By Jean-François Quénet in Stuttgart
Barry Austin had something to celebrate after the U23 men's world championship road race Saturday. He was the coach who offered a place to winner Slovakian Peter Velits and his twin brother Martin in 2005. Austin hosted them for months several times in the past three years at his home in Gauteng, and the twins will again return to South Africa in mid-November. Martin's girlfriend Yolandi Du Toit (South Africa) rode the elite women's race earlier in the day.
"We understand each other to perfection," said Peter of his relationship with his brother. "When we race, we know how the other feels." This happened again Saturday in the finale of the World's race in Stuttgart.
"I pulled Peter back to the front at the one kilometer to go mark," Martin explained. "I knew he could finish the job the way he did it."
"It was a very hard race but I always had the impression it would finish with a bunch sprint. Nobody really wanted to take the initiative," said Peter. "The wind didn't favor the attacks. Maybe the course was too hard and most of the guys were afraid to attack. The sprint was a bit chaotic but it went as I wanted to. I liked it because it was uphill.
"I didn't focus on one rider in particular. It was important to be well positioned in the last curve. I also had a bit of luck that the road opened where I was. I found the hole for putting myself in first place."
Peter Velits is no sprinting novice. He outsprinted Baden Cooke and Daniele Nardello for the win of the GP Fourmies two weeks ago. 2007 is the second year in a row in which members of ProContinental teams are allowed to take part in the U23 race for the rainbow jersey. It's also the second year in a row in which the U23 winner has hailed from Team Wiesenhof. Velits' victory follows Gerald Ciolek's, but there won't be a third because Wiesenhof will end of its team sponsorship at the end of 2007.
The Velits brothers are virtually without a team for next year. "Now with this result, we should find something," they said. "I've had a few vague offers but I didn't want to go without my brother," added Peter. "With our manager, we decided to wait for the Worlds."
They prepared for the Worlds with the advice of Thomas Schedewie, also Andreas Klöden's coach. After living in Tongeren, Belgium, for a year, the brothers went to train in Holland on the Cauberg because they had heard that the final hill of the Amstel Gold Race offered a similar terrain as the course of Stuttgart's event.
"I still don't know if I'm more of a stage race rider or a one-day rider," said Peter. He also showed some potential by finishing 23rd in the Tour of Germany this year, second in the GP Tell, and fourth in the Tour de Bretagne in 2006, the year he won the Giro del Capo in South Africa. In 2005, he won the Vuelta Navarra.
"At some races, I was impressed by hearing this name Velits so many times in breakaways, until I realized there were two Velits," remembered Austin, who can proudly claim to have spotted the two young, talented brothers. Velits claims the first-ever Slovakian title on the road after the nation's previous best result of a silver medal by Milan Dvorscik at the amateur World's in Sicily in 1994.