When Peter Sagan came to the front of this race for the first time, it was but metres from the finishing line. And that’s when it matters after all. The Slovak won again and took his third straight World Championship. The first man to ever achieve the feat. More history for the brilliant Sagan.
It was one of the best time-trials we’ve ever seen, yet also won with ease. That is a testament to the course as well as the competitors at these World Championships in Bergen, Norway. But in the end, Tom Dumoulin was heads and shoulders ahead of the rest. He romped the flat section and flew up the final climb, avoiding the bike change that many had opted for. He is World Champion now, for the first time, and I would suggest, not the last time.
Never underestimate the ability of great cyclists to put on a great race on any circuit in any conditions in any country in the world. Sunday’s elite-men’s World Championship road-race proved that. A deserted circuit in the desert, the conditions were baking hot and the country was Qatar. And yet, the race was brilliant.
I was still in bed when the Qatari winds blew and the big-name opportunists split the race to bits. Echelons were the name of the game. The UCI must have been praying for those winds such was the negativity around these championships. Too hot, too remote, nobody watching. Barriers erected to keep stray camels off the course rather than for fans to lean against, or so it felt. A pan flat circuit that seemed made for a bunch sprint.
By the time I tuned in, there was a group of about 30 ahead with a chasing pack behind. The race was on and there was so far still to go. Some big names had made the split while other big names were reeling. This would be one thing in normal racing conditions, but across the desert? For over 250km? It would prove to be relentless. It would leave some broken. Only 53 of the 197 who took the start, finished.
Of the names you would expect to be alert to this kind of blitz, there was Peter Sagan and Mark Cavendish, as well as the vast majority of the Belgian team. It was the Germans who suffered worst with sprinters Andre Greipel and Marcel Kittel both left behind. The heat built, the strain took hold and perhaps while gazing off into the deserted wilderness around him, John Degenkolb went a little crazy. The German rider lost his cool with Belgian rider Jens Debusschere for not helping the chase. The fact that half the Belgian team were up the road mattered little to Degenkolb. He felt that with Debusschere being on Andre Greipel’s trade team, that he should pull his weight. Degenkolb’s afternoon of lunacy was complete when he then sprayed water on the Belgian rider with his bottle. That Debusschere didn’t chin him was testament to the Belgians ability to keep cool under such conditions. Degenkolb should have been pulled from the circuit right there and then, though the race referees need not have worried. The German, along with most of his team, withdrew shortly after. Stunned by the heat and the ambush that had caught them napping.
And so the race for world glory was reduced to a small pack. Given the pace and conditions few had the legs to try split it up further and few tried. The result was the sprint we thought we might get, albeit with some familiar faces missing. It seemed made for Mark Cavendish but when he failed to follow the wheel of Adam Blythe it was just the mistake that someone like Peter Sagan needed. Cavendish found himself boxed in. Sagan’s kick was enough to take him to the line and to retain his title. Cavendish in having to check his sprint to avoid the back wheel of Michael Matthews and allow himself a gap to come through, could only get up to second. Cavendish was furious, but unlikely Degenkolb earlier, it was only with himself. He was the fastest man there, but that moment of hesitancy was the difference over 5 hours 40 minutes of racing. Such is bike racing. Such are the fine margins by which world championships are won and lost.
Peter Sagan goes down into a select group of six who have won the world championships back to back. The last was Paolo Bettini in 2006/2007. It always seems fitting when the best cyclist in the world wins the rainbow jersey. It was a joy watching him wear it throughout the season, not least for myself in Montreal, and so it should be great again in 2017.
After that heat and that intensity of racing in Qatar, the peloton have earned a good break as the season comes to a close. The UCI might regret the decision to take the worlds to Qatar. At least I hope they made some good money that they can invest in something good. But Yorkshire in 2019 will stand in stark contrast to it. Still, Qatar, Yorkshire or wherever, thank goodness for these fine athletes to still have it within them to put on a superb show.
