Fierce attack in the desert ends hopes for Kiwi cyclists

By Cycling NZ

New Zealand riders Jack Bauer and Dion Smith were caught out, like much of the field, in a fierce attack in the desert that splintered the field in the elite men’s road race at the UCI Road Cycling Championships in Qatar.

After a dawdling slow pace for the first 80kms, the British and Belgium teams massed for a powerful attack at the front of the 200-strong field soon after the turn of the initial 150km loop in the desert. With the benefit of strong crosswinds and blazing heat, the two squads set a frenetic pace that split the field into several groups, with the Kiwi pair caught in the third group.

Once the lead pack returned to the seven loops of the 15km circuit at The Pearl in Doha, the pace was such that despite much hard work, neither Bauer nor Smith could bridge up to the next group, and were pulled from the course with two laps remaining.

Only 50 of the 200 riders completed the 258km race, with the remarkable Peter Sagan (SVK) holding off pre-race favourite Mark Cavendish (GBR) and Tom Boonen (BEL) in the sprint finish to retain his world championship title.

Cycling New Zealand director sportif, Craig Geater said the Kiwi pair was caught out too far back when the attacks came.

“We had talked about it and the likelihood that an attack would come out in the desert,” Geater said. “However it came so suddenly they were caught out like a number of the highly fancied riders and teams.

“It was quite remarkable because the field split up in a matter of minutes. The second and third groups, that included Jack and Dion, chased really hard and got within 30 seconds of a catch, but the pace was so fast and the engines too big for anyone to succeed.

“Basically the gaps that appeared in that big attack stayed until The Pearl with most of the field then pulled out. It was a bit disappointing because I think both Jack and Dion had the ability to stay with that pace.

“They were far from the only ones who missed the attack with the likes of Germany with Andre Greipel, Denmark, France, the Americans, Spain, a lot of heavy hitters and with the benefit of full-strength teams, missed the split and despite some really hard work, were not able to bridge those gaps.

“Remember it is no usual bike race. You are out in the desert. The heat was incredible and the crosswinds were the strongest they had been all week. The winds were the telling factor.”

It is the end of the season for Bauer, who heads to Belgium next week to meet up with his new team, Etixx Quickstep, while Smith remains in the region to race with fellow Kiwi Hayden McCormick for his ONE Pro Cycling team in the Tour of Abu Dhabi in the final tour of the season.

Results, elite men, 257kms: Peter Sagan (SVK) 5:40.43, 1; Mark Cavendish (GBR) same time, 2; Tom Boonen (BEL), st, 3; Michael Matthews (AUS) st, 4; Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA) st, 5. Also NZers: Jack Bauer, Dion Smith both dnf.
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