Tom Boonen is World Champion
By Jeff Jones
Despite some pre-race bickering around the Belgian team before the World Championships, national coach Jose de Cauwer got his men to work perfectly for gun sprinter Tom Boonen, who paid them back with a huge sprint to win the World Championships road race in Madrid. Boonen's team was brilliant as Nick Nuyens, Peter Van Petegem, Mario Aerts, and Bjorn Leukemans chased down a dangerous break with 600m to go to put Boonen in an ideal position to win the sprint from a group of less than 25 riders. In second place, after riding a very attacking race, was Spain's Alejandro Valverde, who had no match for Boonen's power with 100m to go. In third was France's Anthony Geslin, who also paid off the work of his teammates who had chased down another dangerous break with two laps to go.
"I can't believe it," said the incredulous Boonen at the finish. "I felt it was possible to do a good result; but when the last breakaway went in the last lap... We did everything we could. I still had a lot of strength left to do the sprint. We had a strong team; two Belgian guys in front who weren't working much, so we caught them right on time. I focused for the last two months on this race. All the races I did were with sights set on this race."
The race was marked by an early breakaway containing Krasimir Vasilev (Bulgaria), Juan Carlos Lopez Martin (Colombia), Saul Raisin (USA), and Dmitriy Muravyev (Kazakhstan). The quartet got as much as 12 minutes lead before the chase started with Great Britain, Argentina, and Kanstantsin Siutsou (Belarus). The gap was just 6'00 with five 21 km laps to go, before the Spanish and Italians turned on the gas and all the riders were caught with three laps to go. A dangerous move of 10 riders went on the climb on the third last lap, including Bettini, Valverde, Perdiguero, Pereiro, Piil, Devolder, Gilbert, Davis, Wegmann, and Lagutin, which managed to get 1'14 with two laps left.
The French team halved the gap on the penultimate lap, and the break reduced to Bettini, Wegmann, Piil, Devolder, Gilbert, Valverde and Perdiguero. But with one lap to go, it was only 13 seconds to the peloton, where Italy and Australia were keeping the tempo high to look for a bunch sprint. After the last climb of the last lap with 6 km to go, Bettini got clear again with Vinokourov (Kaz), Boogerd, Moerenhout (Ned), Stangelj (Slo) and Leukemans (Bel). But the cooperation wasn't quite good enough and the break was caught by a smaller group that contained Boonen and Valverde with 600m to go. Valverde led out the sprint at 150m, but Boonen easily came round him on the uphill finish to win on the Paseo de Castellana.
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