“It’s not been my week,” Cian Uijtdebroeks said with a rueful smile in Leuven.
After a run-in with a burglar at home left him with an injury that apparently hampered him in Tuesday’s World Championships junior men's time trial, a string of early crashes effectively ended the talented Belgian's hopes of winning the junior men’s road race world title on Friday.
It was a rueful smile, but a smile nonetheless, and, although he couldn’t deliver the title that the home fans in Belgium had hoped, he took pride in the way he bounced back to finish the race. Inspired by that home crowd and, he revealed, Primoz Roglic, the highly-rated 18-year-old “rode on character” and refused to give up.
After being caught up in a crash on the first of eight laps of the 15-kilometre circuit in Leuven lap, he hit the deck twice on the second lap.
“The first crash was already on the second lap, but the bike was okay and I was okay. I came back, and a bit later on, only around 5km further on, a load of guys crashed in front of me and I was in the thick of it and went flying. The bike was completely broken so I had to wait for a new bike.”
Uijtdebroeks proceeded to mount a furious chase, towing various stragglers as he tried to make his way back. However, he was two minutes behind, and his Belgian teammates couldn’t afford to drop back for him, so the race soon slipped away from him. Still, he fought until the last and finished the race in 70th place, more than eight minutes down on the winner.
Speaking to the media afterwards, he said he’d been inspired by Roglic’s ride on the final day of Paris-Nice, where he crashed three times and watched the overall victory disappear up the road, but mounted a long and lonely chase in ripped kit up the final climb.
“After the crash where my bike was broken, I really thought for a moment that it was all over. Then I came to the Wijnpers [climb] and at the top there were so many people, so that gave me motivation. I said to myself, ‘okay, I ride full gas until the end.'
“It was so so long. It was almost a 100km time trial. But I rode all out. I had the image of Roglic at Paris-Nice in my head. He was really riding full gas, after also crashing a few times, and he was losing the GC as well. I said to myself, if you take to the start of a World Championship in Belgium, you have to go on. So I rode on character to the end.”
It was a defiant but ultimately disappointing end to a home Worlds for a young rider of whom so much is expected in the future, and who will graduate straight to the WorldTour next year with Bora-Hansgrohe.
He had explained last week that he damaged a muscle behind his knee while rushing to secure his home against a burglar he’d seen trying to break in. He finished sixth in the time trial and had to settle for 70th in the road race, but wasn’t about to beat himself up too much.
“I had the number 13 on today, and true enough it didn’t give me much luck,” he joked.
“At the end of the day, that’s how it is. You can’t change it, and it can’t stay like this forever. The page will turn and good things will come. I remain optimistic.”
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Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.
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