With four wins a piece this past decade Spain and Italy have forged a healthy rivalry in the men's world championship road race.

Thanks to Paolo Bettini in 2006 and 2007, and Alessandro Ballan in 2008 Italy have been the team to beat of late and Damiano Cunego, second to Ballan last year, was hoping to make it four wins consecutively. Mario Cipollini also won for Italy in 2002.

In the end Cunego was left isolated in the final of the race's 19 laps and finished in eighth, 51secs behind just ahead of Valverde.

Last week's Tour of Spain winner was arguably his country's biggest chance of a first gold since Oscar Freire's third victory in 2004. Igor Astarloa also won for Spain in 2003.

While Italy had excuses, Spain still had numbers up the front in the finale having kept their powder dry as the Italian team exploded one by one.

Valverde later claimed it was better to have any medal than not to have one at all.

"It was me who told Joaquin Rodriguez through my radio (earpiece) to go and mark Evans after he went late (on the final lap)," said Valverde.

"Once he was up the front, I knew it was practically a guarantee of a medal."

But Kolobnev and Rodriguez eventually had to settle for the silver and bronze respectively after Evans put his chain into the big ring and powered his way up and over the final climb.

Cunego claimed the course gave him few chances to put his talents on display.

"My form is good, but this race was not the Tour of Spain or the Liege-Bastogne-Liege (one-day classic)," said the Italian.

But it did not help him that he had no one to help him when he was left with Cancellara, whose powerful surges in the final lap tested everyone's limits.

Italian coach Franco Ballerini said that tight marking, and a reluctance by the other teams to help them gain an advantage on their rivals had given them an extra challenge.

But he also pointed the finger of blame at Cancellara.

"We put four men into that break to try to force some other teams into action. Unfortunately everyone just watched us. What can you do when the others don't want to ride?" he lamented.

"Valverde wasn't going too well and I think Cancellara really hurt Damiano as well."

Yet as the Italians and Spanish look towards a duel on next year's course, held in Geelong south of Melbourne both Ballerini and Cunego saluted the day's biggest winner.

"You have to applaud Evans," said Ballerini. "Not only did he resist, he went away on his own and won.

"Cancellara was maybe the strongest rider in the race but Evans was definitely a deserved winner."

Cunego added: "I think he answered all those people who say he can't win. I am happy for him. But if Italy would have won, it would have been better."

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