Tackling the final rise to the finish line on the UCI World Championships course near Copenhagen is something of a balancing act, as Andy Fenn (Great Britain) discovered in the under 23 men’s road race on Friday.
After feeling his way towards the head of the peloton in the slipstream of lead-out man Luke Rowe in the final kilometre, Fenn appeared well-placed to take the rainbow jersey as the road kicked up towards the finish. Inside the final two hundred metres, however, the French double act of Arnaud Démare and Adrien Petit came roaring past to divide up the spoils between them, leaving the third step of the podium to Fenn.
"I thought I’d wait rather than go too soon. I moved up on the left just towards the finish. I got a good lead out from Luke Rowe and took it up but I got jumped by the two French guys on my right," Fenn said ruefully at the post-race press conference.
"They got it spot on. It’s a hard finish to judge and it’s slightly uphill and I needed to get it right. I didn’t want to go too early. I was in third position coming around the last corner and second position with 300 to go, but they came from behind. They came with a bit of speed in an uphill finish and got it right on the day."
The An Post-Sean Kelly rider admitted that he had mixed emotions about his bronze medal. "I’m obviously happy because I think the team today deserved a medal. They rode really well, but I was disappointed not to get the win for them as well."
Can Cavendish cope?
Looking ahead to the elite men’s road race on Sunday, Fenn was asked if he had any advice for his compatriot Mark Cavendish on how to negotiate the deceptive finale.
"It’s going to be hard to judge," he warned. "You’re going to need a lot of guys from the corner, probably at least three I’d say. Then you have to keep the pace high, because if someone gets the run from the back then you do get jumped.
"The wind was coming slightly from the right today as well so that plays a small part. If there’s a slight headwind on an uphill finish, then that makes it a bit more difficult."
In spite of his own experience at the hands of the French pair of Petit and Démare, Fenn was confident that Cavendish had the wherewithal to win from the front if necessary. "If he has to commit early, then he has to commit early and just have the guts to go early. He’s fast enough and I don’t see why he can’t hold off the other guys."
Nonetheless, Fenn noted that the nature of the finish straight might mean that riders who lose positions on the run-in will not automatically be ruled out of contention. "It’s a wide road and if you do get in trouble and you have to come from the back, if you don’t panic, you’ve still got it," he said.
Precisely because it defies definition, Fenn believes that the uphill push to the line should provide a suspense-filled finale to proceedings on Sunday. "It’s not an out and out sprinter’s finish, but it’s not an out and out punchy rider’s finish either," he said. "There’s going to be a lot of riders going for it and that’s going to make it a really good race."
Moving on to Omega Pharma-Quick Step
After a solid season at Continental level with the Irish An Post-Sean Kelly outfit, Fenn makes the step up to WorldTour level next year as part of the revamped Omega Pharma-Quick Step squad. Winner of the junior Paris-Roubaix in 2008, Fenn explained that Quick Step’s pedigree in the cobbled classics was one of the main draws.
"I’m happy to be stepping up to a ProTour team and I think that’s going to be a great team to help me develop," he said. "We’ve got some great guys coming in and some really experienced guys to learn off. For the classics, I think it’s the team to be in.
"There are also a lot of new guys coming in. It’s going to feel like a new team, which is really good to come into I think."