Michiel van der Heijden won a gold medal for the Netherlands on Friday afternoon at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Hafjell, Norway. The Dutch rider attacked to race solo to victory in the under 23 men's cross country ahead of Jordan Sarrou (France) and Howard Grotts (United States).
"If you can take this jersey, it's always a great day," said van der Heijden, clad in his new rainbow stripes. He had done it once before, as a junior at the 2010 Worlds in Mont-Sainte-Anne, Canada.
Sarrou was mixing it up at the front with Van der Heijden but a flat tire mid-race forced him to stop at the pits and cost him several places at the time.
Grotts had the ride of his life, passing rider after rider until he overtook his final man for the bronze in the last half lap.
How it happened
At the start, it was the New Zealand show with Sam Gaze leading ahead of Anton Cooper. Van der Heijden marked them closely ahead of Sarrou and Great Britain's Grant Ferguson.
"It was my goal to be up front at the start. I knew I could do something good if I did that based on the World Cups this year," said van der Heijden. "It cost a lot to make that happen and I needed a little bit of recovery, but then I started to feel better."
Cooper, on the other hand, soon suffered from the effects of his fast start and could not hang with the leaders.
Sarrou moved the front with Gaze just behind him and van der Heijden immediately after them. Cooper, Ferguson and Jan Vastl (Czech Republic) led the chase. The Czech rider was clawing his way up toward the front.
Coming into the tech zone on lap three of the six-lap race, Sarrou led van der Heijden and Vastl. Gaze was just a bit behind him, the New Zealander pulled out at the tech zone, holding his arm after having crashed according to his obviously torn and dirty kit.
Van der Heijden was clearly feeling good on the climbs and he tended to push the pace going uphill. Sarrou always kept him close, but on lap four through the first tech zone, the French rider stopped for a flat and got a wheel change. That left van der Heijden in the front, alone, with a 20-second gap to Vastl.
For the rest of the race, Van der Heijden was on his own at the front. The 2010 junior world champion had never won an under 23 world title, and he was very aware that this was his last chance.
"I had no time to enjoy my last lap, it was a lot of suffering out there," said van der Heijden.
Behind him, Sarrou was on a mission, working his way back up after his flat from fourth to second, but he could not close on the motivated Van der Heijden.
"I'm satisfied but a little bit disappointed," said Sarrou, who in addition to his flat also was dealing with some back pain that came on after lap one.
Vastl looked like he would hold onto third, but his efforts were to no avail as the charging Grotts was surging forward through the field. After being as far back as 45th on the first climb, Grotts, consistently picked riders off each lap, getting more and more excited as he broke into the top 10, then the top five. At last a bronze medal was in sight and there was no stopping Grotts, who passed Vastl on the final steep climb.
"I had a horrible start after getting tangled up in the woods and people were running everywhere, but I was steady and passing people consistently on the climbs and keeping it steady on the descents," said Grotts who called himself a "poor starter".
"I kept making up time on the leaders. When I saw third place was in sight on the last lap, I gave it everything up the climb to get that medal. It's a medal at the world championships after all ."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Michiel Van Der Heijden (Netherlands)||1:18:40|
|2||Jordan Sarrou (France)||0:00:49|
|3||Howard Grotts (United States Of America)||0:01:12|
|4||Jan Vastl (Czech Republic)||0:01:28|
