UCI Para-cycling Road Worlds: animation on the roads of Pietermaritzburg
After two days of time trials, the road races got underway over a course of 6.07km which was covered between four and 10 times depending on the sport class.
First off in fine conditions were the Women H1 – 4 followed by the Men H1-2.
Italy grabbed the first two gold medals of the day with Francesca Porcellato (WH3) and Luca Mazzone, both already crowned UCI World Champions in the time trial two days earlier.
Demonstration from Porcellato
Porcellato took command of her race from the start, going into the lead on the first of seven laps and never looking back, to finish with a lead of 5:21 over second-placed Anna Oroszova (Slovakia). Bronze medallist Renata Kaluza (Poland) finished a further 22s back.
“It was like another time trial,” laughed the delighted Italian. “I dropped the other girls on the first lap and waited for them to come back but they never did! From then I raced my race and watched my computer,” explained the Italian who was able to afford herself the luxury of slowing before the finish to savour her victory.
Fellow Italian Mazzone spent a long time alone at the front of the MH2 bunch until the USA’s William Groulx, with an impressive demonstration of strength, rejoined the man at the head of the race: “When I saw him (Groulx) come back, I went harder and pulled away again. I knew I had more energy to accelerate.”
At the finish line, 1:12 separated the two athletes, with Spain’s Sergio Garrote Muaoz in third, nearly 3 minutes further back.
Revenge for du Preez
The South African crowd were delighted to see their own Nicolas Pieter du Preez claim gold in the MH1 race, reversing the tables on Switzerland’s Benjamin Früh who had beaten the South African in the time trial two days earlier.
“I was actually rather annoyed about the time trial,” said the road race UCI World Champion. “I hadn’t lost a race since 2014, but I wasn’t firing on all cylinders Thursday.”
He made up for that disappointment on Saturday, playing a perfect mental and tactical game to finish 45 seconds ahead of the young Swiss athlete. “I don’t understand a lot of German but I heard Ben’s father say we were four minutes ahead of the others so I knew the two of us were racing for gold. I had worked pretty hard the first three laps, so on the last lap I made him work on the uphill drag, then on the steep part I overtook, opened up a gap, then hammered it in the downhill. In the last 2.5km I didn’t really know where he was but I just went as hard as I could. It was only in the last 10 metres that I realised I had killed it. I am just so happy to have won today in my own country.”
Italy’s Fabrizio Cornegliani took bronze.
Germany celebrated three double UCI World Champions with Christiane Reppe (WH4), Andrea Eskau (WH5) and Hans-Peter Durst (MT2). The two women again put in dominating demonstrations after their time trial golds on Thursday, while Durst was not sure of victory until the last few hundred metres. After being held up by an early crash, then fighting for breath because of allergies, he gradually made his way up through the field then found the energy to sprint ahead of eventual silver medallist Stephen Hills, of New Zealand. Spain’s Joan Reinoso Figuerola came third.
Carol Cooke back in the rainbow stripes
WT2 Paralympic Champion Carol Cooke (Australia), winner of Thursday’s time trial, won back the road race rainbow jersey she had lost to American Jill Walsh in Nottwil in 2015. “I really wasn’t sure going into this race,” she said. “After Nottwil I realised I needed to learn about tactics, cornering and reading a race. I used to ride out front alone but the women are getting so strong now.”
Germany’s Jana Majunke finished second, with Walsh coming in for bronze.
Victory in the Women’s and Men’s T1 classes went to Canada’s Shelley Gautier and Russia’s Sergei Semochki.
Dutch riders celebrated double ITT / road race wins with Carmen Koedood (WH2) and Jetze Plat (MH4), the latter who found himself in an exciting battle with Poland’s Rafal Wilk.
The pair pulled away from the rest of the field with just two of the 10 laps remaining. Putting in blistering laps, the two riders quickly put more than 2 minutes on the five chasers, with Plat pulling away in the final straight. Bronze went to Germany’s Bernd Jeffre.
De Vries outsprints Zanardi
The final race of the afternoon saw the Netherlands’ Tim de Vries take a historic win over Italian star Alessandro Zanardi by half a wheel. It was De Vries’ first victory over Zanardi at World Championships level. Early in the 10-lap race, Zanardi’s team mate Diego Colombari took a commanding lead which the bunch only reigned in with three laps to go: “It was such a tactical race,” explained a delighted de Vries. “I started to panic a bit between the 5th and 6th lap but together with Luis Costa (Portugal) we worked to close the gap. Then my aim was just to stay on Zanardi’s wheel until the final sprint. I worked hard for this and am so happy.”
Behind Zanardi, another Dutch athlete, Johan Reekers, took bronze.
An equally nail-biting race in the Men’s H3 10-lap race saw France’s David Franek claim the rainbow jersey in a gruelling final sprint. Silver medallist Paolo Cecchetto (Italy) recorded the same time of 1:42:19, with Switzerland’s Heinz Frei finishing 3 seconds further back.
The last day of competition tomorrow will include road races for all the C and B classes as well as the H1-5 team relay.