1. Peter Sagan (SVK) in 5h40’43”
2. Mark Cavendish (GBR)
3. Tom Boonen (BEL)
4. Michael Matthews (AUS)
5. Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA)
6. Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) all same time
Rider of the week
For all of Sagan’s fine spriting on Sunday, the prize must go to Tony Martin. The German led his team to the team-time-trial prize and then won himself the individual time-trial title by 45sec over his nearest competitor, Vasil Kiryienka. A fine week though unfortunately he missed the major splits in Sunday’s road race.
Away from the men’s road scene for a moment and a word on French woman, Pauline Ferrand-Prévot who last week in winning the Mountain Bike World Championship at Valnord-Andorra became the first cyclist in history to simultaneously hold the World road title, World cyclo-cross title and World mountain bike title.
Her road title came in last September’s UCI World road championships and on 26 September this year she will get the chance to defend it and go one step further by winning all three championships in the same calendar year.
A extraordinary achievement for the 23 year old highlighting what is a huge talent. One quick look at her palmares and it would seem that up to now she’s a woman for the big occasion as all her major victories this year on the road, cross and mountain bike (a first place in stage 5 of the woman’s Giro aside) came in her major championships either nationally or internationally. When titles are on the line, this girl delivers.
Simultaneously holding all three titles is a record that is hard to see being beaten, certainly not in the men’s side of the sport given the complete lack of cross-over between the three sports. Only Zdenek Štybar is remotely close to doing a double. While still competing on the road in 2014, Štybar won the World cross title, though he didn’t defend it this year.
Back with the men’s road scene, a mention about the six stage Tour of Alberta that wrapped up on Sunday, won by Trek Factory rider, Bauke Mollema. Some of the racing was great to watch though the numbers of fans at the side of the road was a touch disappointing. Still, the scenery was spectacular when the race hit the Rockies for two summit finishes–both won by Tom-Jelte Slagter–but through which Mollema maintained his lead.
The weather was tough throughout with many of the stages raced in winter weather gear as temperatures plummeted to close to freezing at times. It was a tough all-round test, highlighted the day after the mountains when the race had sectors of dirt road thrown in, that mixed in with the rain, looked like North America’s very own Hell of the (Great White) North mud-bath. That race was won by Lasse-Norman Hansen of Cannondale-Garmin but only after the finish was neutralised when the chasing peloton took a wrong turn.
Still, a fine event of which the organisers can be proud, and it ties in nicely with the Grand Prix Cyclistes de Quebec and Montréal this coming Friday and Sunday respectively. I’ll be at the race in Montréal so will tweet some pictures and put together some form of report upon my return. Bauke Mollema will surely fancy his chances.
These kind of courses with so much on the line seem to cater towards the same tactic: Hold off until that short, sharp, final climb near the finish and do the damage there. The early break attempts go clear but get washed up just in time for the decisive move to be made. It reminded me so much of the race in Montreal just a few weeks ago, a race that Simon Gerrans won, and who this time had to settle for second behind Michal Kwiatkowski who made the kind of move Peter Sagan made in Montreal the year before.
What a talent Kwiatkowski is. It’s amazing he isn’t marked in the same kind of way Sagan is. Nobody helping him when he attacks, everyone covering him and forcing him to chase everything down. Younger than Sagan by several months, the Polish phenom has proven himself capable in single day races as well as Grand Tours and must surely be seen as the finest young talent in the sport right now.
The first 245 kilometres of this 254.8 kilometre race was all about wearing down legs and building fatigue. It didn’t make for a great spectacle on television but it ensured the final part of the race was the most dramatic. And with so many feeling they could win it, they hit the final climb with everything up for grabs.
Sprinters seen the climb as short enough that if they battled over they could yet win the dash for the line; classics men in the mould of Fabian Cancellara, Philippe Gilbert or Greg Van Averamet seen it as ideal to put in an almighty dig to distance the rest by enough to stay clear on the descent; and climbers seen it as the kind of climb that they could match those classic men and then distance them before the top. It was a World Championships made for everyone but the upshot was it was a World Championships in which we had to wait six hours for it all to kick off.
