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Herzog outsprints Morgado to win the junior men's road race at World Championships

Germany’s Emil Herzog outsprinted António Morgado of Portugal to win the title in the men’s junior road race at the UCI Road World Championships after an exciting eight laps of a 17.1km circuit in Wollongong, Australia. 

Morgado launched a solo attack on the final lap but settled for the silver medal as Herzog bridged across from the chasers with 2.4km to go and set up the two-man battle. In the final kilometre, Morgado sat on the German’s wheel, but Herzog punched harder in the final 25 metres to win by a wheel. 

In the bunch sprint for the bronze medal, Vlad van Mechelen (Belgium) was the best of a 11 riders. Paul Magnier (France) was fourth and Artem Shmidt (United States) was fifth. 

With 42.5km to go, Morgado was part of a chase group that caught an early breakaway, and then powered away from his companions on the final 17km of the 135.6km race. The solo chase by Herzog netted him the rainbow jersey, while. Morgado still earned a first-time podium for a Portuguese rider in the men's junior road race.

“I worked hard for this and I think last year I had a bit of bad luck but today everything went perfect. I still can’t believe it that everything worked out so well and that I am now world champion, that sounds so unreal," the 17-year-old German said at the finish, who won the bronze medal in the men's junior time trial earlier in the week.

“I think it was the hardest sprint of my whole life… I just didn’t stop, didn’t stop and I waited until he stopped and I had a bit of a gap and I pedalled all the time. I’ve never had a sprint like that but that was worth it.”

How it unfolded

Early-morning rain left the 17km circuit glistening with dampness and tossed the nearby surf as 106 riders took the start under grey skies for the opening circuits in seaside city of Wollongong. The junior race included eight passes of the Mount Pleasant climb for a total of 135.6km.

There were two non-starters for New Zealand, Tom Stevenson and Lewis Bower, leaving Toby Evans to fight on his own with the 60 riders who managed to survive a frantic and fast day.

Once the flagged dropped, there was a crash on a wide section of the road after a roundabout. Rider remounted and Slovakia’s Martin Jurík was the first rider to attack.

A steady tempo at the front of the peloton began to punish riders on the first pass of Mt Pleasant, and riders began to roll backwards over the steepest section with 12% gradients on the 1km ascent.

It was on the opening descent that the slippery roads caused a crash of three favourties, Joshua Tarling (Great Britain), Harnish McKenzie (Australia) and Max van der Meulen (Netherlands), who appeared to be missing a saddle as he watched the peloton go by. Switzerland’s Ilian Alexandre Barhoumi also appeared to get caught in the crash.

Mil Morang (Luxembourg) and Artem Shmidt (USA) rode off the front to start the second lap. Then a trio formed a solid breakaway - Romet Pajur (Estonia), Daniel Lima (Portugal) and Pavel Novák (Czech Republic) - and established a small gap for the second climb. Behind, the chase seemed to calm down and a banged up Tarling and McKenzie rejoined the peloton.

Pajur and Novák dropped the Portuguese rider across the top and accelerated together on the descent, extending the gap to 15 seconds on the peloton. The two 17-year-olds stretched their lead to 20 seconds as they began the third lap. 

After the third pass of the start/finish, several riders took off to form an alliance, a quintet of Shmidt and Viggo Moore (United States), McKenzie, Zachary Walker (Great Britain) and Benjamin Eckerstorfer (Austria). As the rain began to fall again, they were soon 26 seconds ahead of the peloton, and another 25 seconds behind the leading duo.

On the next pass of Mt Pleasant, Moore bridged across to the leaders. Walker, Eckerstorfer and Shmidt were next to chase down the leaders, but McKenzie seemed to suffer and could not stay with the six.

The six riders carried a 35-second advantage to begin the fourth lap. Behind António Morgado (Portugal) hit out alone in a quest to join the front of the race. There were just 58 riders remaining in the main peloton.

At the half-way point of the race, what remained of the peloton was just a small chase group fighting to reclaim the steady lead by six riders. Portugal kept the pace high in pursuit of the leaders. A long distance behind Tarling’s day ended as he pulled off the course, the recently-crowned men’s junior time trial world champion calling it a day with his jersey and shorts in tatters from the first-lap crash.

On the fifth pass of Mount Pleasant, 59km left to race, Eckerstorfer dropped from the front group and several chasers had the breakaway in their sights. He then moved into the main chase group of seven, joined by Jørgen Nordhagen (Norway), Paul Magnier (France), Emil Herzog (Germany), Frank Aron Ragilo (Estonia), Milan Kadlec (Czech Republic) and Portugal’s Morgado, who continued to make moves. However, the seven were not working together very well and could not close down a 27-second gap as they started the sixth lap.

The rain returned in earnest on the sixth lap, the break of five holding a gap hovering around half a minute. But their quest for glory ended with 42.5km to go. Immediately on Mount Pleasant, several riders attacked to string out the regrouped peloton on the descent, Herzog pushing at the front as they passed Ferry Meadow back to downtown Wollongong.

On the penultimate lap with the rain subsiding, three riders on the French team became active in the front group of 16, but it was Austria’s Eckerstorfer who launched a solo attack for a short stint at the front. Once engaged with Mount Pleasant a seventh time, Dutch rider Menno Huising pushed the pace on the climb. Hurting the most was Jed Smithson (Great Britain), who fell off the back due to left leg cramp. 

Portugal’s Morgado was animated the race yet again, and hit the front on the descent. A group of five formed with Morgado joined by Herzog, Nordhagen and the French duo of Paul Magnier and Thibaud Gruel. Three chasers were Vlad van Mechelen (Belgium), Huising and Jan Christen (Switzerland). They hit the line all together for the final lap.

Speeding along the oceanfront, Morgado went clear at the front for the bell lap. As he stretched his lead to 25 seconds on the final pass of Mt Pleasant, the chase group reformed behind with about 15 riders. With 7km to go, Germany’s Herzog launched his attack, and had Morgado in his radar 3km later. The duo exchanged a few words about who had the legs to win, and the German proved to have the final say.

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