The U23 worlds race is always an unpredictable affair, but French phenomenon Romain Sicard did what just about everyone thought he would.
Fresh off winning the Tour de l’Avenir in dominating fashion ahead of a strong U.S. team earlier this month, Sicard surged away from a fractured peloton with two laps to go in the 13-lap, 179.4km course Saturday to win France’s first U23 world title since competition began in 1996.
“It’s unbelievable to be sitting here with the rainbow jersey, it’s not often you get the chance to win it in your career,” said the 21-year-old. “I played a little bit of a bluff. There were still a lot of riders in the final and I could tell people were really suffering. I made a big attack on the last lap and just poured it on all the way to the finish. I am very content.”
Crossing the line to take silver was Colombia’s Carlos Alberto Betancur at 28 seconds in arrears, with Russian Egor Silin hanging on for bronze.
After a strong race by the French team Sicard announced his intentions on the penultimate of the race’s 13 laps of a difficult 13.8km circuit when he pulled away with Dutchman Michel Kreder.
Kreder eventually faded on the final lap as he and Sicard hit the steep slope of the Acquafresca climb, and from there the Frenchman went on solo for 10km over the Novazzano climb and on towards the finish line.
“I could see Kreder suffering a little bit, so I decided to attack,” Sicard said. “I felt strong at the key moments of the race.”
The win confirms Sicard’s arrival as one of the best French riders to come through the ranks in a generation. Sicard held off American Tejay Van Garderen to win the Tour de l’Avenir earlier this month and took another impressive victory at the Subida al Naranco against the top Spanish mountain goats in the pro ranks.
Long, hard season over for Americans
The U-23 squad came into Mendrisio with high hopes, but the reality of a long racing season came crashing down on the demanding circuit.
Racing hard since the spring, with big performances at such races as the Circuito de Montañes and the Tour de l’Avenir, the team was one of the best ever field by the U23 team, but the wear and tear of so many racing days played against their hopes.
Peter Stetina was the five-man team’s top and lone finisher, coming across the line 19th in a group at 1:40 back.
“I knew Sicard was the guy to watch today. He’s been strong all season. It looked like he was floating above the field. When he went, I couldn’t answer today. I’ve been trying to find some form like some human duct tape,” Stetina told VeloNews. “It’s been a long season for everyone. We’ve been trying to piece it together for worlds this year. Everyone’s a little tired. It was a hard day.”
Second overall to Sicard at the Avenir, Tejay Van Garderen said he just didn’t have the spark he needed to follow the decisive moves and pulled out.
“It was a hard day. It’s been a long season. I was on good form at Avenir, you saw from the time trial,that I started on my way down. I just kept going down today,” Van Garderen told VeloNews. “Worlds is always fun to go to, whether you have good form or not. It’s fun to hang out with all the Americans. There’s low pressure at the worlds. I’m not disappointed.”
For many of the U23 team, it’s their last performance with the squad before graduating to the pro ranks.
Stetina is going to Garmin-Slipstream, Van Garderen is heading to Columbia-HTC and Chris Barton is bound for BMC.
“The pro style suits me better, it’s more controlled and you have to be strong in the key moments. The U23 is aggressive at weird moments. It’s fun, too, you never know what’s going to happen. I am happy to move on,” Stetina said. “I am glad I took this last year to race U23. Noel, Garmin and USA Cycling invested a lot in me. I am sorry I couldn’t place a top 10 for them today, I gave it my best. They’ve been supportive of me.”
Van Garderen has one more race with Rabobank this season and then will go apartment hunting in Europe before returning to the States. He’ll ride with the Columbia-HTC program next season.
“I’m excited for next year,” he said. “It’s been an awesome season. I had a few wins and some good results, so I am super-confident going into next year.”
Racing for podium
Colombia had taken the race by the scruff of the neck for the first two-thirds in a bid to defend Fabio Andres Duarte’s rainbow jersey from last year.
“I would have loved to keep the gold medal with Colombia,” said Betancur.”We came here well prepared and determined to play a key role in the race.”
After their initial attack another Frenchman, Nicolas Edet, decided he wanted some of the action and went off in chase of the lead duo. Struggling to close the gap on the second climb at Novazzano, Edet was soon joined by Silin.
At the summit Britain’s Peter Kennaugh came over in pursuit of the leaders only 20sec in arrears with a small bunch but the Isle of Man rider, second in the mountains classification at l’Avenir recently, was kept close in check.
Sicard and Kreder held a 30sec lead on an increasingly large chasing group at the bell signalling the final lap, but it didn’t take long for the Dutchman to struggle on the Acquafresca.
In their wake Edet was marking potential threats to his team leader, however the Frenchman was caught out when Silin and Betancur pulled away,stunning Kennaugh in the process.