|5||Grant Ferguson (Great Britain)||0:01:39|
|6||Anton Cooper (New Zealand)||0:01:56|
|7||Julian Schelb (Germany)||0:02:28|
|8||Leandre Bouchard (Canada)||0:02:35|
|9||Andri Frischknecht (Switzerland)||0:02:56|
|10||James Reid (South Africa)||0:03:16|
|11||Gregor Raggl (Austria)||0:03:21|
|12||Titouan Carod (France)||0:03:24|
|13||Sondre Kristiansen (Norway)||0:04:06|
|14||Pablo Rodriguez Guede (Spain)||0:04:15|
|15||Tomas Paprstka (Czech Republic)||0:04:16|
|16||Kevin Panhuyzen (Belgium)||0:04:37|
|17||Georg Egger (Germany)||0:04:57|
|18||Cameron Ivory (Australia)||0:05:17|
|19||Arnis Petersons (Latvia)||0:05:29|
|20||Victor Koretzky (France)||0:05:38|
|21||Luiz Cocuzzi (Brazil)||0:05:42|
|22||Axel Lindh (Sweden)||0:05:48|
|23||Lars Forster (Switzerland)||0:06:07|
|24||Fabian Paumann (Switzerland)||0:06:16|
|25||Martin Frey (Germany)||0:06:31|
|26||Didier Bats (Belgium)||0:06:49|
|27||Florian Chenaux (Switzerland)||0:07:07|
|28||Maximilian Vieider (Italy)||0:07:27|
|29||Gioele Bertolini (Italy)||0:07:40|
|30||Raphael Gay (France)||0:07:49|
|31||Mitchell Bailey (Canada)||0:08:09|
|32||Oleksiy Zavolokin (Ukraine)||0:08:11|
|33||Julien Trarieux (France)||0:08:18|
|34||Louis Bendixen (Denmark)|
|35||Lorenzo Samparisi (Italy)||0:08:25|
|36||Sepp Kuss (United States Of America)||0:08:31|
|37||Jeff Luyten (Belgium)||0:08:47|
|38||Peter Disera (Canada)||0:09:11|
|39||Andrin Beeli (Switzerland)||0:09:19|
|40||Scott Bowden (Australia)||0:09:34|
|41||José Pedro Dias (Portugal)||0:09:43|
|42||Frantisek Lami (Slovakia)||0:09:55|
|43||Bart De Vocht (Belgium)||0:09:59|
|44||Marcel Guerrini (Switzerland)||0:10:13|
|45||Andrea Righettini (Italy)||0:10:21|
|46||Martins Blums (Latvia)||0:10:25|
|47||Iain Paton (Great Britain)||0:10:45|
|48||Gregor Krajnc (Slovenia)||0:10:51|
|49||Chris Hamilton (Australia)||0:11:00|
|50||Gert Heyns (South Africa)||0:11:38|
|51||Andrey Fonseca (Costa Rica)||0:12:00|
|52||Pavel Skalicky (Czech Republic)||0:12:52|
|53||Edvard Vea Iversen (Norway)||0:13:16|
|54||Ole Hem (Norway)||0:15:02|
|-1lap||Goncalo Duarte Amado (Portugal)|
|-1lap||Max Foidl (Austria)|
|-1lap||Christian Pfäffle (Germany)|
|-1lap||Keegan Swenson (United States Of America)|
|-1lap||Stefano Valdrighi (Italy)|
|-1lap||Toki Sawada (Japan)|
|-1lap||Luis Rojas (Argentina)|
|-1lap||Sebastian Carstensen Fini (Denmark)|
|-1lap||Evan Mcneely (Canada)|
|-1lap||Nicolas Sessler (Brazil)|
|-1lap||José Aurelio Hernandez (Mexico)|
|-1lap||Ruslan Boredskiy (Russian Federation)|
|-1lap||Eskil Evensen-Lie (Norway)|
|-1lap||Ben Forbes (Australia)|
|-1lap||Niels Rasmussen (Denmark)|
|-1lap||Yoshitaka Nakahara (Japan)|
|-2laps||Nazaerbieke Bieken (People's Republic of China)|
|-2laps||Artem Shevtsov (Ukraine)|
|-3laps||Guy Niv (Israel)|
|-3laps||Fredrik Haraldseth (Norway)|
|-3laps||Eivind Andreas Roed (Norway)|
|-3laps||Roman Vladykin (Russian Federation)|
|-3laps||Peteris Janevics (Latvia)|
|-3laps||Brian Villa (Argentina)|
|-3laps||William Mokgopo (South Africa)|
|-3laps||Piotr Konwa (Poland)|
|-3laps||Artem Aleksndrov (Russian Federation)|
|-3laps||Alperen Kir (Turkey)|
|-3laps||Henrik Fiskadal (Norway)|
|-3laps||Tomas Visnovsky (Slovakia)|
|-3laps||Isak Unal (Turkey)|
|-3laps||Anton Stepanov (Russian Federation)|
|-3laps||Toni Tähti (Finland)|
|-3laps||Kohei Maeda (Japan)|
|-3laps||Alvaro Macias (Argentina)|
|-3laps||Adria Urcelay Tejedor (Andorra)|
|-4laps||Sergey Kovalchuk (Kazakhstan)|
|DNF||Samuel Gaze (New Zealand)|
|DNF||Bartlomiej Wawak (Poland)|
|DNF||Jeremy Martin (Canada)|
|DNF||Wolfgang Soares Olsen (Brazil)|
|DNF||Emil Linde (Sweden)|
|DNF||Brendon Davids (South Africa)|
|DNF||Yoshiki Yamada (Japan)|
|DNS||Xinyang Liu (People's Republic of China)|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|8||United States Of America||200|
|31||People?S Republic Of China||28|