Australia tops medal table at Road Cycling World Champs
26 September 2005
Australia has ended the 2005 Road Cycling World Championships in Madrid on top of the medal table after scoring a podium place in all three divisions. The six gold medals awarded this week went to six different nations with Australia and Spain (three silver medals) the only nations to collect three medals.
Canberra's Michael Rogers, 25, claimed the gold medal to become to the first rider in history to achieve three time trial World Titles in a row while in the women's ranks world ranked number one and reigning World Cup Champion, Oenone Wood, 25, sprinted home for bronze in the road race. Victorian teenager Will Walker, 19, scored a silver medal in the U23 road race, the first time Australia has medalled in that division on the road.
Australia had hoped to wrap up the Championships with another medal in the men's road race but it was not to be despite the best laid plans of the nine member strong Australian line up. At the end of the 13 lap, 273km race Belgian Tom Boonen sprinted home to claim the World Champion's rainbow jersey ahead of Alejandro Valverde of Spain and Anthony Geslin of France.
Australia's big medal hope, Robbie McEwen finished 30th in the main field after missing a vital break of 25 riders that formed on the last lap.
"It was to be expected they would throw everything into the attacks in the last lap and on the climb was when it happened," said McEwen who although expecting the split was unable to go with it. "We were hanging about 100m behind and no one was left who could or would close the gap. I was with (rival sprinters) (Erik) Zabel and (Alessandro) Petacchi and there was no one to close it down.
"Four kilometres to go we realised it was all over and that's the way the race went," he said. "The guys in our team did a great job but I just wasn't able to follow the 25 best guys uphill the last time. So that's racing."
Cycling Australia's Professional Coordinator who was the director of the team for the race admits the new international qualification rules that saw the leading nation rider numbers drop from twelve to nine had an impact in today's race.
"Our plan was to get as many guys as we could to the finish but we had to expend our guys to bring back the (earlier threatening) break which they did a fantastic job doing," said Stephens. "The bad side of that was that Robbie was somewhat alone at the finish when the gap went off the front and we had no one there to bring it back.
"With nine riders you have to be very selective where you do your work and the boys did a great job all the way through with the majority riding well above themselves," said Stephens. "It's just a shame we had to use them all up in the last couple of laps.
"When the other teams were on the front it was pretty quick but when the Aussies got on the front it really blew the race apart," he explained discounting suggestions the Australians should have waited for other teams to help with the chase. "It's a maturing process. We are able to say we have one of the world's best sprinters in Robbie, supported by some of the other world's best sprinters in Baden Cooke and Allan Davis along with some of the best lead out men in the world so we can't h ide behind the rest of the countries.
"Every now and then you have to take on the repsonsibility and say 'okay we are one of the powers in the world cycling' and take some responsibility," he said. "The downside of that is what happened at the end."
"At one point we probably used a couple too many guys that we could have used in the last seven kilometres but you have to react to what's happening at the time," agreed McEwen. "I sort of gambled a bit up the last climb to not close it (the gap to the decisive attack) myself because I thought someone else would but it didn't happen."
National Performance Director, Shayne Bannan, says the Championships have been a resounding success for Australian cycling.
"We've never finished on top of the medal count before and the way everyone has pulled together has been inspiring," he said. "I suppose there is a little disappointment in the sense we came in as favourites (men's road race) and didn't get a place but it was a really superb ride by the guys.
"They just gave it everything and to win a World Road Championships (elite road race), in particular, everything has to be going right for you on the day," Bannan said. "They rode themselves into the ground which is all you can ask."