Mikkel Bjerg of Denmark won his second consecutive under-23 time trial title at the UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck but despite his success and huge talents, he is in no hurry to step up to WorldTour level. Fellow medallists Brent Van Moer (Belgium) and fellow Dane Mathias Norsgaard Jorgensen are a similar age and have also preferred to race at Professional Continental level in 2019 rather take the big step up to WorldTour level.
Bjerg dominated the rolling but fast 27.7km course in Innsbruck, beating Van Moer by 33 seconds and Jorgensen by 38 seconds. He has raced with Axel Merckx's Hagens Berman Axeon team this season and intends to stay with the US-centric Professional Continental team in 2019. Bjerg revealed that he will also target the Danish Hour Record on October 4. He is a rider of many talents who bears a passing resemblance to former world champion Freddy Maertens but has a mature head firmly on his young shoulders.
"Riding with Hagens Berman Axeon suits me really well right now," Bjerg explained. "We're able to do some big WorldTour races like the Tour of California but also under-23 races and smaller races. I think that combination is good for young riders like me. It allows me to ride the finale of some races and even try to win smaller races. Yet you can also show yourself in the biggest races."
Van Moer is a stagiaire with Lotto Soudal but has yet to race with the WorldTour team and is no hurry to step up despite looking physically mature for his age.
"I'm 20 years old and I don't think it's good to go too early into the WorldTour. It's a big step and sometimes it's better to stay in the under 23 category," Van Moer said.
Jorgensen trains with Bjerg and the two push each to improve. He will ride for the Danish Professional Continental Riwal CeramicSpeed in 2019. The duo have given Denmark a new generation of time trial talent despite competing against riders who have already stepped up to WorldTour level or will do so in 2019 such as Italy's Edoardo Affini and Callum Scotson (both Mitchelton-Scott in 2019), and Germany's Lennard Kämna (Team Sunweb) and Ukrainian Mark Padun (Bahrain-Merida).
"They're not from another planet, they're just WorldTour riders. I think it makes winning a medal even sweeter when you beat them," Jorgensen said.
"I think it's good that under-23 WorldTour riders can compete in the under-23 World Championships," Bjerg added.
"If all the under-23 riders were not allowed to compete it wouldn't be a real World Championships. In last year's road race we saw that the WorldTour riders can be at a different level because Benoît Cosnefroy and Lennard Kämna dominated. But that's life, there's always someone better than you."
Even if you are a double time trial world champion like Bjerg or a medallist like Van Moer and Jorgensen.