Mads Pedersen emerged victorious at the UCI Road World Championships elite men's road race in a brutally wet, cold and and treacherous six plus hours of racing, smartly making the winning breakaway and then handily out-sprinting Matteo Trentin (Italy) and Stefan Küng (Switzerland).
"It's unbelievable. I didn't expect this when we started this morning. It was an unbelievable day," Pedersen said. "It's every rider's dream to wear this jersey and for me to do it now, it's unbelievable."
It was a race of attrition, luck and good timing in Yorkshire, with flooding forcing the UCI to shorten the race by 23.5km. The race was still plenty selective with many pre-race favourites including defending champion Alejandro Valverde (Spain) abandoning the race.
Küng initiated the breakaway on the fifth to last lap, with Pedersen bridging across before being joined by Gianni Moscon (Italy) and then Trentin and Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands).
Van der Poel cracked on the last lap, while Moscon lost contact on the final trip up Oak Beck with 5km to go, leaving three men fighting for the medals. Trentin waited until he saw the 200m to go sign and opened up his sprint, but found only cold, dead legs when it mattered most.
Pedersen powered past him to snatch the rainbow jersey, the first Danish men's winner in history. The 23-year-old said he only attacked to work for teammate Jakob Fuglsang, but when Belgium could not reel in the attack he took his chances.
"The plan was to get me out in the early final (laps) and then Belgium and Fuglsang would come from behind. But in the end, they didn't follow Van der Poel and Trentin when they came to my group. Then it was just survive, survive, survive and then hope for the best in the sprint," Pedersen said.
"I just hoped that when I saw the finish line all the pain would be gone and I could do a good sprint. It's six and a half hours on the bike, and everyone is on the limit. Anything could happen in that sprint.
"You have to be focussed the whole day and stay in front - but it's one of the last races of the season so it's just about being focussed for six and a half hours, not have any bad luck and hope for the best."
How it unfolded
The worst-case scenario played out in Yorkshire for the elite men's road race, with heavy rain and flooding forcing the UCI to shorten the race by 23.5km and bypass two climbs in the Yorkshire Dales.
It was so cold and wet, the peloton looked like they were out on a training run, with leg warmers, long-fingered gloves and a mishmash of trade team rain caps clashing with the national team kits.
It was a day for the hard men, and group of heavy hitters went clear in the early kilometres after a fast start, with 11 men away after 25km, including Nairo Quintana (Colombia), Richard Carapaz (Colombia), Primoz Roglic (Slovenia), Jan Polanc (Slovenia), Magnus Cort (Denmark), Petr Vakoc (Czech Republic), Silvan Dillier (Switzerland), Maciej Bodnar (Poland), Jonas Koch (Germany), Hugo Houle (Canada) and Alex Howes (USA).
They built up more than four minutes over the peloton that was afflicted with punctures, crashes, mechanicals and misery. Favourite Mathieu van der Poel had a flat, Pavel Sivakov and Tadej Pogacar tangled and crashed, Ben Gastauer (Luxembourg) was run into by the Irish team car and needed a new bike.
Belgium sacrificed Remco Evenepoel to help Philippe Gilbert get back on after a crash at the start of the nine finishing circuits, but neither rider made it to the finish.
Other big names abandoned in the finishing circuits, with Ireland losing both Dan Martin and Sam Bennett. With six laps to go, defending champion Alejandro Valverde (Spain) was dropped and abandoned. It was more tired legs and frozen bodies that led to the attrition rather than aggressive racing.
Closing laps, time for attacks
With five laps to go, the USA's Lawson Craddock attacked and was joined by Stefan Kung (Switzerland) and they began to forge a small gap.
The move seemed to settle the peloton a bit, as France, Italy and Belgium amassed on the front of the bunch and led through a much-needed feed zone. Pre-race favourite Alexey Lutsenko, who suffered several mechanicals, dropped out of the race with 53km to go.
Although the rain let up somewhat, the course was still treacherous as Michael Albasini (Switzerland) found out when he hit a drain cover and crashed with 47km to go.
As the chaos disrupted the bunch, Mads Pederson (Denmark) attacked out of the peloton and bridged to the two leaders. He came with such speed that Craddock could not hang on and was forced to chase with Dutchman Mike Teunissen before again losing touch and going backwards.
Gianni Moscon (Italy) set off in pursuit of the leaders, passing Craddock. Under the banner for three laps to go, Teunissen had joined Pederson and Küng while Italian soon clawed his way up to the group. The peloton, led by Oliver Naesen (Belgium) loomed not too far back at 20 seconds.
