A mere 2.3 seconds was all that separated Denmark's Kasper Asgreen from what would've been his first-ever World Championships medal. On Sunday in Flanders, the 26-year-old lost out to trade teammate Remco Evenepoel (Belgium) after what was a to-and-fro battle throughout the time checks during the 43.3-kilometre race.
Asgreen, who finished 17th in the 2019 Worlds time trial, and sixth last year, said that he would be satisfied with his effort once the disappointment on missing bronze had dissipated, noting that he didn't think he could have found the difference to Evenepoel if he had ridden the race differently.
"I feel like I did a decent time trial," Asgreen told the assembled press after finishing his effort. "I don't think I could have found that much more time out there.
"Obviously in such a long time trial, you can always find a second here or there, but Remco will feel the same way. That's what it’s all about – minimising those few seconds you can find. Once the immediate disappointment is gone, I think I'll be satisfied."
Asgreen was in provisional fourth place at both the first and second checkpoints, beating Evenepoel at the first before slipping seven seconds behind at the second. Over the final 10 kilometres, he made up time once more, but it just wasn't enough to grab a medal – not that he was bitter about getting edged out by his Deceuninck-QuickStep teammate.
"I was also on the limit in the last 10 kilometres," he said. "Once you hear that you're so close you try to dig out something extra, go a little bit up and down and you pay for it a little bit. You just try to squeeze a bit more out. It's a constant battle but in the end it wasn't enough.
"Obviously, leaving the medal to a friend is easier. I know Remco worked really, really hard to get back from his injuries and it's very well deserved that he can take a medal here today.
"It would be hard for me to find a time trial which suits me better than this one," he added. "The long flat straights where you really have to keep on top of the power was good for me. Both courses are pretty well designed for me, so I've been looking forward to this World Championships for a long time. I think I am where I want to be so now it's full focus on next Sunday."
Anticipating Sunday's road race
Asgreen, along with his younger Danish teammate Mikkel Bjerg, who finished the day in 17th place, will now look ahead to the week's main event – the road race on Sunday, where their team is – on paper, at least – among the strongest in the race.
The duo will be joined by former World Champion Mads Pedersen, triple Vuelta stage winner Magnus Cort, the in-form Michael Valgren, and the trio of Mads Würtz Schmidt, Mikkel Honoré, and Andreas Kron, who have all won races at WorldTour level in 2021.
Asgreen, who, after his Tour of Flanders win back in April will be among the leaders of the team, said that the Danish squad has a "flat hierarchy", but wouldn't reveal any tactical secrets despite his own preference to get up the road and attack on Sunday.
"We have a really strong squad here and I think we have several cards to play. I think we have a very flat hierarchy," he said. "As a starting point we have five guys with three roles, and nobody has a clear leadership role – like Belgium, for example. I think we're going to try to employ a bit of a QuickStep tactic and try to play on our numbers and hope end up in a good situation with more riders than other nations.
"It's up to the national coach so we have to ask him which [tactic] he will go for. Obviously, I prefer to attack because it's always the most fun."
Asgreen named perennial-contenders Belgium, led by time trial silver medallist Wout van Aert, and Italy, led by Sonny Colbrelli, as the revelations of the year – as the strongest rivals squads for the 268.3-kilometre race, which takes the riders from Antwerp to Leuven. He added, however, that his Danish squad would also take responsibility to put in the work, too.
"Probably our biggest competitors are going to be the Belgians and Italians. They have really, really strong collective squads as well. There's a lot of good riders spread out over the other nations, but I think the big nations are Belgium and Italy, which also means we have to take some responsibility for the race, which we're prepared to do. I expect a fun and hard race."
Asgreen's interview closed out with his thoughts on Chris Anker Sörensen, who died on Saturday after a driver of a car struck him on a bicycle while in Belgium to commentate on the Worlds. He said that Sörensen was on his mind during the race, especially during the tougher moments.
"Obviously, it was very tough news to get last night. We got told late in the evening, just before it was released to the public. It just took the edge off the mood. The whole morning in the hotel it was a little bit tense. I think he's in the back of everybody's minds.
"For me personally I was thinking about him today when it hurt, and I just tried to keep on fighting and push through the pain to hopefully get that medal for Chris."
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Daniel Ostanek has been a staff writer at Cyclingnews since August 2019, having joined in 2017 as a freelance contributor and later part-time production editor. Before Cyclingnews, he was published in numerous publications around the cycling world, including Procycling, CyclingWeekly, CyclingTips, Cyclist, and Rouleur, among others. As well as reporting and writing news, Daniel runs the 'How to watch' content on Cyclingnews and takes on live race text coverage throughout the season.
Daniel has reported from the world's top races, including the Tour de France, and has interviewed a number of the sport's biggest stars, including Egan Bernal, Wout van Aert, Remco Evenepoel, Mark Cavendish, and Anna van der Breggen. Daniel rides a 2002 Landbouwkrediet Colnago C40 and his favourite races are Tro-Bro Léon, Strade Bianche, and the Vuelta a España.
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.