Johnny Bellis scored Britain’s first men’s medal at the world road race championships on Saturday (Sept 29) since Graham Webb won the amateur world title in 1967. Bellis took bronze in a hectic up-hill sprint finish at the end of the under-23 race in Stuttgart.
The Isle of Man rider, just 19 years old and in his first season as an under 23 rider, was well placed in the decisive final five hundred metres, and dodged a crash on the line after the bunch reformed on the last lap.
Having stayed hidden in the wheels throughout the race, Bellis accelerated out of the right-hand side of the bunch in the tough uphill sprint at the end of the 172-kilometre event to finish third behind Slovakian Peter Velits, the winner of the recent GP Fourmies, and Australia?s Wesley Sulzberger.
Like fellow Isle of Man resident Mark Cavendish, Bellis has transformed his natural speed and sprinting ability from the track to the road. He is part of British Cycling’s Olympic Academy group based in Tuscany directed by Rod Ellingworth and helped by Max Sciandri.
During his short career he has already won several medals on the track and was part of the 2007 team pursuit quartet that took gold in the European championships in Cottbus this July. He showed his individual talent by also winning the European scratch title and has impressed throughout his time racing in Italy.
As Bellis crossed the line punching the air in delight he brought cheers from all the British Cycling team in Stuttgart. Everyone in the pits area were still on a high from Emma Pooley?s impressive tenth place in the women?s road race, and there was more celebration after Bellis pulled out a great sprint.
Both Ian Stannard and Ben Swift were happy for their Academy team-mate but disappointed with their own result. Both followed the pre-race tactic of waiting for the final two laps.
Swift was struck by cramp on the final lap, while Stannard sacrificed his own chances by helping to close the gap on a dangerous breakaway, and then by giving his all to chase a late attack by a Russian rider. Stannard finished 67th at 2-21, with Swift 75th at 4-48. Bellis has taken the glory but they all deserve part of the praise for a great result.
Under-23 men sprint to the line. Photos by Andy Jones
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS 2007: UNDER-23 ROAD RACE RESULTS
1 Peter Velits (Slovakia) 171.9km in 4-21-22
2 Wesley Sulzberger (Australia)
3 Jonathan Bellis (Great Britain)
4 Tom Leezer (Netherlands)
5 Danilo Wyss (Switzerland) all same time
67 Ian Stannard (Great Britain) at 2-21
75 Ben Swift (Great Britain) at 4-48
2007 ROAD WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS NEWS
2007 ROAD WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS COVERAGE
2007 ROAD WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS PHOTO GALLERIES
2006 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Official 2007 Road World Championships website: www.radwm2007.com.
Union Cycliste Internationale: www.uci.ch.