Peter Sagan put to rest his inner demons and managed to land a huge victory for which he worked hard, especially in the second half of the season. After crashing out of the Vuelta a España, the 25-year-old Slovak rider of Tinkoff-Saxo traveled to the US and did a recon of the course, as he wanted to make sure of knowing every meter of the Richmond circuit. Then, in the day of the race, he decided to go all in on one card: that of an attack on the penultimate climb of the final lap, which helped him get clear and take the first huge victory of a career which should see many moments like the one in Richmond, especially as Sagan broke the duck and looks to be more mature in the way he thinks and acts during a race.
Michael Matthews was tipped for greatness on the Richmond course, especially as his development throughout the 2015 season was really outstanding. Australia did a perfect race on Sunday, that is until the last kilometer, when Simon Gerrans decided to work for himself and sprint for a medal, instead of chasing Peter Sagan and launching his teammate. It’s difficult to say if Matthews could have won the gold medal in case his countryman would have worked for him, but what happened in the Aussie team will go down in history as one of the many controversies that have emerged at the Worlds. As for Michael Matthews, although he has a bitter taste after Richmond, he should look to the future with optimism, because he’s jsut 25-years-old and other opportunities will surely come and he’ll have the chance of becoming the first U23 world champion to conquer the title in the pro ranks.
Italy entered the road race as one of the most solid, balanced and dangerous teams, despite not having a rider perfectly suited to this type of course. Vincenzo Nibali was in great form and everyone’s money was on an attack of the triple Grand Tour winner, which never came. Diego Ulissi was another name which sprang into mind for a late surge, but it also didn’t happen, the Lampre-Merida cyclist being almost invisible. Actually, the only cyclist of the “Squadra Azzurra” to make himself noticed was Elia Viviani, who followed a dangerous move in the closing stages of the race, without any luck, as his group was caught. Eventually, Giacomo Nizzolo came 18th, a disappointing outcome for Davide Cassani’s team, who needs to wait for at least one more year in order to fight for the gold medal.
The individual time trial provided one of the biggest surprises ever seen at the World Championships. Vasil Kiryienka, already winner of the similar race at the European Games in Baku, more than three months ago, put on a very strong ride in Richmond, which netted him the most important victory of his career. Bronze in Valkenburg, the 34-year-old Belarusian now took gold ahead of an Adriano Malori who proved that he has fully developed and can fight for the rainbow jersey at the future editions, after bringing Italy just its second medal in the discipline at the Worlds (first one came in 1994, when the time trial was introduced). Jerome Coppel rounded out the podium last Wednesday, showing some of the potential that made his countrymen predict a nice career when the French turned pro, back in 2008.
A first year neo-pro, Kevin Ledanois outwitted the pack with an attack on the penultimate climb and surged clear to become just the third U23 World Champion from France, in what was one of the most thrilling finishes the event has ever seen. Showing exceptional grit and determination, the 22-year-old rider of Bretagne-Séché attacked on the hardest part of the course and seized the moment, going all the way and getting a win that will redefine his career up until this point, but which will also add up to the expectations for 2016. Next year, Ledanois is going to be watched much closely and with a huge interest to find out if he can confirm, especially as his contract with the Pro Continental outfit will be up at the end of the season.
One year ago, Mads Würtz Schmitz wasn’t experiencing the best period of his career: the talented Danish rider was hit by crashes and injuries, and was overlooked by the national team for the Ponferrada World Championships, before taking a step back by signing with Continental team ColoQuick, as his team at that time – Cult Energy – decided not to extend his contract, just as it was preparing to apply for a Pro Continental licence. Despite this, Wurtz Schmidt didn’t give up, continued to work hard in order to return stronger, and eventually the results came in the second half of this season: U23 time trial national champion, winner of the ITT stage in the Denmark Rundt and of the world title. Now, after becoming just the fourth rider in history to take the rainbow jersey in both Junior and U23 races, Mads Würtz Schmitz can patiently wait for the World Tour teams to give him a call. More than sure, he’ll be a busy man in the next couple of weeks.
Just 19-years-old, Lennard Kämna looks to be the most fascinating prospect of the 1996 generation, his impressive palmares standing as testimony: Junior and U23 time trial national champion, Junior ITT world champion, Bundesliga and German Hill Climb champion, stage winner in Trofeo Karlsberg and the Giro della Valle d’Aosta. In Richmond, riding his first ever U23 World Championships, he came third in the individual time trial – just 21 seconds adrift – and tenth in the road race, two results which underlined his huge stamina, fantastic versatility and unlimited potential (for both time trials and stage races), attributes which are good omens for a great future. An extra reason to follow him closely in 2016, when he’ll turn pro with Cult Energy-Stölting Group.