ROAD CYCLING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS IN YORKSHIRE – THE TOUGHEST YEAR YET?

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When Harrogate was announced as host of the 2019 Cycling World Championships, everyone in Yorkshire knew it would be an event to remember. Yorkshire is known for its steep climbs and bumpy profile that makes racing unpredictable. However, it wouldn’t have been a sporting event in Yorkshire without rain. Although videos went viral of riders crashing, cyclists are known for being hardy creatures, and the winner would ultimately be down to the one with great mental strength.

Early success for Britain came with two bronze medals in the first two days, starting with a fantastic performance in the newly introduced mixed gender relay. An inexperienced team claimed the first British medal behind the favourites the Netherlands in gold and Germany in silver. This was followed by Welshwoman Elynor Backstedt winning her second World Junior time trial bronze medal in a row. Russia’s Aigul Gareeva took the gold ahead of Dutchwoman Shirin van Anrooij. The Dutch would go on to win another silver the very next day in the junior men’s time trial with Enzo Leijnse behind Antonio Tiberi of Italy.

Tuesday was USA’s day, winning three medals. Mikkel Bjergof Denmark won the Men’s under-23 time trial, with Americans Ian Garrison and Brandon McNulty in silver and bronze. The first Elite medal of the Championships was won emphatically by American Chloé Dygert – a full minute and a half ahead of Olympic and World Champion Anna van der Breggen. Fellow Dutch rider Annemiek van Vleuten won bronze.

The men’s time trial brought a few surprises; Primoz Roglic, Tony Martin, and many other specialists were well off the pace, allowing reigning champion Rohan Dennisof Australia to clinch gold by over a minute. Last year’s Junior Champion Remco Evenepoel of Belgium surprisingly claimed silver, with Italian 3-time track World Champion Filippo Ganna winning bronze. Alex Dowsett was Britain’s best placed rider in 5th place.

The USA dominated the junior road race categories, winning both men’s and women’s gold medals with Quinn Simmonds and Megan Jestrab respectively. Belgium’s Julie de Wilde and Lieke Nooijen of the Netherlands finished second and third in a tight sprint finish, with Britain’s Bäckstedt just losing out in fifth place. Alessio Martinelli of Italy broke clear to claim second in the men’s race, with American Magnus Sheffield winning the sprint finish for bronze.

The men’s under-23 road race was a hotly fought affair, with six riders breaking clear to fight it out for the medals in a sprint finish. Samuele Battistella won for Italy, ahead of Switzerland’s Stefan Bissegger in silver. Tom Pidcock, born 15 miles down the road in Leeds, won bronze for Britain.

Saturday saw the best performance of the weekend. Annemiek van Vleutenbroke away with 100km still left to go, but held out to win gold by over 2 minutes ahead of compatriot and reigning champion Anna van der Breggen,winning her second silver of the week. Last year’s silver medallist Amanda Spratt rolled in a few seconds later to win a bronze medal for Australia.

Again, the men’s race brought surprises. Three-time world champion Peter Sagan, Olympic champion Greg van Avermaet, and Tour-de-France hero Julian Alaphilippe were the favourites going into the event, but 3 riders from an early breakaway of 5 stayed clear. Despite a last-ditch attempt by Sagan to reach the medallists, it ended in a three-way sprint between Italian Matteo Trentin, Swiss Stefan Kung, and Dane Mads Pedersen. Pedersen shocked the world to become Denmark’s first world champion, with Trentin coming second, and Kung claiming bronze. Britain had a strong team, including Geraint Thomas, but the best placed Brit, Tao Geoghegan Hart, finished down in 26thplace to complete a slightly underwhelming championships for the home country.

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