Iserbyt wins dramatic under 23 race

Toupalik finishes second after celebrating victory a lap early

After a thrilling race, Eli Iserbyt (Belgium) captured the gold medal at the World Championships in the men’s under 23 category. Iserbyt beat Adam Toupalik (Czech Republic) in a two-man sprint on the former F1 car racing circuit in Heusden-Zolder. Quinten Hermans (Belgium) was a close third.

Last year 18-year-old Iserbyt was the runner-up in the World Championships race in the junior men’s category. This season, Iserbyt also won the World Cup. There was major consternation at the end of the penultimate lap when Toupalik raised his hands thinking he’d won the World Championships.

“I didn’t expect it; early on I was really bad. My heart rate was five beats lower than usual. In the end, I saw Toupalik raising his hands one lap too early and I realized his best strengths were gone. Then, on the last lap, I started to believe in it and found my good legs again. I knew Toupalik’s focus was gone, even though he bridged back up. I had to await the sprint,” Iserbyt told Sporza.

He was asked about how he suffered to keep up with Toupalik in the final lap, showing grit and determination. “That’s right. I died three to four times, but I also started to get stressed because of the crowd. My ears were hurting. Luckily we had a moment of silence at the Sacramentsberg.”

The man who thought he was world champion for almost ten seconds was able to put his mistake in perspective. The 19-year-old Czech rider created a minor gap in the penultimate lap and then started celebrating on the finishing straight. He closed the gap to the two Belgian leaders and managed to take a few metres but then got beaten in the sprint.

“I’m probably the biggest idiot in the world,” Toupalik said. “During the penultimate lap I thought it was the last lap, and I heard somebody shouting ‘last lap’ at me, but it was the penultimate lap. It was my mistake. I lose the world title. I raised my hands, but that’s sport. I learned that I have to keep my focus and check the numbers.”

After several solo victories on Saturday, the first race on Sunday had a different script. When hitting the penultimate lap of the race, there were still ten riders in contention for the rainbow jersey. Until that moment, several riders attempted a solo effort, but they were thrown backwards each time. Toon Aerts (Belgium) was the first leader on the second lap, but he slipped away a little later, on a fast corner on the descent of the Sacramentsberg. Daan Soete (Belgium) was the next Belgian rider to break free. Compatriots Quiten Hermans and Iserbyt played team tactics and protected the solo effort from Soete. Soete hit the third lap with a 17-second advantage on a chase group of eight riders. Toupalik was a little further back in a group with pre-race favourite Simon Andreassen (Denmark). The latter was the junior men's world champion of 2015, but he was never a factor in Heusden-Zolder.

First Felipe Orts (Spain), and then a strong Sieben Wouters (Netherlands), closed the gap on Soete on the third lap, and Wouters was the next rider to go alone. Three Belgian riders were still keeping him in sight and suddenly saw him hitting the asphalt early on in the fourth lap. Hermans took over the command and, before the end of the fourth lap, Toupalik bridged up. Six more riders were still close. During the penultimate lap, Iserbyt and later Gioele Bertolini (Italy) bridged up as well. Toupalik created a gap before the end of the penultimate lap and raised his hands. He then saw Iserbyt, Hermans and Bertolini riding by and needed some time to get going again.

Bertolini crashed at the foot of a fly-over at the beginning of the final lap. The Italian was passed by Toupalik and couldn’t keep up. Toupalik bridged up with the two Belgians out front and then tried to break free again, without success. The sprint was started by Toupalik and Hermans was too far to sprint along. Iserbyt bided his time and came out of the Czech’s wheel at the right time, winning the gold medal at the World Championships on home soil.

Thijs Aerts (Belgium) was best of the rest at 11 seconds before Clément Russo (France), Orts and Bertolini. Andreassen was twelfth at 1:19, just ahead of first American rider Logan Owen (USA).

Full Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Eli Iserbyt (Belgium)0:51:18 
2Adam Toupalik (Czech Republic)0:00:01 
3Quinten Hermans (Belgium)0:00:05 
4Thijs Aerts (Belgium)0:00:11 
5Clement Russo (France)0:00:12 
6Felipe Orts (Spain)0:00:15 
7Gioele Bertolini (Italy)  
8Martijn Budding (Netherlands)0:00:24 
9Sieben Wouters (Netherlands)0:00:29 
10Daan Soete (Belgium)0:01:07 
11Daan Hoeyberghs (Belgium)0:01:17 
12Simon Andreassen (Denmark)0:01:19 
13Logan Owen (United States Of America)0:01:22 
14Joris Nieuwenhuis (Netherlands)0:01:30 
15Nadir Colledani (Italy)0:01:31 
16Johan Jacobs (Switzerland)0:01:43 
17Nicolas Cleppe (Belgium)0:01:46 
18Curtis White (United States Of America)0:01:51 
19Gosse Van Der Meer (Netherlands)0:01:52 
20Kevin Suarez Fernandez (Spain)0:02:05 
21Timon Ruegg (Switzerland)0:02:17 
22Felix Drumm (Germany)0:02:18 
23Lucas Dubau (France)0:02:19 
24Joshua Dubau (France)0:02:28 
25Mathieu Morichon (France)0:02:30 
26Yannick Gruner (Germany)0:02:38 
27Andrew Dillman (United States Of America)0:02:55 
28Yannick Peeters (Belgium)0:03:05 
29Maik Van Der Heijden (Netherlands)0:03:13 
30Stepan Schubert (Czech Republic)0:03:25 
31Stefano Sala (Italy)0:03:44 
32Marceli Boguslawski (Poland)0:04:00 
33Grant Ellwood (United States Of America)0:04:04 
34Toki Sawada (Japan)0:04:07 
35Tobin Ortenblad (United States Of America)0:04:20 
36Bartosz Mikler (Poland)0:04:44 
37Simon Vozar (Slovakia)0:04:54 
38Nicholas Barnes (Great Britain)0:04:55 
39David Eriksson (Sweden)0:05:05 
40Matej Ulik (Slovakia)0:05:13 
41Henrik Jansson (Sweden)0:05:17 
42Christopher Aitken (Australia)0:05:29 
43Scott Smith (United States Of America)0:05:41 
44Max Lindenau (Germany)0:05:49 
45Nicholas Smith (Australia)0:05:50 
46Ondrej Glajza (Slovakia)0:05:59 
47Adrian Sirek (Czech Republic)0:06:02 
48Ola Jorde (Norway)0:06:07 
49Trevor O'Donnell (Canada)0:07:16 
50Luc Turchi (Luxembourg)0:07:27 
51Isaac Niles (Canada)0:07:45 
52Davis Persevics (Latvia)  
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