Denmark’s Pedersen crowned world champion after brutal road race in Yorkshire
Mads Pedersen was crowned world champion in rain-sodden Harrogate as the UCI Road World Championships concluded with a brutal day’s racing on Sunday.
The 23-year-old Dane beat Matteo Trentin and Stefan Kung as the elite men’s road race, 261 kilometres of arduous toil in the cold and wet Yorkshire Dales, came down to a much-reduced sprint on Parliament Street.
Trentin was the first to open up as they came past Betty’s Tea Rooms but the Italian had gone too soon as Pedersen swept past him to claim the rainbow jersey by a comfortable margin.
Gianni Moscon came in fourth ahead of three-time former world champion Peter Sagan, a further 26 seconds back.
Tao Geoghegan Hart was the highest-placed British rider, crossing the line 26th as part of a group a little over two minutes down, after team leader Ben Swift was dropped on the final lap.
The decisive moves were made with around 35km remaining, as pre-race favourite Mathieu van der Poel and Trentin bridged over to a Kung, Pedersen and Moscon.
The five-man group had a lead of 47 seconds as they began the final lap, but Van der Poel soon cracked.
Moscon was next to go as Kung drove on the pace, leaving the trio to contest the medals.
Whichever rider emerged from this day with his arms in the air would be a worthy winner given the horrendous conditions.
Organisers announced early on Sunday that the route would be cut by 19 kilometres to 261km, bypassing the key climbs of Buttertubs and Grinton Moor as flooding struck roads made famous by the 2014 Grand Depart of the Tour de France.
Cutting out the two climbs did little to alleviate the difficulty of the day, reducing the amount of climbing from 3,808 metres to a mere 3,394m.
And with heavy rain falling, coupled with strong winds, this was a true survival of the strongest.
An early breakaway including Vuelta a Espana winner Primoz Roglic and Colombian star Nairo Quintana ploughed through deep standing water on after the summit of the Cray climb in a stark illustration of the conditions.
That break was soon caught once they began the first of nine laps of the 14km finishing circuit as the intensity stepped up, just at a point when Belgian hope Philippe Gilbert was caught in a crash which would soon see him abandon.
But the main cause of attrition was a combination of cold and fatigue as every lap saw more riders climb off, with only 46 of the 197 starters making it to the end.
Defending champion Alejandro Valverde climbed off with 100km to go, with Britain’s 2018 Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas another to give up early as only Geoghegan Hart and Swift survived from the six British starters.
“It was as expected, really,” said Thomas, who had withdrawn from Wednesday’s time trial due to concerns over his condition.
“Wet. Cold. And not quite the feeling in the legs that I hoped for. It was a tough day out there.
“It was kind of what I was expecting. I’d come here to ride for the boys. It’s not a nice feeling – in a home World Championships you want to be right up there in the thick of it. It is what it is.
“We rode well together. The atmosphere, the crowd was really good. This is something we’ll remember for sure.”