The gap went out to 27 seconds before Nils Politt (Germany) launched an attack, and he was closely marked by Belgium's Dylan Teuns, and soon joined by Lukas Pöstlberger (Austria) and Dani Martinez (Colombia).
With 33km to go, Van der Poel made his move, leaping out of the peloton and ploughing past the first chasers with Matteo Trentin (Italy). Martinez hung on for a time but dropped back, as Van der Poel and Trentin joined the trio ahead.
Just 30km to go and it was Van der Poel, Moscon, Pedersen, Küng and Trentin - advantage Italy.
Another counterattack came from the peloton with Gorka Izagirre (Spain) joined by Toms Skujins (Latvia) and Carlos Betancur (Colombia) at 12 seconds with two laps to go, the peloton at 25 seconds and the cold British rain pounding harder on the race.
The storm dampened the motivation of the chasers, and the gaps began to widen as Trentin and Van der Poel took big pulls with 25km remaining.
Tim Wellens (Belgium) came to the front to reel in the attackers, but stronger pulls by the leaders saw the gap yawn out to 51 seconds with 20km to go with the Izagirre group in sight of the peloton.
It was a precarious situation for the peloton with Van Avermaet, Alaphilippe and Sagan still biding their time. Finally, Alberto Bettiol (Italy) pegged back the Izagirre trio on the Oak Beck ascent, but still the gap persisted.
Final lap, Van der Poel cracks
With one lap to go, the leaders had 48 seconds and although Moscon had a moment of weakness, he fought his way back in and set to work for Trentin.
Six full hours into the race, the rain had let up, leaving a dank mist hanging over the elite men's race. The rain vests were unzipped and discarded as the heat of pure effort shielded the riders from the cold.
Inexplicably, with 12.7km to go, Van der Poel cracked - his inexperience in this length of a race finally coming back to bite him. Advantage Italy, with a 50 per cent make up in the leading group and a minute on the bunch.
Desperation rose in the peloton as the kilometres ticked down and still the gap would not close. Germany tried but simply could not make a dent.
Küng pushed the pace up Oak Beck and cracked Moscon, leaving all the medals at the front of the race. His face a rictus of pain, the Swiss rider seemed to put Pedersen into some difficulty but made no dent in Trentin's reservoir of strength.
Peter Sagan (Slovakia) attacked out of the peloton with 4km to go but it was far too late. Trentin parked himself on the back of the lead group with 2km to go, just biding his time for the finish line to come into sight.
But when the sprint came the Italian, who on any other occasion should have been the obvious winner, had nothing left in his legs and Pedersen powered past to the finish line to make history as the first Danish winner in the men's race three years after Amalie Dideriksen became the country's first elite world champion.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Mads Pedersen (Denmark)||6:27:28|
|2||Matteo Trentin (Italy)|
|3||Stefan Kung (Switzerland)||0:00:02|
|4||Gianni Moscon (Italy)||0:00:17|
|5||Peter Sagan (Slovakia)||0:00:43|
|6||Michael Valgren Andersen (Denmark)||0:00:45|
|7||Alexander Kristoff (Norway)||0:01:10|
|8||Greg van Avermaet (Belgium)|
|9||Gorka Izagirre Insausti (Spain)|
