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World Championships 2019: Mads Pedersen wins Elite Men's Road Race

James Spender
29 Sep 2019

Denmark's Mads Pedersen wins the rainbow jersey in three-up sprint amidst torrential rain. Photo: SWPix.com

Mads Pedersen (Denamrk) won the men's elite road race at the 2019 UCI World Championships to take his first rainbow jersey. Crossing the line to complete the podium were Matteo Trentin (Italy) and Stefan Kung (Switzerland). 

A three-way final sprint produced this year’s rainbow stripes recipient, as Pedersen somehow held off Trentin and Kung to become the new World Champion on a course shortened by 24km due to torrential rain.

How the race was won

An 11-man break with the likes of Nairo Quintana (Colombia) and Primoz Roglic (Slovenia) made good ground in the first half of the race, but the peloton, spearheaded by a seemingly possessed Rohan Dennis (Australia), made the catch just after the race arrived for its nine laps of the finishing circuit around Harrogate. 

Lap-by-lap abandonments followed, riders such as Roglic, Dennis and Quintana feeling they’d ridden their race, others such as Philippe Gilbert (Belgium) bowing out after crashing heavily. Big name favourites did remain – Peter Sagan (Slovakia), Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) and Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium) were all still in the mix, but it was only Van der Poel who managed to force his way into a breakaway of five as the race neared its conclusion.

Of all the nations in the break Italy were best positioned, Gianni Moscon and Trentin two of the five-man contenders, but Kung and Pedersen were riding strongly as the bell went for the last 14km lap. 

Quite against his run of form, Van der Poel blew, and despite the peloton finally getting its heads down in chase, it was left to the two Italians, the Dane and the Swiss to compete. Moscon lost touch but kept fighting, Pedersen threw everything at the last few kilometres on the front of the three, and somehow, despite the Dane’s huge efforts previously, he emerged victorious from a gruellingly-slow three-man sprint.

 

How the race unfolded 

When it rains, it pours, and so it was the UCI decided to shorten the 285km Elite Men’s Road Race course to 261km after heavy a deluge in the Dales. Climbs such as Buttertubs would be missed out, the finishing circuit in Harrogate would be ridden not seven but nine times to make up for it.

Bikes made bow-waves through inches of standing water, there were multi-spills, mechanicals and abandonments – yet the band wheeled on under the excited gaze of spectators. This is England, the fans would not be cowed. So long as they had disposable plastic ponchos and cowbells.

Rolling out at just after 9am, by 10.30am an 11-man breakaway had formed that included Vuelta a Espana winner Roglic, Quintana and Richard Carapaz (Ecuador). 

At 100km down that break had gained over four minutes on the peloton, but by the time the race made Harrogate, a Dennis-driven peloton had ratcheted up the pace to close the break to 1m45s. Harrogate's narrow, rain-slicked streets caused an immediate crash after a hook of bars, which saw Gilbert hit the deck in nasty fashion.

Remco Evenepoel stopped to put an arm round his compatriot and offer a few encouraging words. Gilbert was clearly in pain; the 19-year-old Evenepoel showed his class by pacing his stricken teammate back to the peloton.

Conditions continued to be so bad that television coverage intermittently dropped out with only static cameras in play, and so too did new world time-trial champ Dennis, who stepped off his bike with 118km to go. Breakaway caught, job done.

Abandonments continued, including Roglic and Quintana, who clearly felt they’d done their bit; Dan Martin (Ireland) who led the race briefly early on, and Gilbert, the big Belgian’s injuries proving too much bear. Dennis may have left the race, but the Aussie was still getting plenty of airtime as TV coverage regularly switched to highlights of Wednesday’s time-trial to fill in the broadcasting blanks.

Lawson Craddock (USA) and Kung launched a speculative attack 60km out, but the Yank was dropped when Pedersen steamrolled out of the chasing pack and dragged Kung off with him. Moscon eventually made three, before Van der Poel felt it was time to play his hand, bridging to the lead group along with Trentin.

By the time the bell sounded for the final lap, the five-man break had an unassailable minute lead but, quite against the run of play, five became four - Van der Poel suddenly pedalling squares after a stiff effort up a short climb. Perhaps he’d underfuelled? The peloton, led by the German team, finally roared into life, but it was too little too late. Likewise for Moscon, who could hang on no more.

2019’s champion would be selected from Trentin, Pedersen and Kung, with the Dane putting in the bulk of the work in the final few kilometres and therefore perhaps looking the least likely to win. Yet somehow, legs shattered and two arguably fresher men on his wheel, Pedersen managed to ride clear metres before the line to take the rainbow stripes.

For the fans this would be a day they’d always remember, the awful weather cementing the 2019 edition in the history books; for every rider barring new World Champ Pedersen, it would be a grim day they’d be happily forget.