Hunt Bags Trophy At Plouay
– By Gordon Cameron –
When England won the soccer World Cup Final in 1966, the television commentator came out with a line which has gone down in British sporting folklore: “They think it’s all over……..it is now!”
Cynics said the same thing about British sprinter Jeremy Hunt’s career when he moved to the Big-Mat team, after several highly promising years at Banesto, which coincided with the end of the ‘Indurain era’. Since then, the wins have been less than plentiful.
But yesterday Hunt stormed back into the limelight clinching one of the finest ever victories by a Briton on the European scene ahead of a top-class field. Over a tough 14km circuit (raced 14 times for a total distance of 196km) at Plouay, Brittany, which hosted Stage 8 of the Tour de France this summer, as well as the Worlds Road Race in 2000, Hunt produced a scintillating finish to edge out Aussies Stuart O’ Grady and Baden Cooke.
A number of breakaway attempts had failed to get a significant gap to the peloton, mainly due to the presence of such danger men as Paolo Bettini, on-form Igor Astarloa (both on lap 3) and Peter Van Petegem, Patrice Halgand and Baden Cooke (lap 12).
Several men tried to escape on the last lap, including Laurent Jalabert, but his recent sensational form meant he was being carefully watched. With the field together a sprint finish was the inevitable conclusion to race which has been won by Michele Bartoli and Nico Mattan in the last 2 seasons.
Andrea Tafi started the charge for the line, with Baden Cooke tucked on his wheel. The youngster powered through and looked set for victory, but in moving slightly off his line, he left a gap on the barriers which Hunt gratefully sped through in the final 10 metres. O’ Grady managed to edge his compatriot for 2nd with his last ditch bike throw.
Speaking to Reuters news agency, Hunt said: “I never imagined I could win here. It’s a timely win. It’s the best so far in my career and I was looking for a team for 2003. I had no offers and hopefully it will change now”.
The twice British road champion now has a priceless 175 UCI ranking points with which to bargain for a new contract, now that Big-Mat are quitting cycling at the end of the season. Many teams would love a fast man capable of staying the course in a race like Plouay, so a win like this could well secure his future.
24th GP Ouest France-Plouay
1 Jeremy Hunt (GBr) Big Mat-Auber 93 4.44.02 (41.4 km/h)
2 Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Credit Agricole
3 Baden Cooke (Aus) FDJeux.com
4 Martin Elmiger (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems
5 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Domo-Farm Frites
6 Jo Planckaert (Bel) Cofidis
7 Peter Van Petegem (Bel) Lotto-Adecco
8 Serge Baguet (Bel) Lotto-Adecco
9 Laurent Jalabert (Fra) CSC-Tiscali
10 Andrea Tafi (Ita) Mapei-Quick Step all same time