By Justin Davis, AFP
Saturday, September 26, 2009 5.13pm
Frenchman solos to victory in Mendrisio
Romain Sicard atop the podium as the new U23 world champion AFP/Getty Images
Frenchman Romain Sicard lived up to pre-race predictions by winning gold in the men's under-23 event held over 179.4km here at the world road race championships Saturday.
Colombia's Carlos Alberto Betancur beat Russian Egor Silin to the silver medal with a late burst at the line, with Silin claiming the bronze after they came over the line 28secs in arrears.
Sicard, a Basque who recently turned professional with the Euskaltel team after all the French pro teams failed to sniff out his talents, handed France their first ever worlds victory in the category, which made its debut in the competition in 1996.
"It's unbelievable to be sitting here with the rainbow jersey, it's not often you get the chance to win it in your career," said the 21-year-old.
His win came as no major surprise having recently won the prestigious under-23 stage race the Tour de l'Avenir - a 'mini Tour de France'.
But the modest Frenchman unwittingly revealed the extent of his attachment to France when asked how many races he has participated in wearing the red white and blue.
"Only two - the Tour de l'Avenir and the world championships," he added.
So far it's two down and plenty to go for Sicard, who appears to have the goods to get the underachieving French back among the world's cycling elite.
Colombia had taken the race by the scruff of the neck for the first two thirds in a bid to defend Fabio Andres Duarte's rainbow jersey from last year.
"I would have loved to keep the gold medal with Colombia," said Betancur. "We came here well prepared and determined to play a key role in the race."
France, however, proved the strongest team on the day.
Sicard announced his aims, rather unintentionally, on the penultimate of the race's 13 laps of a difficult 13.8km circuit when he pulled away with Dutchman Michel Kreder.
"We kind of pulled away just to see what the others would do. I didn't actually feel too great at that point," added Sicard.
Kreder eventually lagged behind early on the final lap as he and Sicard hit the steep slope of the Acquafresca climb, and from there the Frenchman went on solo for 10km over the Novazzano climb and on towards the finish line.
After their initial attack another Frenchman, Nicolas Edet, decided he wanted some of the action and went off in chase of the lead duo. Struggling to close the gap on the second climb at Novazzano, Edet was soon joined by Silin.
At the summit Britain's Peter Kennaugh came over in pursuit of the leaders only 20sec in arrears with a small bunch but the Isle of Man rider, second in the mountains classification at l'Avenir recently, was kept close in check.
Sicard and Kreder held a 30sec lead on an increasingly large chasing group at the bell signalling the final lap, but it didn't take long for the Dutchman to struggle.
In their wake Edet was marking potential threats to his team leader, however the Frenchman was caught out when Silin and Betancur pulled away, stunning Kennaugh in the process.
The Briton launched a brave attempt to join the two chasers for a chance at a podium place, but came over the finish in fourth.
© AFP 2009
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