Report: Men’s World Road race Championship

On a mad(s) day in Yorkshire for the Elite Men’s Road Race Championship, after a controlled race in the countryside, the finale saw many of the favourites fail and the underdog Mads Pedersen win the biggest bike race of his career

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Report: Men’s World Road race Championship

Denmark’s Mads Pedersen was the rider with the mostest in his legs after 261 wet and windy kilometres in Yorkshire, outsprinting one of the favourites Matteo Trentin and Stefan Kung to win the biggest bike race of his career.

With incessant rain reducing the most of the world’s elite road racers to bedraggled wrecks, 23-year-old Pedersen proved more durable as he sprinted through the gloom to the rainbow jersey after nearly six-and-a-half hours of toil. In doing so the Trek-Segafredo rider became the first Dane to claim the world title in the men’s road race.

Champion! Mads Pederson. Getty Images

Wet, Wet, Wet
At the start in Leeds, the announcement came that the torrential rain had forced the race organisers to shorten and reroute the course, with the climbs of Buttertubs and Grinton Moor removed and two extra laps of the finishing circuit added to the day. So appalling was the weather there was no live footage for an hour as the TV helicopters were grounded by low cloud and only 46 of the 197 starters finished.

The rain began to fall as the peloton rolled out of Leeds and one of the first attackers was Dan Martin who was joined by Primoz Roglic. There were plenty of kilometres where the break kept forming and reforming until after many a kilometre a 11-rider breakaway eventually went clear of the pack. It was a quality group with Grand Tour winners Nairo Quintana, Primoz Roglic, Richard Carapaz, in it along with Alex Howes, Hugo Houle, Silvan Dillier, Maciel Bodnar, Magnus Cort Neilsen, Jan Polanc and Jonas Koch. The escapees were never allowed much leeway and they were eventually hauled back on the opening lap in Harrogate.

It was there on that opening lap of the circuit that one of the big favourites, Philippe Gilbert crashed and despite help from wunderkid Evenepoel, he was in too much pain to get back on to the peloton that was not racing full gas.

The bunch then settled down for a number of laps until two riders jumped clear before Pedersen bridged across in a small chase group. The escapees were eventually whittled down to four riders, while the race burst into life behind as pre-race favourite Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) attacked with 34-kilometres to go. Trentin jumped straight onto the Dutchman’s wheel and the duo upped the pace, leaving the shrinking bunch behind.

The duo eventually made it across to the earlier attackers to form a five-man group, with Gianni Moscon (Italy) there to aid his teammate Trentin along with Stefan Kung. The break was riding at their limit and both Pederson, who managed to hang on, and Moscon who was dropped several times, struggled on the circuits main climb. The huge surprise was when big pre-race favourite Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel just pulled over and slowed to a crawl.

The lights had gone out in his legs and his race was over. Behind, Belgium had numbers on the front but they they didn’t have the power to bring back the breakaway and the gap to the leaders was opening up. In the closing kilomtres, it was Kung who had started the move with Lawson Craddock from the USA, who showed a medal, any medal, was going to be enough for him and Kung forced the pace making both Trentin and Pedersen grimace and show the strain of over six hours of wet racing.

With thousands of fans hammering the railings along Parliament Street, the lung-busting drag up to the finish, Trentin made his move first. But his tank was empty and Pedersen rocketed past him leaving Trentin in no doubtt there was no way back.

Pedersen said afterwards: “It’s every rider’s dream to wear the rainbow jersey. For me to do it now is unbelievable,” Pedersen, runner-up in last year’s Tour of Flanders, said. “It was just survive and hope for the best. I hoped that when I saw the finish line all the pain would be gone and I could do a good sprint,” added Pedersen, who could barely stand up after getting off his bike in the finish area. It was brutal, a rough day, six and a half hours on the bike, 10, 12 degrees and a lot of water,” Pedersen said. “It was a really tough day but that’s the way I like to race.

“I’m finished with playing underdog, that’s pretty impossible now.”

