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Quinn Simmons was a man among boys Thursday in the junior road race at the UCI World Road Cycling Championships in Yorkshire, England. The bearded 18-year-old American from Durango, Colorado, went all in with a solo move with 33 kilometers to go in the 148km rain-soaked race, and had little trouble holding off a chasing bunch, taking a commanding 56-second win.
Italian Alessio Martinelli grabbed silver after making a solo bid to catch Simmons on the second of three 14km finishing circuit laps in Harrogate. Third went to fellow American Magnus Sheffield, who arguably had the ride of the day, working for Simmons throughout the race, and then having enough gas left to take the bronze medal from a four-up sprint at the end.
It’s the second rainbow jersey for Team USA this week, following Chloé Dygert Owen’s women’s individual TT triumph on Tuesday. The star-and-stripes squad also earned silver and bronze in the men’s under-23 time trial, and Simmons was fourth in the junior men’s race against the clock on Monday, a result that served as motivation three days later.
“That wasn’t my best effort so I had a point to prove,” said Simmons, the third American to capture the junior road race world title, following Greg LeMond in 1979 and Jeff Evenshine in 1991. “I had a good feeling about this course, and we had a really strong team. Our guys were basically on the front from kilometer zero. It was a perfect day for America.”
Indeed, Team USA was an ever-present controlling force at the head of the race early on, as various failed breakaway attempts came and went. Finally, with 58km to go, it was the Americans going on the attack, as Simmons and Sheffield peeled off the front with Lewis Askey (Great Britain), Pavel Bittner (Czech Republic), and Carlos Rodriguez (Spain).
Right away Simmons knew he liked the make-up of the move, screaming “Go!” to his teammate on the Lux Cycling Development team, as the group of five quickly built an advantage to 30 seconds with 47kmn to go.
Behind riders from the German, Italian, and Dutch contingents did their best to keep the break in check. But despite getting zero participation from Rodriguez and only minimal support from the other two escapees, Simmons and Sheffield kept pushing the pace, growing the gap to 37 seconds, as the quintet passed underneath the finish line banner in Harrogate, signaling the start of the three circuit laps of a race that began in nearby Richmond.
Simmons did his best to coax the others to help, jawing at Rodriguez to lend a hand. But aid was not forthcoming and the breakaway’s advantage was down to 14 seconds with 35km to go. Two kilometers later, with a greatly diminished bunch closing quickly, Simmons took matters into his own hands, powering away solo. It was a bold move, one rider taking on 30 with more than 30km of racing left. But Simmons was supremely confident in his abilities.
“I’ve made efforts like this a lot this year and knew what I could do,” said Simmons, whose pre-race choice of an aero skinsuit and wind cheating shoe covers further revealed his top-of-the-podium ambitions in the race that had over 7,000 feet of climbing in the ever-rolling Northern England countryside. “The goal was to get Magnus and me on the circuit and go from there.”
And go he did. While Sheffield manned the front of the disorganized chasing bunch that was now down to 18 riders (120 started the race), Simmons got on the gas, growing his solo advantage to 39 seconds by the end of the first finishing lap.
Lap 2 saw Martinelli make his move. The young Italian was third at his country’s national road championships, and for a brief moment started taking time out of Simmons, closing to 35 seconds with 17km to go. But the American remained calm and in command, stabilizing his advantage and then growing it back up. It was quickly clear Martinelli was racing for silver at best.
At the start of the final lap, Simmons led the Italian by 36 seconds, with the now-20-rider bunch at 1:16. Those numbers would only grow from there, as Simmons had plenty of time to celebrate his triumph, cracking a huge smile and then grabbing an American flag from the crowd as he approached the finish line. His final time was 3:38:04, almost a minute up on Martinelli.
Behind the battle for bronze was underway. Dutchman Enzo Leijnse and Italy’s Gianmarco Garofoli were the first of the final foursome to peel off the front of the bunch. Then Sheffield jumped across with Vegard Stokke (Norway). At the line it was Sheffield taking an impressive third, just ahead of Leijnse, who was third in the junior TT Monday.
The day, and arguably this year, belonged to Simmons, though. Prior to his rainbow jersey ride he’d won a trove of races, including the U.S. national junior TT title, the GC at Switzerland’s Grand Prix Rüebliland, the GC at Germany’s Keizer der Juniores, the GC at the Dutch SPIE Internationale Juniorendriedaagse race, and he was first across the line at the junior Gent-Wevelgem in Belgium. He was also second at the 2019 Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race.
“Now I’m ready to take the next step,” he said Thursday.
Clearly, Simmons is ready.
2019 UCI Junior Road Race World Championships
- Quinn Simmons, USA, 3:38:04
- Alessio Martinelli, Italy, at 0:56
- Magnus Sheffield, USA, at 1:33
- Enzo Leijnse, The Netherlands, at 1:33
- Gianmarco Garofoli, Italy, at 1:33
- Vegard Stokke, Norway, at 1:33
- Alfred George, Great Britain, at 1:45
- Frederik Wandahl, Denmark, at 1:45
- Jakub Boucek, Czech Republic, at 1:45
- Milan Paulus, Belgium, at 1:45