Cycling: Record puts end to Swiss drought

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The Independent Online
OSCAR CAMENZIND gave Swit-zerland their first world professional road race title for 47 years with a storming performance yesterday.

He raced home 23 seconds clear of the Belgian, Peter van Petegem, with Italy's Michel Bartoli in third place, averaging 42.8 kilometres per hour over 258km to improve on the 41.5kph record that the Dutchman Joop Zoetemelk set 13 years ago.

Afterwards Camenzind admitted he had been wrong in complaining about being ordered to ride in last month's Tour of Spain with two days notice. "It was the best preparation I could have had," he admitted after winning the fast-est championship in 71 years.

Camenzind, 27, escaped from a group of five as Dutch favourite Michael Boogerd had to change a punctured wheel 11 kilometres from the finish.

"I had to risk attacking then because I would have had no chance in a sprint finish," he said. "When there was no reaction from the others I knew that I had all the cards in my hand. It is a real honour to follow Ferdi Kuebler [the last Swiss professional champion] on the golden path."

Bartoli, the pre-race favour-ite, said Camenzind proved too strong. "We did a lot of work but could not catch him," he said.

The Italian had battled misfortune throughout the race. He needed three bike changes after his brakes failed, then he had a puncture, and a crash at 80 kph descending a hill.

"For me it was a pursuit for 200km, and when I crashed I hurt myself," said Bartoli.

Aided by team-mates he was back in the race in time for the move that took six men clear in the final 50 kilometres.

The silver medallist, Van Petegem, said: "The best man won. We did our best to catch him, but as we closed he made another effort."

The dream return of Lance Armstrong after his battle with cancer ended in fourth place, one minute and eight seconds behind Camenzind. "I had nothing to give when Bartoli and van Petegem attacked. I'll never complain again about being fourth," said the American who was world champion five years ago.

"I was most disappointed with fourth in the world time- trial championship, but looking back over the last 18 months I really cannot be disappointed.

"If I had never been sick and had been 100 per cent then I may have been disappointed. Maybe four is my lucky number. I was fourth in the Vuelta, fourth in the world time-trial, and fourth today."

The pace over six hours of racing plus the cold, rain, and wind helped reduce the field of 152 to 66 finishers.

On Saturday, Diana Ziliute, a tiny Lithuanian with huge sprinting ability, spoiled Dutch hopes of a golden double in the women's event. She surged clear of Leontien van Moorsel to win the women's road race title, three days after the Dutchwoman was victorious in the time-trial.

Jeannie Longo's bid for a 13th world title ended in the last 200 metres as the sprinters stepped up the pace. The Frenchwoman, finished ninth.