Great Britain's Peter Kennaugh admitted that he had mixed feelings after finishing fourth in the men's Under 23 World Championship road race in Mendrisio on Saturday. The event was his last major race before turning pro with Team Sky in 2010.
Kennaugh made a brave bid for a medal on the final climb to Novezzano, but came home 22 seconds behind silver medallist Colombian Carlos Betancur and Russia's Egor Silin. That pair, in turn, had crossed the line 27 seconds behind solo winner Romain Sicard of France.
"I just stuck to the plan really," said Kennaugh, moments after crossing the line and collapsing onto the tarmac in exhaustion. "Being young, it's sometimes quite hard to hold back in races. You just want to attack all the time, so we've been working on staying patient. It's all about discipline. That's what I did today."
Kennaugh's satisfaction with his performance was tempered with regret. A costly effort at the start of the last lap to join the group that eventually yielded the silver and bronze medallists may have been the difference between him following Silin and Bencantur on the Novezzano. "I lost a lot of energy on the first climb on the last lap to get across," the 20-year-old from the Isle of Man admitted. "I'm disappointed about that, but pleased to have targeted this race and got here with good form. It's hard to do that as an amateur. You see the pros do that year in, year out, but it's not easy."
On Silin and Bencantur's decisive move on the Novezzano, Kennaugh said, "I just couldn't follow Silin there. I had to go at my own pace. Silin's got some acceleration on the climbs. He's a classy rider."
The Russian may have outgunned Kennaugh today, but both riders' gutsy, aggressive performances exemplified the approach needed on terrain as difficult as the 13.7km circuit around Mendrisio. The fourth-place finisher in Saturday morning's women's race, Kristin Armstrong, spoke of a war of attrition.
Kennaugh agreed that the Mendrisio course is living up to pre-Worlds talk of a veritable leg-breaker.
"I think that if you felt good it was an awesome course," he said. "You could just take in your stride while others struggled. If you weren't on a good day, though, it was a horrible, horrible race. I just kept reminding myself to ride small gears all the way and keep eating and drinking. I think that was really important, because it was a war of attrition."
Kennaugh has spent the past two seasons learning his trade with the British Cycling Academy team in Quarrata, Italy. Under the tutelage of anglo-italian ex-pro Max Sciandri, Kennaugh has shone in races like the Under-23 Giro D'Italia and received public endorsements from his friend, fellow Manxman and training partner Mark Cavendish. Already under contract with Team Sky for next season, he could be the British-based ProTour team's sole neo-pro in 2010.
"I think it's really important that British riders continue to perform at the world championships," he said on Saturday. "It just shows what a good job Max Sciandri has done as well. He's got a lot of experience and I've learned a lot from him this year. I'd really like to thank him for what he's done this year. He's treated me like an adult and given me lots of responsibility.
"All the way round I was thinking that I wanted to leave the amateur ranks with a good performance. This gives me a lot of confidence for turning pro next year."
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