Davis sixth as Ewan adds third silver to Cyclones' tally
The Cyclones have wrapped up their world titles campaign in the Netherlands with three silver and one bronze medal for the national team and Australian riders on the podium in both the men's and women's trade team time trial events.
On the final day of competition at the UCI Road World Championships in Valkenburg Queensland's Allan Davis was the best placed Australian in the elite men's road race with his sixth across the line while earlier in the day Caleb Ewan sprinted home for silver in the junior men's road race.
The 267 kilometre elite men's race began in Masstricht and covered 100 kilometres before arriving at for ten laps of the 16.1 kilometre circuit that featured two climbs in an around Valkenburg and was lined with tens of thousands of spectators. The first climb of Bemelerberg is a testing 900 metres with a maximum gradient of seven percent while the 1.5 kilometre long Cauberg has a maximum gradient of twelve percent and crests 1700 metres from the finish line.
The Australians went in with a clear plan to support Simon Gerrans and Allan Davis but in the end Belgian star Philippe Gilbert proved too strong on the day claiming the win in a time of 6:10:41, four seconds ahead of Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen with Alejandro Vlaverde of Spain a second further back in third place.
"He was definitely a worthy winner today," said Gerrans after the race. "I stuck to my plan and waited and put all eggs in the basket of going on the last lap but Philippe was just too strong when he attacked at two k (kilometre) to go. I was in the next wave of guys but couldn't match his acceleration there so he's a worthy winner and I'm really happy for him.
"You can't be too frustrated when you haven't got the legs. If I was good enough to go with Philippe I deserve to be on the podium so at the end of the day I'm disappointed I didn't have the legs but when you don't, you can't lose too much sleep over it."
With Gerrans unable to match Gilbert's powerful attack 2010 bronze medallist Davis lined up to sprint home in a bid to claim a minor medal.
"(We) all knew what he was going to do, what tactics Belgian team was going to do, he was just too strong," said Davis. "Once again another top ten for me in the worlds."
"I was confident with the guys we had and they did a great job today," said Cycling Australia Professional Men's Coordinator, Matthew White. "They just came up short (at the finish)."
Both Gerrans and Davis praised the work of their team mates led by Heinrich Haussler in the role of captain on the road.
"The guys did a fantastic job," said Gerrans. "All fulfilled their roles and their jobs at the start of the day. All the guys really stepped up a level this year and did great job looking after us."
Michael Matthews rode into the early break while Adam Hansen, Wes Sulzberger and Richie Porte worked through the middle section. As the laps whittled down it was then over to Haussler, Simon Clarke and David Tanner with Clarke and Tanner the workers in the final two laps.
"It was my job to take the pressure of Gerro and by doing that had to be in everything before the final decisive lap so he could wait until then," said Clarke who this month won the mountain jersey of the Tour of Spain. He jumped on the front of the group in the closing lap to keep it together until the final climb up the Cauberg where unfortunately they couldn't match Gilbert's burst of speed.
"I've been on his wheel before when he attacks and if you want to go with him you have to be one centimetre behind him because if you're not there's no way you can follow him," said Clarke of the Belgian champion. "Full credit to him it was an awesome ride but to win a world championship you need an awesome ride. Good on him and let's hope we can go better next year.
Meantime in the 129 kilometre junior men's race 17-year-old Ewan from the New South Wales Southern Highlands narrowly missed reeling in victor Matej Mohoric. The Slovenian rider won in a time of 3:00:45 after an audacious solo escape in the final kilometre.
Ewan crossed the line in the same time at the head of the bunch sprint for second, with Croatian Josip Rumac close behind in third place.
"That was pretty disappointing for me but I think I will come out stronger next time," said Ewan who went in as a strong favourite and was marked throughout the race.
175 riders had lined up for eight laps of the 16.1 kilometre circuit including Ewan's team mates, Brad LInfield, Robert-Jon McCarthy and Nick Schultz, who went in with a clear strategy to protect him throughout the race.
"The race really had to go my way for me to win it. We had another three really strong guys that could have won this race (but) we went in with the one plan to try to get me the win and I really can't thank them enough," said Ewan. "They did so well out there and rode as hard as they could. Silver is OK, I guess."
Junior men's road coach Dave Sanders says the Australian team rode well but having only four riders racing against European teams with six riders made a difference.
"The plan was always to try and get Caleb over the crest of the Cauberg but the plan was to also have one of the guys with him," said Sanders. "Unfortunately with a four man team the guys used so much to try and set it up and keep it together we ran out of guys over the top.
"They did everything they could and the last climb before the Cauberg we had our guys on the front to try and split it up. There's two of them, that's 50 percent of the team, that spent their final 'biccies'."
The French attacked on the climb and Ewan went with them but when the Slovenian rider attacked at the crest of the final climb no-one would commit to the chase.
"Once we got to the top we had a gap but no-one really committed and that let everyone get back on," Ewan explained. "The guy that won attacked right at the top and everyone hesitated and we waited too long.
"Last year I decided to focus on the track and then this year I wanted to focus on the road for this race," said Ewan who in 2011 won the omnium gold medal at the junior track world championships.
Ewan and Linfield have been in Europe for almost three months racing in Holland, Belgium and France before they joined the rest of the junior line up in Italy for the worlds training camp.
"We knew what we could do and I'm very, very proud of Caleb for pulling that result out of what could have got messy," said Sanders.
2012 UCI Road World Championships are being staged in the Limburg region of the Netherlands, from 16 to 23 September 2012.
Australian Cyclones Results Summary
In the professional teams racing last Sunday Australian registered teams claimed silver and bronze medals.
Cyclones Australian Team
(RR = road race, TT = time trial)
(** selected 18 September as replacement for Michael ROGERS who withdrew due to illness)