FLORENCE, Italy, Sept 29, 2013 (AFP) – Treacherous conditions due to heavy
rain prompted several big name retirements before the halfway stage of the
men’s elite race at the world road race cycling championships Sunday.
Three Grand Tour champions – Australian Cadel Evans, Britain’s Bradley
Wiggins and American Chris Horner – were among several riders to abandon prior
to the halfway stage of the 272.2 km epic.
And the victory hopes of the contenders still in a race described as
“carnage” were boosted by the later abandons of this year’s Tour de France
champion Chris Froome and Colombian climbing ace Nairo Quintana.
In the end Alberto Rui Costa produced a tactical masterclass in a pulsating
finale to outfox Spanish rivals Joaquin Rodriguez and Alejandro Valverde to
become the first Portuguese winner of the coveted yellow jersey.
The ‘Anglo’ challenges from Australia, Britain and the USA meanwhile failed
to materialize as only 61 riders from the 208 listed to start came over the
Heavy rain fell from early in the morning and did not stop until the final
hour, making the 10 laps of the 16.9 km finishing circuit treacherous for many.
Evans, a former world champion and Tour de France winner, was one of
several riders to come down near the barriers as the peloton chased down an
early five-man breakaway in the wet and slippery conditions.
He later abandoned the race and was taken to hospital but escaped
unscathed: “Went down early in a big ‘bingle’…X-rays show nothing broken,”
Evans posted on his Twitter page.
Australia’s best finisher was Simon Clarke, who finished seventh and among
an 11-strong group that crossed the line 34secs behind Rui Costa.
Froome’s slim hopes, meanwhile, were not helped by the abandon of 2012 Tour
de France yellow jersey champion Wiggins.
Although showing mediocre form in last week’s time trial, Froome was talked
up as a potential winner in what has been a huge season for the Kenyan-born
Froome, however, pulled out with less than half of the 10 16.9 km laps
completed as rain, thunder and slippery conditions continued to plague the
race – and the British team in particular.
“The conditions are the same for everyone. We’ve got no excuse. We just
weren’t there,” Froome later told BBC Sport.
“It’s a big disappointment, especially having made it such a big objective,
but with these conditions it just wasn’t meant to be.”
With 90 km still to race Britain had only one remaining rider from their
nine-man team, Welshman Geraint Thomas, on the course but the Team Sky
all-rounder soon abandoned.
“We didn’t have the legs out there for Froome,” said Thomas, who described
the crashes he saw as creating “carnage”.
Horner, who won his first Grand Tour at the Tour of Spain earlier this
month to come into the race with hopes of a podium place, also abandoned the