Netherlands Elite Women Clinch Second Gold Medal, Denmark Triumph Again in Junior Men’s Road Race
Just four days after Annemiek van Vleuten’s triumph in the Time Trial Netherlands Elite Women’s Team continued to dominate the 2017 UCI Road World Championships on Saturday, capturing the Road Race gold with Chantal Blaak.
This is the first time since - again - the Netherlands in 2013 with Marianne Vos and Ellen van Dijk that the same nation has swept up both Elite Women’s titles in a single Road World Championships. But after Blaak attacked from a group of seven riders with seven kilometres to go solo, leaving teammates Van Vleuten and Anna van der Breggen, also in the break, to chase down any counter-moves, it was clear which nation was best-placed to win.
Silver in the 152.8 kilometre race and leading in the chasing peloton after Blaak was Australia’s Katrin Garfoot, already a bronze medallist in Tuesday’s Elite Women’s Time Trial. She just edged out Denmark’s Amalie Dideriksen, the 2016 World Road Race Champion, who made it back on the podium again, this time for the bronze.
Despite crashing earlier in a race which initially moved from stalemate to stalemate, Blaak had forged what was to develop - finally - into the winning break with 23 kilometres to go, charging away with Audrey Cordon Ragot (France) and Hannah Barnes (Great Britain).
A determined counter-move by Katarzyna Niewadoma on the last assault of Salmon Hill brought the Polish racer across, but it was tenaciously shadowed by Van Vleuten, Garfoot and Van der Breggen. The Netherlands therefore had three of the seven riders placed in the leading move, but it was only when Blaak surged away for the biggest victory of her career that the nation widely rated as pre-race favourite could be certain of the win.
“We didn’t really talk to each other before I attacked but we knew what to do," Blaak said afterwards. "There were three of us in a group of seven, and that meant we should attack and not wait for the sprint. Annemiek attacked first. Everyone reacted and I thought ‘this is a good moment.’”
“I don’t know what happened then, but they didn’t follow or they waited too long. We had really good teamwork, but it’s also a lot of pressure because when you are in the break you have to win.”
“I was already super happy that I had the national champion’s jersey this year, now I have the rainbow - it’s a dream come true.”
In the morning, Denmark retained the Men’s Junior World Championships title thanks to Julius Johansen, a year after his compatriot Jakob Egholm took the title - in part, thanks to Johansen and also in a solo move.
Back in 2016 in the UCI Road World Championships in Qatar, Johansen and Egholm went on a late two-up attack, with Johansen helping his team-mate forge a gap. Egholm then went on to win, but 11 months later, it was Johansen’s turn to take gold for Denmark, crossing the line nearly a minute ahead of Italian Luca Rastelli, whilst another Italian, Michele Gazzoli captured the bronze.
Johansen was one of 190 starters on the 133.8 kilometre Road Race. He bridged across to a leading group on the course’s second last lap, and then broke away alone in the final circuit to build up a small initial gap. However, soon he began to show why he had finished sixth in the Junior Men’s Time Trial earlier this week, as he steadily opened up a bigger and bigger margin to nearly a minute, and eventual victory.
“I always go too early on the breakaways, and so the tactic today was to wait and wait and hope all the first attacks come back to the peloton,“ the 18-year-old recounted afterwards .
“Then I could go clear on the last lap and that was just amazing, that was the plan and it worked out perfectly.”
In the mid-term, Johansen’s objective as a racer will be to concentrate on the track until the Olympics in 2020, after which he will come back to focussing on the road again. To judge from Saturday’s performance, Johansen will have no problems on his return.
The 2017 UCI World Road Championships ends on Sunday with the Elite Men’s Road Race.