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Trentin, three-times a Tour de France stage winner and second in this month’s Tour of Britain, looked crestfallen. “It’s never in the pocket. Today was incredibly hard,” he said. “One guy has the jersey, two guys have a medal, everyone else has nothing. I have a lot of emotions. I was just thinking about the sprint but after such a race it doesn’t really matter who you are. Mads was just stronger. The cold has played a major role. It was a very tough course. I wanted the rainbow jersey. If you are then second, you will be disappointed. But when you see how Mads wins the sprint, you know he was the best today. ”

“I didn’t even notice that initially [that Van der Poel was dropped]. It was not that incomprehensible – this was a very tough course. I’m still cold. This feels like I’m out in the winter in my t-shirt. I have nothing to blame…I am proud of myself and the team.”

Peter Sagan: “We were expecting a hard World Championship race and the treacherous weather conditions made it even tougher. I was in very good shape and really gave my best from start to finish. I’d like to thank my brother Juraj, Erik Baška and Ján Andrej Cully for their tremendous effort, we all fought but it wasn’t to be our day. We will try again in the following years. Congratulations to Mads Pedersen and the Danish team for their victory. They deserved it.” – Peter Sagan.

Mathieu van der Poel “I felt pretty good, but suddenly I was empty,” van der Poel told Dutch TV. “It happened suddenly, even for myself. I don’t have an explanation. It was tough, very cold all day,” van der Poel told Dutch TV. “I think I ate enough. A [bonk], or something what looks like it, I couldn’t hardly pedal anymore. I was there, in the right group, riding for the win, then all of a sudden, the light went out,” he said. “I was eating and drinking, but I could not get warm. The last lap was too long. The cold had something to do with it. At least I finished my first worlds.”

Ben Swift said: “It was a really, really hard day out. I think it was tough for everybody. For a long time there was a really big group, then all of a sudden it just started disintegrating. I wanted more out of today, obviously, but I gave it everything and just ran out of energy in the end.”

Geraint Thomas : “(The crowds) were amazing. In the last few years, the last decade really, cycling has grown incredibly in this country, and we don’t get the chance to race here very often, so the support, especially given the weather, was incredible – we enjoyed that.”

Trentin, Pedersen & Kung. Photo: Getty Images

Photos from Rick Robson  at Merlin Cycles

1 Mads Pedersen Denmark 06:27:28
2 Matteo Trentin Italy
3 Stefan Küng Switzerland @ 02
4 Gianni Moscon Italy @ 17
5 Peter Sagan Slovakia @ 43
6 Michael Valgren Denmark @ 45
7 Alexander Kristoff Norway
8 Greg Van Avermaet Belgium
9 Gorka Izagirre Spain
10 Rui Costa Portugal
11 Sonny Colbrelli Italy
12 Jakob Fuglsang Denmark
13 Zdenek Stybar Czech Republic
14 Carlos Betancur Colombia
15 John Degenkolb Germany
16 Ion Izagirre Spain @ 1:14
17 Amund Grøndahl Jansen Norway
18 Tadej Pogacar Slovenia
19 Nils Politt Germany @ 1:22
20 Niki Terpstra Netherlands
21 Toms Skujins Latvia @ 1:46
22 Michael Albasini Switzerland @ 1:48
23 Tony Gallopin France @ 1:50
24 Michael Matthews Australia @ 1:57
25 Alberto Bettiol Italy
26 Tao Geoghegan Hart Great Britain @ 2:20
27 Marc Hirschi Switzerland
28 Julian Alaphilippe France @ 2:26
29 Daniel Martinez Colombia @ 3:57
30 Felix Grossschartner Austria @ 3:59
31 Ben Swift Great Britain @ 6:38
32 Yves Lampaert Belgium @ 7:48
33 Oliver Naesen Belgium @ 8:07
34 Sven Erik Bystrøm Norway
35 Tim Wellens Belgium
36 Mike Teunissen Netherlands
37 Dylan Teuns Belgium
38 Esteban Chaves Colombia
39 Andrey Amador Costa Rica
40 Chad Haga USA @ 10:27
41 Neilson Powless USA
42 Benoit Cosnefroy France @ 10:52
43 Mathieu van der Poel Netherlands
44 Imanol Erviti Spain @ 14:48
45 Lucas Eriksson Sweden
46 Petr Vakoc Czech Republic @ 19:25

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