The Briton launched a brave attempt to join the two chasers for a chance at a podium place, but came over the finish in fourth.
Agence France Presse contributed to his report
- 1. Romain Sicard, France, 179.4km in 4:41:54 (38.183kph)
- 2. Carlos Alberto Betancur, Colombia, at 0:27
- 3. Egor Silin, Russian Federation, at 0:27
- 4. Peter Kennaugh, Great Britain, at 0:49
- 5. Jérôme Baugnies, Belgium, at 0:54
- 6. Marko Kump, Slovenia, at 0:54
- 7. Yevgeniy Nepomnyachshiy, Kazakhstan, at 0:54
- 8. Jose Cayetano Sarmiento, Colombia, at 0:54
- 9. Matthias Brandle, Austria, at 1:00
- 10. Damiano Caruso, Italy, at 1:33
- 11. Alexandre Geniez, France, at 1:38
- 12. Christer Rake, Norway, at 1:38
- 13. Castroviejo Nicolas Jonathan, Spain, at 1:40
- 14. Sander Maasing, Estonia, at 1:40
- 15. Nicolas Schnyder, Switzerland, at 1:40
- 16. Arnaud Courteille, France, at 1:40
- 17. Nicolas Edet, France, at 1:40
- 18. Adrian Honkisz, Poland, at 1:40
- 19. Peter Stetina, U.S.A., at 1:40
- 20. Dominik Nerz, Germany, at 1:40
- 21. Anatoliy Kashtan, Ukraine, at 1:40
- 22. Kanstantsin Klimiankou, Belarus, at 1:40
- 23. Ben Gastauer, Luxembourg, at 1:40
- 24. Sep Vanmarcke, Belgium, at 1:40
- 25. Mark O`Brien, Australia, at 1:40
- 26. Darwin Atapuma Hurtado, Colombia, at 1:40
- 27. Mirco Saggiorato, Switzerland, at 1:40
- 28. José Alarcon, Venezuela, at 1:40
- 29. Jacques Janse Van Rensburg, South Africa, at 1:40
- 30. Mathias Lisson, Denmark, at 1:40
- 31. Gianluca Brambilla, Italy, at 1:40
- 32. Sergio Luis Henao Montoya, Colombia, at 1:44
- 33. Michel Kreder, Netherlands, at 1:49
- 34. Romain Zingle, Belgium, at 2:15
- 35. Joel Zangerle, Luxembourg, at 2:22
- 36. Arthur Vichot, France, at 2:22
- 37. Alex Meenhorst, New Zealand, at 5:21
- 38. Leopold Konig, Czech Republic, at 5:21
- 39. Daniele Ratto, Italy, at 5:21
- 40. Thibaut Pinot, France, at 7:23
- 41. Alexandre Shushemoin, Kazakhstan, at 8:06
- 42. Blaz Furdi, Slovenia, at 8:31
- 43. Artem Topchanyuk, Ukraine, at 8:48
- 44. Oleksandr Polivoda, Ukraine,
- 45. Martin Mahdar, Slovakia, at 9:00
- 46. Nazar Jumabekov, Kazakhstan,
- 47. Gorka Izagirre Insausti, Spain,
- 48. Silver Ao, Estonia, at 9:04
- 49. Rafael Andriato, Brazil, at 9:08
- 50. Daniel Teklehaimanot, Eritrea, at 9:29
- 51. Carlos Alexandre Manarelli, Brazil, at 9:32
- 52. Andrei Krasilnikau, Belarus, at 9:32
- 52. Siarhei Papok, Belarus, at 9:32
- 54. Viesturs Luksevics, Latvia, at 9:32
- 55. Siarhei Novikau, Belarus, at 9:32
- 56. Stefan Denifl, Austria, at 9:32
- 57. Alexander Prishpetniy, Russian Federation, at 9:32
- 57. Pit Schlechter, Luxembourg, at 9:32
- 59. Sondre Gjerdevik Sörtveit, Norway, at 9:32
- 60. Jan Tratnik, Slovenia, at 9:32
- 61. Jahn Frederik Grue, Norway, at 9:32
- 62. David Veilleux, Canada, at 9:32
- 63. Andrey Solomennikov, Russian Federation, at 9:32
- 64. Luke Rowe, Great Britain, at 9:32
- 65. Vojtech Hacecky, Czech Republic, at 9:32
- 66. Romain Beney, Switzerland, at 9:32
- 67. Oleg Berdos, Republic of Moldova, at 9:32
- 68. John Degenkolb, Germany, at 9:37
- 69. Petr Ignatenko, Russian Federation, at 16:48
- 70. Egidijus Juodvalkis, Lithuania, at 16:48
- 71. Ryohei Komori, Japan, at 18:14
- 72. Pedro Merino Criado, Spain,