Racing at the World Championships continued on a rainy Friday afternoon, with
Marco Bui (ITA) winning the Under-23 men’s cross-country event with a
powerful last-lap surge past World Cup champion Cadel Evans of Australia.
Evans had overtaken the lead in the third of four laps, but was caught and passed
by Bui on the final descent as Evans crashed and Bui rode to a 20″ victory.
The Under-23 men compete in the Elite division during the world cup season, but contest
their own cross-country event at the World Championships – a race separate from Sunday’s
senior event. While the field is smaller, it is no less competitive as several of
the world’s best racers are under the age of 23.
Evans was the main attraction of this 1999 edition of the U-23 race, the two-times
World Cup champion coming into this final event in the top of his form. He was also
being closely watched this year, as he has now competed in nine World Championships
with six medals, but no victories and rainbow jerseys.
Racing began under dark and wet skies, a light rain making for some of the coldest
and muddiest conditions of any World Championship. Italy’s Martino Fruet
took the first lead in the opening lap – a steady line of riders forming then quickly
breaking up within the first lap.
Fruet, who finished as the 10th-fastest U-23 rider in the Houffalize World Cup finals
two weeks ago, led the race by 38 seconds with Evans and Bui riding together as the
only legitimate chase group. Bui, who shares Paola Pezzo’s coach Paolo Rosola
and was the second-fastest rider in Wednesday’s Team Relay behind Evans, closely
shadowed the experienced Evans. The next closest rider, Jure Golcer of
Slovenia, was more than one minute off the lead in the race’s first half.
After chasing for more than two laps, Evans and Bui passed Fruet early in the third
lap, building a gap of a minute by the beginning of lap four. As Fruet struggled
for his place the podium, Evans attacked Bui for the win, knowing that, with only
one lap remaining, he’d have to amass his gap on the long sustained climbs against
this excellent descender.
Entering the fourth and final lap, Evans finally had a significant lead on Bui –
15 seconds by the top of the final descent. But Bui, who was simply faster than Evans
in the slippery, off-camber corners caught Evans less than a minute from the finish
line, and on this serpentine section of the course, the race was finally decided.
Evans entered one of the final open corners before the last singletrack on foot,
dismounting to negotiate a slippery corner. Bui, meanwhile, had nearly caught Evans
and remained on his bike. He then made contact with Evans on the next turn, overtaking
the lead while Evans crashed off of his bike.
Marco Bui”On the final downhill I gave it all I had,” said Bui,
who raced in the Downhill category as a Junior. “I went in too fast to the
corner, and touched Evans and then he was gone.” By the time Evans had collected
his bike (which slid several metres down the slope) and remounted, he had lost approximately
17 secondsÖ and the race.
“I’ve never trained for this situation before,” said a dejected Evans.
“He was behind me, and then he had 17 seconds on me. I’m a fair racer – I’m
not racing with my elbows. What can you do?”
Asked if Bui’s move was unfair, Evans replied “That’s debatable. He clipped
me, my bike went down and while he rode on I had to run back and grab my bike. When
it comes to the rainbow jersey I seem to be cursed.”
Just minutes later, Bui entered the finish arena in the front to claim his first
World Championship title. “I couldn’t believe it when I crossed the line,”
he said. “But maybe now I believe that I am the World Champion. This race
was mine because I was the strongest, but over the whole season it was Cadel who
Thanks to Ari Cheren for this report.
This report from the UCI.