Italians Conquer the World
It’s fitting that this years winner of the World Championships is from the country that has had an almost unbreakable stranglehold on professional cycling in 2002. For the first time in ten years, the Italian National Team got it right, under the expert guidance of former pro Franco Ballerini, the “Azzurri” were able to put aside their perpetual internal power struggles and unite to work for one man. And the Lion King did not let his team or his nation down.
The 260km event was held on a 13km circuit to be completed 20 times, on an almost perfectly flat parcours. The day began under typical Belgian skys, completely gray and threatening to pour rain at any given moment. The first lap was a blistering 47km/hr pace. When the dust settled Frenchman Christophe Moreau and Kazhak Dmitri Muravyev were clear of the peloton. Their lead would grow to a maximum of three minutes before being swallowed up with 10 laps to go.
The only other significant break of the day would come on laps 11 and 12 as Brit David Millar took former world champion Oscar Camenzind and Austrian Peter Wrolich on a powerful attack over the only climb of the day, the Sterrenwacht. Their lead grew to 1’29” before being overtaken by a peloton strung out by the Italian and Polish teams, working for Cipollini and Sbrigniew Spruch respectively.
From that moment on, the Italians controlled the race as Sacchi, Tossato, Scinto, Bramati, one after another turned the screw at the front of the field. The Dutch and Belgian teams tried desperately to break away, but were stopped by the impressive Italian lieutenants, Paolo Bettini and Danilo Di Luca.
The field sprint seemed almost a formality as Cipo took the biggest win of his career ahead of Aussie Robbie McEwan and German Erik Zabel who rounded out the podium. “The team worked perfectly – commented an exuberant Cipollini – We were calm coming into this race knowing that I had the legs and we had the ability to win”
1. Mario Cipollini (Ita-Acq)
2. Robbie McEwen (Aus-Lot)
3. Erik Zabel (Ger-Tel)
4. Andrej Hauptman (Slo-Tac)
5. Zoran Klemencic (Slo-Tac)
6. Jimmy Casper (Fra-FdJ)
7. Jaan Kirsipuu (Est-A2r)
8. Sven Teutenberg (Ger-Pho)
9. Baden Cooke (Aus-FdJ)
10. Julian Dean (NZl-Cst) 5.30.03