Neither Peter Van Petegem nor Kurt-Asle Arvesen is surprised to see Oscar Freire take the title, whiPICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE With Lance Armstrong, Bobby Julich and Tyler Hamilton all out of the picture for different reasons, it was hard to see who would carry the Stars and Stripes' attack in Verona. In the end, it was US-based pro Chris Horner, who managed to stay with the front group and finish eighth. "I figured the Germans would chase because of Erik Zabel, so I stayed with them. In the sprint I was hoping for top five, but considering the circumstances eighth is OK," said Horner. The American has been representing the small American Webcorp team this year, but will return to Europe next season. "I'm about to sign with Saunier Duval," Horner explained. For Belgium, there wasn't even that much to cheer about. Wonder boy Tom Boonen didn't finish and Peter van Petegem, who would normally be in the front group in a race like this, didn't even make it that far when the medals were decided. Hit by illness not too long before the Worlds, Van Petegem wasn't terribly disappointed, though. "I was OK, but not super. Normally it's an ideal situation for me when a big front group is together this close to the finish and under normal circumstances I would have been in the final," said the Belgian, who wasn't surprised by Freire's victory. "He's had this race in his mind all season and he's divided his season perfectly. Also the way he rode and decided to drop out of the Vuelta was perfect preparation," said the Belgian, who finished 4-26 down on the winner. Norwegian champion Kurt Asle Arvesen was also missing from the front group at the finish. "It doesn't surprise me that Freire won, but it's surprising that the front group was so big. I found the parcours hard and I just didn't have it to stay in the front, but maybe a lot of riders are just in very good form," said Arvesen, who finished in the same group as Van Petegem.