Van der Poel Wins World Championships Road Race
The 2023 World Championships Road Race took pace in Scotland. The 271.1-kilometer route took the riders from Edinburgh to Glasgow. The route included the Crow Road climb after 94.5-kilometers (5.6 km; 4% incline) and culminated with ten laps in Glasgow before the winner would cross the finish line and be crowed World Champion.
USA’s national team had been negatively impacted by injuries sustained by Magnus Sheffield, Quinn Simmons, and Matteo Jorgenson in the Tour de Suisse and Tour de France. Their main chance of obtaining success in today’s race was now Neilson Powless.
The first kilometers of today’s world championships race were characterized by multiple attacks from individual riders and small groups. But now viable breakaway group was established at first.
With 256 kilometers left, the World Championships peloton reached the Queensferry Crossing – an impressive 2.7-kilometer bridge that was opened in 2017 and remains the longest three-tower, cable-stayed bridge in the world. The area is one of Scotland’s most recognizable locations as it features three bridges from three different centuries.
A new chapter of the race began after the Queensferry bridge had been crossed. More serious breakaway attempts were launched, and a nine-man group broke away from the peloton. The group featured Owain Doull (Great Britain), Matthew Dinham (Australia), Harold Tejada (Colombia), Kevin Vanmaerke (United States), Patrick Gamper (Austria), Rory Townsend (Ireland), Ryan Christensen (New Zealand), Krists Neilands (Latvia), and Petr Kelemen (Czech Republic). It did not take long for the nine-man group to build an advantage of more than six minutes over the main peloton.
Between the front group and the main peloton two small groups had formed featuring riders who wanted to join the breakaway but had been too slow to act when the break went. George Bennett (New Zealand), Eric Antonio Fagundez (Uruguay), and Rien Schuurhuis (Holy See/Vatican) were chasing 02:25 minutes behind, while a Jose Alarcon (Venezuela) and Hasani Hennis (Anguilla) duo was 05:20 minutes behind the front men.
The route passed by Linlithgow Palace – birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1567).
The front group continuously increased its advantage and with 200 kilometers left of today’s championships its advantage had increased to 07:45 minutes. Meanwhile, the Bennett-Fagundez-Schuurhuis trio was approximately six minutes behind the front men and still appeared unable to bridge the gap, while the Alarcon-Hennis duo was reeled in by the main peloton.
In the main peloton the dominant nations were sending their riders to the front to establish favorable positions before the riders would reach the Crow Road climb.
With 191.8 kilometers left the local race organizers had failed to prevent local protesters from blocking the road. The protesters had glued themselves to the tarmac and thereby prevented the riders from continuing the race. The race was temporarily neutralized, while the roads were cleared.
It took the organizers and Police authorities remarkably long time to clear the roads in the Carron Valley area and they appeared unprepared for the intervention. After approximately forty-five minutes of irritating interruption the race was restarted.
The front riders reached the Crow Road climb (5.6 km; 4% incline). Meanwhile, the speed in the main peloton had been increased significantly and some national teams were focusing on making the race as hard as possible before the climb. While Crow Road did not have a decisive effect on the race, it did result in the advantage of the front group being reduced to 05:15 minutes and the chase group getting caught.
The riders were now approaching the finish circuit in Glasgow. Both the breakaway group and the chasing peloton entered lap one of the finish circuits at high speed. The Danish and Australian teams were leading the main peloton.
On the short but steep Montrose Street climb the Belgian and Danish teams were active at the front of the main peloton, while the advantage of the breakaway group had been reduced to four minutes. Would defending World Champion Remco Evenepoel of Belgium be attacking soon? What would his teammate Wout Van Aert do? How would Denmark’s Mads Pedersen and Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar respond?
With 134 kilometers left, Julian Alaphilippe attacked for France. He was joined by Denmark’s Søren Kragh-Andersen. They were caught shortly thereafter.
Mattias Skjelmose (Denmark) attacked with Italy’s Lorenzo Rota and Tobias Halland Johannessen of Norway. The trio managed to stay clear for a while.
