Belgium didn't punish the new world champion… right move!

After winning the gold medal at the U23 ITT World Championship , Dominique Cornu said: "I want to...

2006 UCI World Road Championships

CM Salzburg, Austria, September 20-24, 2006

Belgian Dominique Cornu was lucky to contest the 2006 UCI World Road Championships after his national federation considered removing him from the team following his withdrawal from the Tour de l'Avenir during the seventh stage just two weeks ago. Jean-François Quénet recounts Cornu's rise to U23 world champion status.

After winning the gold medal at the U23 ITT World Championship, Dominique Cornu said: "I want to thank a lot of people because this didn't come only because of my work." He kept the list secret but he probably included former Belgian national road coach José de Cauwer who has been a long time advisor for him. Both hail from Waesland.

Cornu was a mountain-biker when De Cauwer realised he could also ride well on the road. He created a surprise inside the Belgian cycling community when he selected him for the world championship in Hamilton where he finished fourth as a Junior in 2003, after just a few days of road racing in his legs. De Cauwer is also the person who has linked Cornu with Davitamon-Lotto for the coming years.

But the new Belgian road coach Jean-Pierre Dubois wasn't happy with Cornu when he pulled out of the Tour de l'Avenir two weeks ago. It was rumored that both he and Nikolas Maes would do so and they did it in the middle of stage seven - despite being warned previously. The following Monday, the Belgian cycling federation set up a meeting about the matter. They considered turning him down. At the end of the day, Cornu's letter of excuse and the few sms messages he sent to Dubois were enough for him to represent Belgium at the World Championships.

In the meantime he came ninth in the GP Wallonie, won by Philippe Gilbert. That was a sign of his good condition prior to the main goal of his season. "I knew that Mikhail Ignatiev,

Dmytro Grabovsky, Jérôme Coppel and so would be here at their best as well and I was afraid of finishing fourth once again", he said.

In Verona, for his first attempt to the world title as an U23, he also came fourth. Last year in Madrid, he was very disappointed with his 11th place. "It was very hard for me at the beginning today," he commented. It was painful. I thought I wouldn't be good." However, he had the best time at the first split after 10km. "Only after the two hills I was feeling better," he said. "My coach was also good for my progression. He was yelling: more, more, more…It was amazing."

The gap between Cornu and defending champion Ignatiev is also amazing: 37 seconds. His average speed (47.904km/h) is also pretty high considering the hilly course. We'll hear about Cornu again. He's also the Belgian champion for individual pursuit. He'll focus on the road next year before making a come back on the track for the Olympics in 2008.

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