Fabio Duarte wins U23 men's road race

Colombian makes history in Varese

Fabio Andres Duarte of Colombia capped a superbly-timed attack with a cunning but deserved victory in the under-23 men's race here at the world road race cycling championships on Friday.

Simone Ponzi of Italy came over the finish line, banging his fists in frustration, to take the silver medal with John Degenkolb of Germany claiming the bronze.

On a circuit that will be used by both the elite women's and men's field on Saturday and Sunday respectively, Duarte showed that collective strength can count for nothing if you don't attack at the right time.

While he was the only Colombian, of four in the race, to join up with a lead group after the halfway stage Italy found themselves with three riders on the 10th and final lap of the 17.33km circuit. But shortly after the red flag signalling the kilometre to go flag, Duarte stunned the hosts with a solo attack right after the final bend leading to the finish line.

As Ponzi and the remainder of the largely European eight-man leading group watched in frustration, the 22-year-old from Bogota came over the line in triumph to become the first ever Colombian to claim gold in the event.

"I knew I had to attack right then because, since I'm more of a climber, I knew I'd have no chance in a bunch sprint," said Duarte, who claimed he spent three months off the bike earlier this year due to a serious crash. "I'm so happy to have won this title. It's been a difficult year for me."

While Duarte made the critical move of racing up to a leading group of riders with 65km to race, Ponzi - a sprinter - had closed a gap only during the penultimate lap. In the closing stages he spoke tactics with compatriots Daniel Oss and Damiano Caruso, but they admitted their resources - and chances of launching a late attack - were fading.

Ponzi anticipated sprinting for gold, but was beat to it by Duarte - who raced briefly last year with the Italian team Diquigiovanni.

"I'm really happy to get the silver medal, but I'm feeling slightly bitter because I had pinpointed the final bend as a strategic point," said Ponzi. "I did well to join the leaders ... and when the Colombian guy attacked I gave it everything to pull him back, but he was just too fast."

Past winners of the men's under-23 world road race include Italian Ivan Basso, German Jan Ullrich and Belgian legend Eddy Merckx, the latter winning the crown in 1964 as an amateur.

For full results, report and photos, visit Cyclingnews.com.

© AFP 2008

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