Surprise world championship in junior men's time trial
After yesterday's silver medal in the UCI World Championships under 23 men's time trial, Danish national coach Morten Bennekou had hinted that the country's medal tally could be complete. However, one event later and the Danes find themselves on the crest of a wave after 17-year-old Mads Wurtz Schmidt stunned all with a sensational gold medal-winning ride in the junior men's time trial.
The young Dane came into the event as a total unknown and Bennekou admitted to Cyclingnews that the team had placed their hopes on Casper Von Folsach coming into the race.
"Actually we hoped for a top five but with another rider. Mads is a first year and he's young. It's sensational by anyone's standards. We'd hope for a top-10 with him but he did an amazing race. He'd only seen the course once but his technique was fantastic," Bennekou told Cyclingnews.
Schmidt's ride may have been a surprise but there was no questioning his dominance. He posted the fastest times at each of the intermediate time checks, beating more established and experienced riders in the process, and despite an anxious wait at the finish, he hung on for the biggest win of his life.
"I held him back for the second half of the race, holding his rhythm, and when he caught a Belgian rider I just told him to relax, even though the Belgian rider was sitting on his wheel. With five kilometres to go, I told him to give it everything, because I knew that the final two kilometres were so technical that it wouldn't really matter if he blew a bit in the finish.
"He's a new talent, for us too, but if you can win the Worlds at your first attempt then you're a big talent. Some of the Danish press has asked me what his limit is, but how can you set a limit for a 16-year-old world champion? For now there's no limit, maybe one day there will be but you can't set a limit now."
Coming into the Worlds the Danish team was left without its two biggest stars. Matti Breschel, a hope for the road race, was ruled out through injury, while Alex Rasmussen was suspended after news broke about several missed anti-doping tests.
It left the team scratching their heads, both for inspiration and leadership, but with three events down and two medals already in the bag Bennekou is now slightly more confident that more can follow. Just yesterday he told Cyclingnews that the Danish team's medal haul would most likely stop at one.
"I still think our best chance is in the junior road races but this has been a great start. Coming into the Worlds the aim was two medals and that was with Matti Breschel in the team. We've had three events and come away with two medals, we'll still try and take more medals as we have more events left," he said.