By Shane Stokes in Stuttgart
Heading a very young podium in the elite women's world championship road race on Saturday, Italian rider Marta Bastianelli and another 20 year-old, Marianne Vos of the Netherlands, were the top two finishers in the 133.7 kilometre event. Third went to another rider born in the eighties, 24 year-old Giorgia Bronzini.
Bastianelli said after the race that the motive for her attack was to thin the front group down and thus boost the chances for Bronzini in the sprint. However her strength plus some patchy co-operation behind by the other favourites saw her take the rainbow jersey.
"I attacked a long way before the finish, with perhaps 15 kilometres to go," said a delighted Bastianelli after the race. "I got a gap of 20 seconds. I only started to believe it was possible about five kilometers from line, because my team manager said then that I had to give it everything because there was a real chance [of winning]. But it was only when I saw the finishing line that I really understood and believed that the title was mine."
With Bastianelli landing gold, an aptly-named Bronzini taking bronze and Noemi Cantele in fifth, the women's Squadra Azzurra showed that they have coped well with a stressful week. They are staying in the same hotel as the men's team and so have experienced firsthand the media attention that has been focussed on Paolo Bettini and Danilo di Luca. Race organisers wanted both elite male riders out of the event.
Bastianelli said that maintaining focus was crucial to their success. "The week was very difficult for the team and the women also because of all of the things that were going on. There were many people in the hotel - journalists, photographers and others.
"It was a problem for them [the Elite men's team] but also for us. We decided to take it easy about everything and be very serene. Last night we had a final meeting and we decided just to put the problems aside and just concentrate on the race.
"This was the sort of course to do that on and we hope tomorrow they [the elite men] will also win the race because they really deserve it.
"We are practicing the sport in a very clean way, even if it was said this week by some that it wasn't the case. It is not like that. It is very important for us to show what we are able to do."