|10||Rui Costa (Portugal)|
|11||Sonny Colbrelli (Italy)|
|12||Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark)|
|13||Zdenek Stybar (Czech Republic)|
|14||Carlos Betancur (Colombia)|
|15||John Degenkolb (Germany)|
|16||Ion Izagirre Insausti (Spain)||0:01:14|
|17||Amund Grondahl Jansen (Norway)|
|18||Tadej Pogacar (Slovenia)|
|19||Nils Politt (Germany)||0:01:22|
|20||Niki Terpstra (Netherlands)|
|21||Toms Skujins (Latvia)||0:01:46|
|22||Michael Albasini (Switzerland)||0:01:48|
|23||Tony Gallopin (France)||0:01:50|
|24||Michael Matthews (Australia)||0:01:57|
|25||Alberto Bettiol (Italy)|
|26||Tao Geoghegan Hart (Great Britain)||0:02:20|
|27||Marc Hirschi (Switzerland)|
|28||Julian Alaphilippe (France)||0:02:26|
|29||Daniel Felipe Martinez Poveda (Colombia)||0:03:59|
|30||Felix Grossschartner (Austria)|
|31||Ben Swift (Great Britain)||0:06:38|
|32||Yves Lampaert (Belgium)||0:07:48|
|33||Oliver Naesen (Belgium)||0:08:07|
|34||Sven Erik Bystrom (Norway)|
|35||Tim Wellens (Belgium)|
|36||Mike Teunissen (Netherlands)|
|37||Dylan Teuns (Belgium)|
|38||Jhoan Esteban Chaves Rubio (Colombia)|
|39||Andrey Amador (Costa Rica)|
|40||Chad Haga (United States Of America)||0:10:27|
|41||Neilson Powless (United States Of America)|
|42||Benoit Cosnefroy (France)||0:10:52|
|43||Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands)|
|44||Imanol Erviti (Spain)||0:14:48|
|45||Lucas Eriksson (Sweden)|
|46||Petr Vakoc (Czech Republic)||0:19:25|
|DNF||Jack Haig (Australia)|
|DNF||Lukas Postlberger (Austria)|
|DNF||Florian Senechal (France)|
|DNF||Dylan van Baarle (Netherlands)|
|DNF||Adam Yates (Great Britain)|
|DNF||Patrick Konrad (Austria)|
|DNF||Marco Haller (Austria)|
|DNF||Bauke Mollema (Netherlands)|
|DNF||Luka Pibernik (Slovenia)|
|DNF||Aleksandr Riabushenko (Belarus)|
|DNF||Nikias Arndt (Germany)|
|DNF||Davide Cimolai (Italy)|
|DNF||Juraj Sagan (Slovakia)|
|DNF||Magnus Cort Nielsen (Denmark)|
|DNF||Alvaro Jose Hodeg Chagui (Colombia)|
|DNF||Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway)|
|DNF||Michael Woods (Canada)|
|DNF||Christophe Laporte (France)|
|DNF||Michal Golas (Poland)|
|DNF||Nathan Haas (Australia)|
|DNF||Marc Soler (Spain)|
|DNF||Pascal Ackermann (Germany)|
|DNF||Ruben Guerreiro (Portugal)|
|DNF||Alex Kirsch (Luxembourg)|
|DNF||Alo Jakin (Estonia)|
|DNF||Lawson Craddock G (United States Of America)|
|DNF||Simon Clarke (Australia)|
|DNF||Luke Durbridge (Australia)|
|DNF||Hermann Pernsteiner (Austria)|
|DNF||Giovanni Visconti (Italy)|
|DNF||Alexey Lutsenko (Kazakhstan)|
|DNF||Grega Bole (Slovenia)|
|DNF||Simon Geschke (Germany)|
|DNF||Geraint Thomas (Great Britain)|
|DNF||Michael Morkov (Denmark)|
|DNF||Jonathan Caicedo (Ecuador)|
|DNF||Remi Cavagna (France)|
|DNF||Luis Leon Sanchez (Spain)|
|DNF||Salvatore Puccio (Italy)|
|DNF||Christopher Juul Jensen (Denmark)|
|DNF||Jack Bauer (New Zealand)|
|DNF||Pieter Weening (Netherlands)|
|DNF||Rafal Majka (Poland)|
|DNF||Pawel Poljanski (Poland)|
|DNF||Jasha Sutterlin (Germany)|
|DNF||Lukasz Wisniowski (Poland)|
|DNF||Nicolas Jonathan Castroviejo (Spain)|
|DNF||Josef Cerny (Czech Republic)|
|DNF||Kasper Asgreen (Denmark)|
|DNF||Sam Bennett (Ireland)|
|DNF||Danilo Wyss (Switzerland)|
|DNF||Benjamin Perry (Canada)|
|DNF||Eduard-michael Grosu (Romania)|
|DNF||Emils Liepins (Latvia)|