My tip to win had been Gerrans, and he came so close. His form in Canada at Quebec City and Montreal, were he won both, suggested he would be in contention and he didn’t disappoint. He missed Kwiatkowski getting away and then in the run down to the finish, he won the small group sprint. So near, yet so far for a rider in the form of his life. No wonder he said he felt like crying when he crossed the line.
Third was Alejandro Valverde, a man with superb consistency in the World Championships, but who has yet to win it. Six times he has finished on the podium and you can’t help but think of his palmarès had things gone just that little bit differently and he won them! For the Canadian contingent, all three (Ryan Anderson, Christian Meier and Michael Woods) all failed to finish, while of the nine British riders only two finished, with Ben Swift in 12th and Peter Kennaugh in 82nd.
Kwiatkowski may have gotten away at the foot of the climb in part because others, like Gerrans, were waiting for the likes of pre-race favorites, Sagan or Cancellara, to make their moves further up the climb. Nobody expected someone to go so soon or for their effort to be sustained, but given how he stayed clear over the top, down the other side and into the finish to win his first (and I’ll say not his last!) World Championship, you can bet Kwiatkowski will be marked tighter in the future…especially now that he’ll stand out in rainbow stripes.
That said, he’ll line up next week at Il Lombardia for his first race in the rainbow jersey and while many have indeed seen it as a jersey that stifles them given how recognisable you are in the bunch and everyone understanding your capiabilities, you get the sense Kwiatkowski will thrive in it.
1. Kwiatkowski (Pol) in
2. Gerrans (Aus) +1″
3. Valverde (Esp) s.t.
4. Breschel (Den) s.t.
5. Van Avermaet (Bel) s.t.
6. Gallopin (Fra) s.t.
Sir Bradley Wiggins announced this week that next year he is to tackle the World Hour record and on the form we seen him in yesterday when he romped away with the World time-trial Championship ahead of Tony Martin, of all people, it won’t be a matter of if he beats Jens Voigt’s new marker (or whoever holds it come that time), but by how much?
Wiggins has now won numerous track-titles (including Olympic Gold’s), an Olympic Gold in the time-trial, this World time-trial championship and the Tour de France, as well as several other week long stage races. And on top of a run at the World Hour record, he has said he is targeting the Paris-Roubaix next year, aided by the fact he is beefing himself up over the winter in a bid to return to the track full-time ahead of the Rio Olympics, and should he indeed win himself a Monument classic along with that World Hour record then he can ride off into the sunset of retirement as one of the most complete riders of his generation, if not all-time.
In winning these championships, Wiggins becomes the second man to become World time-trial champion while reigning Olympic time-trial champion. Fabian Cancellara won the championships in 2009 and 2010 having won the 2008 Olympic title (he also won the championships in 2006 and 2007). Also, Miguel Indurain won the 1995 time-trial championships before going on to win the Olympic title in 1996.
Decked out in British clothing with a British flag bike, Wiggins ride yesterday brought back memories of London 2012 when Wiggins rode through his home city to win that Olympic title in one of the most memorable moments of those games.
Yesterday’s time-trial was vintage Wiggins. A superb rider against the clock you only have to look at him to know he is on his game and going fast. Aside from the legs and the road below him, he’s virtually motionless; you could place a full wine glass on his back and you wouldn’t spill a drop.
And the time-checks showed he was on a good ride also. Leading at each, he only continued to build on his margin over Tony Martin, the pre-race favourite looking to win a record fourth time-trial championships in a row. By the line Wiggins had taken 26 seconds out of Martin and 40 out of Tom Dumoulin who took the bronze.
Wiggins was the only man to go over 50km/h for the ride, a stunning average on such a course.
