Mon, Oct 04, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Downhill speedsters take races


Daring downhill breakaways were the key to victory Saturday at the cycling World Championships.

First, Roman Kreuziger of the Czech Republic joined Tunisian rider Rafaa Chtioui on a breakneck descent and went on to win the men's junior race. Then Germany's Judith Arndt set up victory in the women's elite division on the final descent of the "Torricelle" hill.

For Arndt, who won the silver medal in both the road race at the Athens Olympics and Tuesday's time trial here, it was a long-awaited gold medal.

Kreuziger's medal was his second of the championships after he claimed silver in the junior time trial earlier in the week.

Chtioui's breakaway was one of the most exciting moments of the championships thus far.

The lead group in the junior race featured seven riders after the final climb of the nine-lap race and Chtioui broke away from the pack on the high-speed descent. With few turns to slow him down, Chtioui flew down the course at speeds of up to 70kph.

Kreuziger was the only rider able to catch up to the Tunisian, who nearly veered off the road at one point.

"I train in Switzerland and there are lots of mountains there, so I learned how to go downhill," Chtioui said.

Cycling Union

The International Cycling Union unveiled a new 30-race professional tour on Saturday that will radically alter next season, forcing top teams to compete in all of the top events.

The World Cup of one-day races and the UCI rankings will be scrapped to make way for an overall Pro Tour ranking, with a point system taking into account each race's importance.

The Pro Tour will include the three grand tours -- Giro d'Italia, Tour de France and Spanish Vuelta -- and the five one-day classics on the World Cup schedule.

The Vuelta will be moved up in the calendar from September to early August, and the world championships will be shifted from late September-early October to mid September, making for a shorter season for riders who want to compete in the major races.

Twenty teams will take part in the tour, with 17 already named and three more to be selected on Wednesday. The UCI originally wanted only 18 teams in the debut season, but the teams forced an enlargement on Saturday.

"Licenses will be given for four years, but they will be evaluated after each year and will have to be renewed each year," UCI president Hein Verbruggen said. "If there is a problem or a team drops in level, it could lose its license."

The creation of the Pro Tour has endured fierce opposition from some team leaders and organizers. Some say the gap between the top of cycling's pyramid and the base will become too big, while some organizers whose races did not make the Pro Tour have said it will doom their event.

The UCI said it wants to encourage the best riders to compete more. In large part, it is a reaction to Lance Armstrong's failure to participate many big races besides the Tour de France, which he won for a record sixth time in July.

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