With 120 kilometers left, the Skjelmose group was caught by the chasers. USA’s Neilson Powless attacked and was joined by Skjelmose and Alberto Bettiol (Italy). They too were reeled in. The front nine now had aa lead of slightly more than two minutes.
100 kilometers from the finish the advantage of the breakaway nine had been reduced to a single minute by the intense speed set by Skjelmose and Mads Pedersen at the front of the main group. Would the Danes run out of energy?
On a short hill 97.5 kilometers from the finish line, defending World Champion Remco Evenepoel launched an attack, but did not manage to break away. Skjelmose returned to the front. Bettiol tried to attack.
Van Der Poel attacked on a short hill and was followed by Pogacar, Mauro Schmid (Switzerland), and Pedersen.
While Pogacar attacked, Italy’s Matteo Trentin crashed when he touched the dangerous barriers while exiting a corner.
The remaining riders from the nine-man breakaway group were caught when some of the main race favorites took to the front. Van Aert, Pedersen, Pogacar, Van der Poel, Bettiol now led the race. They were joined by Dinham and Vermaerke from the long breakaway of the day. Evenepoel and other chasers were now twenty-four seconds behind.
Pedersen attacked with approximately sixty-nine kilometers left but was caught.
The chasers joined the front group.
With sixty-one kilometers left Evenepoel launched a surprise attack after having pretended he lacked the necessary energy. Pedersen joined him, but the duo was reeled in. Van Aert countered.
Evenepoel attacked on Montrose Street hill, but Pedersen countered.
It started raining and a rainbow symbolically appeared on the sky. Bettiol attacked with Skjelmose, but Skjelmose almost slipped in a corner. Bettiol continued solo with 54 kilometers left. Roads were now dry, but it started raining again shortly thereafter.
With 38 kilometers left Bettiol was still solo in front and had a 21 second lead over a chase group featuring Van Aert, Pedersen, Pogacar, and Van der Poel.
The chase quartet was slowly gaining time on Bettiol – it was proving hard for him to compete solo against the four strongmen.
Van Aert accelerated on Montrose Street hill, hoping to apply pressure on Pedersen and other fellow chasers.
Just two laps remained.
With 26 kilometers left Bettiol had a sixteen second lead over chase group 1 featuring Van Aert, Pedersen, Pogacar and Van der Poel. Chase group 2 featuring Powless, Schmid, and Toms Skujins (Latvia) was 49 seconds behind.
Two kilometers later, Bettiol’s lead was down to seven seconds. Van der Poel attacked with 23.5 kilometers left. He passed Bettiol and it appeared no one was able to follow the Dutchman.
Van der Poel went solo. Pogacar tried to reel him in while Pedersen tried to hang on. Later Petersen moved to the front of the chase group.
Van der Poel had built a 34 second lead with 16.5 kilometers left, but he crashed in a wet corner. Van der Poel quickly got back on his bike, but his lead was now down to 24 seconds. He was having problems with his right bike shoe.
Van Aert accelerated on the Montrose Street climb, hoping to bridge the gap to Van der Poel while dropping Pedersen and Pogacar, but his attempt failed. The trio was still together.
Despite crash and shoe trouble, Van der Poel managed to rebuild his lead to 35 seconds. With ten kilometers left he had even increased his lead to a whole minute. His appeared to possess endless energy and had definitely eaten all his pasta in Edinburgh this morning.
Van der Poel crossed the finish line solo as winner of the 2023 UCI Road Cycling World Championships and is the new World Champion.
Van Aert attacked shortly before the finish line in his quest for the silver medal. Pedersen and Pogacar were unable to follow the Belgian. Van Aert finished second. Pogacar won the sprint for bronze, while Pedersen took fourth.
Van der Poel won the road race in 06:07:27. Van Aert finished 01:37 minutes behind the Dutchman. Pogacar completed the podium 01:45 minutes after the new World Champion.
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