World Championships pictorial special, October 6, 2005
This year's World Championships in Madrid was touted as the perfect sprinter's course - flat, fast with enough challenges to weed out the pretenders before the big guns hit out for the win. Or so it seemed. The parcours proved far more challenging than first thought, providing the perfect opportunity for a big classics specialist to power away after riding a tactical race. Two stars of the present (and certainly for the future), Tom Boonen and Alejandro Valverde, fought it out after pre-race favourites such as Petacchi and McEwen fell by the wayside.
In the women's and U23 races the story was a similar one; a tough parcours meant only the strongest riders made it through with any chance of the win. The form rider in the women's peloton, Germany's Regina Schleicher, took the win in a bunch gallop, holding off quality riders such as Nicole Cooke and Oenone Wood. In the U23 men's race it was survival of the fittest, and young Ukrainian rider Dmytro Grabovskyy was the strongest on the day, winning by a sizeable margin from Australia's Will Walker and Russian Evgeny Popov. There were some surprises, but at day's end it was arguably the rider of the year in 2005 that took home the major prize, and nobody was disputing that. The following pictures display the challenges and the colour that Madrid provided for riders and fans alike, courtesy of Mark Johnson.