Vainsteins grabs the rainbow
Andrei Tchmil, Michele Bartoli and French hope Laurent Jalabert may have been touted as pre-race favourites, but at the end of a hard, 269 km yesterday's world Elite road race championships fell to a lesser-known fastman from cycling's top ranks.
After frustrated solo efforts from Belgian Axel Merckx and Italian Francesco Casagrande, plus a last gasp effort in the final kilometre by Merckx's compatriot Tchmil, Latvian Romans Vainsteins proved fastest of a large breakaway of 26 riders which sprinted for the gold medal.
Poland's Zbigniew Spruch took silver, while defending champion Oscar Friere went close in taking third. For the young Spaniard, bronze brought to a close one of the most successful reigns of recent years, confirming beyond doubt that his win last year was a deserved one.
There was no joy for the Irish in the junior and the women's road races on Saturday, which
were won by Jeremy Yates (New Zealand) and Zinaida Stahurskaia (Belarus) Tim Cassidy rode courageously to finish 63rd, despite breaking part of his pedal, while Philip Deignan and Michael Dennehy lost time due to a crash and bike problems respectively. Both Colin Armstrong and Geraldine Gill were delayed by crashes and pulled out of their events.
Finally, after a strong Herald Sun Tour campaign which netted the Irish team one stage win and over a dozen top 10 placings, Ciaran Power and Tommy Evans capped off the squad's impressive performance with good rides on the final two stages of the Australian race. On Saturday's tough 188km leg to Apollo Bay, Power overcame driving rain and slippery conditions to finish fifth, while Evans broke clear with two others yesterday to take third in the Geelong Criterium behind Australian winner Jamie Drew.
The high stage placings coupled with Power's fine ninth overall mean that the Irish quintet return home with a clutch of world ranking points. Aidan Duff, David McCann and Evans also took the first three placings in the most aggressive rider competition, while Power was second in the criterium classification.