Ramunas Navardauskas has won individual stages in the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia, but a bronze medal in the UCI Road World Championship elite men's road race in Richmond, Virginia was perhaps the most important achievement of his career. It was the first medal that a Lithuanian man has ever taken in the Worlds, either time trial or road race, and a lasting legacy for himself and his country.
"I'm very proud, for myself, I am happy to be third," Navardauskas said after sprinting to bronze behind solo winner Peter Sagan and Australian Michael Matthews. "So far this is the best result in a road race for the team. I'm happy I have this, and I'm happy to bring this home to me country, my family and my team."
When asked to compare his result to the 2014 Tour de France stage he claimed in Bergerac, or the Giro stage the previous year, Navardauskas weighted the bronze medal. "The world championships are a one day race, and if you can achieve a medal it's a big thing for you, it can hang on your wall the rest of your life. I think it's better than a stage of the Giro our Tour. It's a bigger event, the world championships is the world championships."
Navardauskas was at a disadvantage in the peloton, having just two teammates Gediminas Bagdonas and Evaldas Siskevicius in the race, where bigger countries had nine riders. The fight for position was key, and Navardauskas had to push his way from well back in the peloton when Sagan attacked on the penultimate climb with 3km to go.
"It was a very hard race. Until the last two laps it was always at the back of 50 guys in the front of the bunch, and it was very hard to fight for position," he said. "Until the last two laps I couldn't see where I would finish. I thought if they went harder I wouldn't be finishing today. It was a very hard race and in the end I'm happy I was strong enough to come top three."
He was able to key off the bigger teams, in particular the team of Matthews, who went into the final kilometre with several riders at the front. "The Australians had three guys in the end, the Belgian boys were close to each other. [Norwegian Alexander] Kristoff was ready to go full gas. I just tried to stay there and see how it goes. At the last moment you could see there were splits and you didn't know if they would come back together, or everyone come one by one. I was just sitting in waiting until the last sprint. You can just wait, wait and then do your best."