Yevgeniy Fedorov emerges from the rain to win Under 23 world title

Yevgeniy Fedorov (Kazakhstan) won the under-23 road race World Championship in Australia, beating breakaway companion Mathias Vacek (Czech Republic) in a two-rider sprint.

The two WorldTour riders were part of the decisive late attack and then went clear on the final climb up to Mount Pleasant. They opened an 18-second gap, enough to hold off the chasers and sprint for the world title. 

Under-23 time trial world champion Søren Wærenskjold won the bronze medal, winning the sprint ahead of a chase group of just 20 riders. 

The rain and fast course made for a difficult race, with numerous attacks and chases in the final laps. However Fedorov was especially strong and aggressive in the final two laps and was able to stay with Vacek. 

Fedorov stepped up to WorldTour level with Astana Qazaqstan in 2021 and completed the Vuelta a España before travelling to Australia. As a WorldTour rider he will never race in the under-23 World Champion's jersey. 

The 20-year-old Vacek won a stage at the UAE Tour at the start of the season before the Gazprom team was suspended due to the Russian invasion of the Ukraine. He joined Trek-Segafredo in the summer and he has a three-year contract with the US-registered WorldTour team.

"I believed I could win but there are always a lot of rivals at the start of every race," Fedorov said emotionally, with Alexander Vinokourov translating his comments for the flash television interview. 

"I was in good shape because I did the Vuelta a España with the Astana Qazaqstan team. I came to Australia with a goal to try my best. My win is ten years after Lutsenko won the under-23 title and I also remember watching London Olympic Games race."    

“I tried before because I know the climb was difficult for me. I'm not a real climber but I knew that if I got over the climb, I could make it to the finish. I tried a few times and then we got away in two over the top on the last climb, so I knew we could make it. I'm not a fast sprinter but I'm not slow either and the legs made the difference. 

Fedorov spoke more in the post-race press conference.

“At the moment I do not feel anything but general tiredness after the race, but it's great to be in my last year in the U23 category and to win the World Championships title,” he said, through a translator. 

“I think that tomorrow might be another feeling of being World Champion.”

How it unfolded

The under-23 riders awoke to the rain falling in Wollongong and knew they faced a tense and testing 10-lap 169.8km. 

That did not stop the attacks or high pace, with Fabio van den Bossche (Belgium), Hannes Wilksch (Germany), Petr Kelemen (Czech Republic), Mathis le Berre (France), and Fabian Weiss (Switzerland) forming a key early attack. It became a more significant move when Fran Miholjevic (Croatia). Their lead grew to 3:00 as the laps ticked down and the other nations and their leaders tested their legs on the Mount Pleasant climb and waited for the final laps.

Fedorov was already active and tried to go across to the move at one point but wisely sat up. As expected the fast-moving peloton reduced the gap to the attackers and the finale of the race began with 50km to go.   

Six riders formed a new attack but they were always kept under control by the lined-out peloton.

On the eighth lap, France’s Mathis Le Berre surged up the Mount Pleasant climb and split the attack, with only Fabio Van den Bossche (Belgium) and Hannes Wilksch (Germany) staying with him.

With two laps to go, there were only 42 riders left in the peloton, such was the speed and selection.

Jakob Toupalik (Czech Republic) and Alexandre Balmer (Switzerland) were the first to form a chase group and they were joined by Italians Lorenzo Milesi and Nicolo Buratti, Samuel Watson (Great Britain), and Fedorov. However they were caught and so were the three out front. 

Just before the bell rang out  for the final lap Alec Segaert (Belgium), Mathias Vacek (Estonia), Le Berre and Fedorov got away after the Frenchman jumped first.  

The Mount Pleasant climb proved to be the turning point, with Vacek and Fedorov, mainly under the effort of the Kazakhstan rider. Balmer tried to close the gap but failed and Vacek and Fedorov were clear on the fast descent to the finish. 

The 20-rider peloton tried to chase but lost momentum and the gap grew to 18 seconds with three kilometres to go. 

Vacek and Fedorov knew they would fight for the world title but on the rising finish, Vacek lacked the power to respond to Fedorov’s surge and quickly accepted second place.  

Fedorov kicked ahead to win with his arms in the air, the chasers filling the background of the winning shot but unable to catch the two attackers. 

Soren Waerenskjold led in the peloton three seconds later to take bronze, with Jumbo-Visma sprinter Olav Kooij fifth and Australia;s Matthew Dinham seventh. 

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