Latvian sprints to world title

The little-known Latvian Romans Vainsteins outsprinted the favourites Andrei Tchmil, of Belgium, and Michele Bartoli, of Italy, to win the men's road race title at the World Championships here in France, yesterday. Vainsteins, who turned professional only two years ago, was too strong in the last 100 metres of the demanding 268.8km Brittany circuit. Poland's Zbigniew Spruch was second and the title-holder Oscar Freire, of Spain, third.

The little-known Latvian Romans Vainsteins outsprinted the favourites Andrei Tchmil, of Belgium, and Michele Bartoli, of Italy, to win the men's road race title at the World Championships here in France, yesterday. Vainsteins, who turned professional only two years ago, was too strong in the last 100 metres of the demanding 268.8km Brittany circuit. Poland's Zbigniew Spruch was second and the title-holder Oscar Freire, of Spain, third.

"Winning the world title is something which does not happen every day of your life," said the 27-year-old Vainsteins, who broke down in tears on the podium. "I had only one team-mate," he said. "He helped me out a lot in the first few laps because I had trouble with my bike. So I decided to stay in the bunch and track Tchmil, Bartoli and Freire.

"In the last five laps I realised no breakaway would go to the end. Several riders tried but they were all caught after a while. In a way it was good news for I knew I could do it in a massive sprint."

On the last lap, the veteran Tchmil took his chance when he broke away four kilometres from home but the 37-year-old had not enough reserves to go all the way.

The French favourite Laurent Jalabert withdrew with less than two laps to go as the Italians working for their leader Bartoli went up a gear. "I'm really disappointed but my legs didn't want to turn any more," he said. "The fans booed me - that's the way it is."

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