Tough day for Canada's elite men

The three Canadian riders in the men's elite race on Sunday at the World Road Cycling Championships Stuttgart, Germany, did not finish. Olympic champion Paolo Bettini of Italy successfully defended his title with Alexandr Kolobnev of Russia second and Stefan Schumacher of Germany third.

Dominique Rollin of Boucherville, Que., Svein Tuft of Langley, B.C., and Cameron Evans of Delta, B.C., withdrew in the 12th, 11th and 10th laps respectively. There were 14 laps in total.

"The 270-kilometre course was tough and to be honest, this was a completely different level of competition," said Canadian team manager Kris Westwood. "It's as if the guys went from junior hockey to the NHL. It was the first elite race for all three at the World Championships. We knew they wouldn't be in contention for a medal and the question was how long they could last against such a powerful field. Today nobody had a memorable day."

On the sixth lap, a 40-rider pack took-off and built a two-minute lead. The Dutch team worked hard to reel the pack back in but without success. With four laps to go, it was the Italian squad that reduced the gap and put its leader Bettini in a strong position for the finish. The frenetic pace imposed by the Italians proved to be successful but drained the Canadians.

Rollin learned many lessons. "I felt comfortable on the course except for one very steep climb [Herdweg climb]," he said. "I hadn't raced such a long distance since June so I tried to be more conservative. The reason I stopped was probably due to nutritional issues. After 200 kilometres, I started to have headaches because of a low sugar intake and dehydration. I hadn't raced the distance in four months so I wasn't used to eating for recuperating so much."

Men's under-23 race: surprise finish

In the men's under-23 road race, Peter Velits of Slovakia won in a sprint over Wesley Sulzberger of Australia in second and Jonathan Bellis of Britain in third. The top Canadian in the 171.9-kilometre race was Christian Meier of Sussex, N.B., in 37th, who finished with the main pack. David Veilleux of Cap-Rouge, Que., was 62nd (1'59" behind) while Keven Lacombe of Amos, Que., was 84th (9'41" behind). Brad Fairall of North Vancouver and Ryan Anderson of Spruce Grove, Alta., did not finish.

Westwood said the Canadian riders tried to set Meier up for a strong finish. "The goal was to have him up front when the attacks started before moving into a breakaway. We were in the mix but the race didn't unfold to our advantage. It became a defensive race and finished in a sprint."

"I had cramps on the last climb in the final lap and I fell behind the pack about 100 metres from the top of the hill. At that point, the lead pack was chasing a breakaway rider and the pace was very fast. I felt good in the pack but I'm disappointed not to finish with the first group,'' said Veilleux who was pleased with his improvement from last year's Worlds. "I still have two years to ride in this category and I'll get better."

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