World time-trial championship result:
1. Wiggins (Gbr) in 56:25.52
2. Martin (Ger) + 0:26.23
3. Dumoulin (Ned) +0:40.64
4. Kiryienka (Bel) +0:47.92
5. Dennis (Aus) +0:57.74
6. Malori (Ita) +1:11.62
Rui Costa became the first Portuguese rider to win the World Road Championships in a traitorous day in Florence. Costa rode his ride to perfection, hanging tough with the more pure climbers on the final lap and then attacking at the perfect time to claim glory. Costa had two Spaniards fighting against him in the final kilometres, but in one of them — Alejandro Valverde — he had his trade-team mate and as such played them off against one another perfectly with his attack that also took advantage of an exhausted Vincenzo Nibali. Costa outsprinted an impressive Rodriguez with Valverde settling for his fifth World Championship medal … none of which are Gold. And all this without a single British rider in sight.
It was a shocking day for the British riders. A day in which they lost the race the moment they climbed out of their warm beds in some plush hotel in Florence, drew back the curtains and seen the falling rain. They didn’t fancy it and for all intents and purposes, would have been as well climbing back into their beds and staying there such was their showing in the event.
The event was the Men’s World Road Race Championship this past Sunday. A race staged on a hilly circuit that really should have suited the likes of Chris Froome or even Sir Bradley Wiggins, but which seen both of them last about half the distance before packing. Wiggins went AWOL entirely — put off by the falling rain and the need to go downhill one can only assume — whereas Froome either crashed himself or got held up in a crash and had little in the way of team-mates to help him back to the bunch.
That of course isn’t really a good enough excuse for the Tour de France champion. You only had to look to someone like Giro Champion, Vincenzo Nibali — riding in his home country and desperate to perform — to see how it was very possible to crash in the pouring rain yet still fight through it to work back to the bunch and come close to winning the Rainbow Jersey.
All this is, of course, easy to say from the warm comfort of the arm chair. I’m not a big fan of the rain myself when I’m out on my bike, but then again, I’m not a professional and nor do I harbour realistic ambitions of winning the World Championship. Froome likely seen the bad weather and pining for a warm mid-July afternoon in France thought that he’d put this Worlds thing off until the next year. Wiggins on the other hand must have looked at his silver medal from the individual-time-trial a few days before and thought that enough for one year at the Worlds.
It was a shame, but let’s not take away from the race itself. Brits or no Brits it was still a spectacular race, or at least, it was once they reeled in the early break and got onto the final lap when at last they decided to take the race to one another.
When Nibali did indeed crash in the later stages of the race it looked like the Italian dream was over. One minute they had eight team-members at the head of the peloton — long after the entire British and Irish entrant had taken their warm showers — and looked to be ready to control the race. They could take turns attacking, force their rival nations to chase and as a result wear them down and take the victory.
Nibali was their biggest hope and so when he crashed it looked over. But all it took was for anyone who watched this seasons Giro d’Italia to train their thoughts back to those cold, wet, snowy stages in May and remember the kind of rider we seen in Nibali. He got up, brushed himself off and made his way back to the bunch. He got a little help from team-cars, sure, but who could begrudge him that after such a fall. Before long he was back in the main field but how much had he expended of himself getting there and soon the race was to head onto the final lap.
It was obvious why a lot of contenders had used the World Tour race in Montreal as preparation for this World Championship. The courses were quite similar with a couple of short yet testing climbs. Over one lap the climbs in Montreal wouldn’t have looked like much, but 18 times around and that soon changed. This course in Florence had a slightly longer climb than the main one in Montreal and its second climb was a wall heading into the Sky at a gradient normally reserved for rock climbers. Or so it seemed. And worse for the competitors, the distance was longer than Montreal. Indeed, the race went over the seven hour mark before Rui Costa could finally lay claim to victory.
And Costa had indeed rode in Quebec City and Montreal in the lead up finishing fifth in Quebec and sixth two days later in Montreal.
The winner that day in Montreal was Sagan and he was in the mix right up until the final lap when the sudden acceleration on the climbs by Rodriguez was enough to catch him out. The Slovak is a brilliant all rounder but this course proved just a little too hilly for him and while he continued to pursue the handful in front down to the finish he had to settle for sixth.