Jakob Egholm (Denmark) upset the bunch sprint apple cart at the UCI World Championships as he took a solo win in the junior men’s division. The Dane finished seven seconds ahead of a chasing group of 16, with Niklas Markl (Germany) taking the reduced bunch sprint for second, with Reto Muller (Switzerland) in third. James Fouche was the top finisher for New Zealand in 43 place, 1:45 down on the winner, with Robert Stannard in 45th.
Fouche and Stewart disrupted by crashes
The 133 kilometre race saw constant attacks early on, with the pace and heat constantly reducing the size of the field. Initially the attacks were being launched by some of the smaller teams in the race, with larger nations taking responsibility for closing down the moves, if they looked to gain any advantage. There were also constant crashes to beware off, between the corners and the feed zones, with Fouche being unfortunate to be caught up in a small spill around the 80 kilometre mark. The race really came alive when an attack, instigated by Alexis Brunel (France), went up the road with some 67 kilometres to go. The move contained around ten riders initially, with a couple more making their way across as it became clear that it was a dangerous move. Just as the move was establishing at the front, Campbell Stewart went down in the middle of the pack, destroying his front wheel along with his chances.
The group at the front soon swelled to just shy of 20 riders, and soon had a lead around the 20 seconds mark as the riders started to figure out who was in the lead group, while riders behind tried, and failed, to make it across to what showed potential to be the move of the race.
Slovenia was well represented at the front, with three riders in the break, as was Denmark, but some of the bigger nations were not as well represented, and the likes of the Netherlands, Italy, and France all put in showings at the front of the race as they doubted the chances of their riders in the front of the race.
Egholm devises fresh strategy
The gap for the leading group remained around the one minute mark, in spite of numerous attacks starting in the front group as it closed in on the finish. The Danes were especially active, with the junior time trial champion Brandon McNulty (USA) spending a lot of time slowly pegging back the attacks. With just under ten kilometres left to go, Julius Johansen (Denmark) finally made a move stick, and Egholm was quick to jump across to him, with the two working together to ride out to a substantial gap almost immediately, out to ten seconds very quickly.
Johansen worked very hard to help his teammate, as behind the riders recognised the danger and opportunity of the move and tried to get across, with Brunel, who instigated the original move, being the first to try and make his way across.
Around the 7,5 kilometre to go mark, Johansen sat up, having done all the work in establishing the lead, and left Egholm alone on the front. As Johansen slipped back, Brunel came up to him, and Johansen jumped on Brunel’s wheel to see whether the Frenchman could give him a free ride up to his teammate at the front of the race. Johansen was doing just enough behind to keep Brunel happy, but not pushing too hard to bring his teammate back, as the duo remained clear of the constant attacks in the group behind. With four kilometres to go, Egholm still had 15 seconds over the chasers behind, as Johansen and Brunel were dangling just off the front of the bunch.
Sprinters denied as Egholm wins
With around two kilometres to go, Egholm was eleven seconds up on the chase, as Brunel tried and failed to rid himself of Johansen. With just over a kilometre to go, Brunel and Johansen were finally brought back into the fold, but by then it was clear that Johansen’s gamble had paid off as his teammate Egholm swept up to the finish line. He had time to sit up and celebrate as the sprint opened up behind, with Markl taking the sprint for silver with ease, ahead of a very closely contested sprint for bronze, taken by Muller.
What the race showed is that the Doha circuit might not produce big bunch sprints every time, which could give hope that the elite men’s and women’s races may also be animated by attacks with a chance of deciding the race.