By Gregor Brown in Varese
Although Team Italy positioned itself well for the win in the Under-23 World Championships it did not count on a pre-emptive strike from Colombia, but that is just what Fabio Duarte delivered in the final 500 metres in Varese on Friday. The 22-year-old from Bogota held off Italy's sprinter, Simone Ponzi, and claimed cycling's famed rainbow jersey.
With his victory, Duarte becomes the first Colombian to win a senior level world road race championship. The only other rider from his country to wear the rainbow bands was Santiago Botero, who won the elite time trial in 2002.
"I decided to save myself for the last 500 metres," said Duarte, whose last win came in 2007's Tour of Colombia. "I am not a great sprinter, so it was the only way could win. I decided to risk it and thanks to God I am now the World Champion."
Duarte achieved his victory first by making the key move that went at the start of the day. That breakaway was eventually whittled down to him, two Italians – Daniel Oss and Damiano Caruso – and two Germans – John Degenkolb and Dominik Nerz. The two Italians played possum while the team's sprinter, Simone Ponzi, bridged across on the final lap.
"Duarte anticipated the sprint on the last curve, and it left a bitter taste," reacted Ponzi.
Duarte's strike against the Italians almost did not come. He suffered from a crash earlier this year and he only resumed consistent preparations in the last three months. He finished top ten in two stages in France's Tour de l'Avenir and cleared the path for gold in Italy.
"I am very happy for the win here in Varese. ... It has been three months of concentration."
Duarte's triumph came after a hard 2007 that saw him leave Europe and Gianni Savio's Diquigiovanni Professional Continental team. He felt homesick and returned to his father, who runs a farm business, and brother, who also races bikes.