|DNF||Rory Townsend (Ireland)|
|DNF||Matej Mohoric (Slovenia)|
|DNF||Anthony Roux (France)|
|DNF||Diego Ulissi (Italy)|
|DNF||Bob Jungels (Luxembourg)|
|DNF||Jose Rojas (Spain)|
|DNF||Yukiya Arashiro (Japan)|
|DNF||Jonas Koch (Germany)|
|DNF||Mitchell Docker (Australia)|
|DNF||Michael Schar (Switzerland)|
|DNF||Casper Phillip Pedersen (Denmark)|
|DNF||Pavel Sivakov (Russian Federation)|
|DNF||Eduardo Sepulveda (Argentina)|
|DNF||Sebastian Henao Gomez (Colombia)|
|DNF||Carl Fredrik Hagen (Norway)|
|DNF||Dion Smith (New Zealand)|
|DNF||Sebastian Langeveld (Netherlands)|
|DNF||Marcus Burghardt (Germany)|
|DNF||Aleksandr Vlasov (Russian Federation)|
|DNF||Hugo Houle (Canada)|
|DNF||Owain Doull (Great Britain)|
|DNF||Alejandro Valverde (Spain)|
|DNF||Tim Declercq (Belgium)|
|DNF||Alex Howes (United States Of America)|
|DNF||Sergei Chernetskii (Russian Federation)|
|DNF||Zhandos Bizhigitov (Kazakhstan)|
|DNF||Nairo Quintana (Colombia)|
|DNF||Gediminas Bagdonas (Lithuania)|
|DNF||Conor Dunne (Ireland)|
|DNF||Michael Gogl (Austria)|
|DNF||Erik Baska (Slovakia)|
|DNF||James Piccoli (Canada)|
|DNF||Jan Polanc (Slovenia)|
|DNF||Stylianos Farantakis (Greece)|
|DNF||Tanel Kangert (Estonia)|
|DNF||Kim Magnusson (Sweden)|
|DNF||Edward Dunbar (Ireland)|
|DNF||Jose Goncalves (Portugal)|
|DNF||Remco Evenepoel (Belgium)|
|DNF||Stepan Kuriyanov (Russian Federation)|
|DNF||Julien Bernard (France)|
|DNF||David Per (Slovenia)|
|DNF||Yevgeniy Gidich (Kazakhstan)|
|DNF||Dmitriy Gruzdev (Kazakhstan)|
|DNF||Ben Gastauer (Luxembourg)|
|DNF||Silvan Dillier (Switzerland)|
|DNF||Nicholas Dlamini (South Africa)|
|DNF||Rui Oliveira (Portugal)|
|DNF||Maciej Bodnar (Poland)|
|DNF||Rein Taaramae (Estonia)|
|DNF||Ian Stannard (Great Britain)|
|DNF||Krists Neilands (Latvia)|
|DNF||Vegard Stake Laengen (Norway)|
|DNF||Evaldas Siskevicius (Lithuania)|
|DNF||Shane Archbold (New Zealand)|
|DNF||Jan Barta (Czech Republic)|
|DNF||Hideto Nakane (Japan)|
|DNF||Primoz Roglic (Slovenia)|
|DNF||Philippe Gilbert (Belgium)|
|DNF||Jos van Emden (Netherlands)|
|DNF||Daniel Martin (Ireland)|
|DNF||Yuriy Natarov (Kazakhstan)|
|DNF||Guillaume Boivin (Canada)|
|DNF||Rory Sutherland (Australia)|
|DNF||Daryl Impey (South Africa)|
|DNF||Mihkel Raim (Estonia)|
|DNF||Nelson Oliveira (Portugal)|
|DNF||Richard Carapaz (Ecuador)|
|DNF||Frantisek Sisr (Czech Republic)|
|DNF||Tom Wirtgen (Luxembourg)|
|DNF||Juan Sebastian Molano Benavides (Colombia)|
|DNF||Polychronis Tzortzakis (Greece)|
|DNF||Antoine Duchesne (Canada)|
|DNF||Antonio Barac (Croatia)|
|DNF||Jan Andrej Cully (Slovakia)|
|DNF||Peter Kusztor (Hungary)|
|DNF||Roman Kreuziger (Czech Republic)|
|DNF||Dmitrii Strakhov (Russian Federation)|
|DNF||Jhonatan Manuel Narvaez Prado (Ecuador)|
|DNF||Jefferson Cepeda (Ecuador)|
|DNF||Stefan de Bod (South Africa)|
|DNF||Ryan Mullen (Ireland)|
|DNF||Rohan Dennis (Australia)|
|DNF||Ivan Garcia Cortina (Spain)|
|DNF||Jan Tratnik (Slovenia)|
|DNF||Lukasz Owsian (Poland)|
|DNF||Alexander Evtushenko (Russian Federation)|
|DNF||Natnael Berhane (Eritrea)|
|DNF||Mekseb Debesay (Eritrea)|
|DNF||Merhawi Kudus (Eritrea)|
|DNF||Daniel Teklehaimanot (Eritrea)|
|DNF||Patrick Bevin (New Zealand)|
|DNF||Vasil Kiryienka (Belarus)|
|DNF||Marton Dina (Hungary)|
|DNF||Dirk Coetzee (Namibia)|
|DNS||Jay Robert Thomson (South Africa)|