Norway’s Sven Erik Bystrom won the under-23 men’s world road race championships, riding alone to victory in Ponferrada, Spain on Friday.
Bystrom bided his time throughout the 182-kilometer race, as attacks came and went. Then, at the base of the circuit’s final, steep climb, he made his move.
“It was unbelievable; I felt really good the entire time,” said the 22-year-old. “I saved my legs for the final. I did the right move at the right time. I put all my power into the last climb, then I went full gas, and no one could follow me.”
He crossed the line seven seconds ahead of a hard-charging peloton to win Norway’s first world championship title at the 2014 event.
Aggressive racing in closing laps
Through the final circuits of the 10-lap event, Australia controlled the front of the field, as teams sent riders off the front.
With three laps to go, a lead group of four had a gap of 1:10. France’s Pierre-Roger Latour (France) bridged up. However, on the course’s decisive final climb, the move came apart.
Louis Meintjes (South Africa) attacked the lead group and quickly got a 35-second gap over the chasers.
Kueng tried to go with the South African on the climb, as the peloton closed in, but he was brought back on the descent.
With two laps remaining, Meintjes had a lead of 16 seconds over a new chase group of 16 riders.
Early in the penultimate lap, the chase caught the South African leader.
The lead group was pared down to 11 as riders dropped on the climb.
The Australians continued to drive the peloton, and brought the chase back on the penultimate lap. France’s Kevin Ledanois then went off the front.
As he crested the lap’s final climb, the Frenchman was within sight and was soon caught by a group of three that had leapt clear of the peloton. However, there was no cooperation, and Ledanois rode clear again.
With one lap to go, the leader’s advantage was 13 seconds.
After Ledanois was caught, Joaquim Silva (Portugal) went on the attack.
Tanner Putt (USA) and Bryan Ramirez (Colombia) chased and caught the Portuguese rider on the circuit’s first climb. Ramirez soon rode his two companions off his wheel, and set off alone.
Putt and Silva were then joined by Gianni Moscon (Italy) in the chase behind the Colombian leader.
Moscond crept away on the descent to chase Ramirez. However, the Italian crashed on a sharp right turn onto a bridge and was passed by the chasing group.
At the base of the final climb, the peloton caught the Colombian leader, and Bystrom made his decisive solo attack. He had an eight-second gap at the crest of the hill.
The chase was 11 seconds back with 1.5km to go, as the Norwegian rode the final descent with confidence.
The peloton was charging into the final kilometer, but the gap was too great. Bystrom rode alone to win the U23 world title.
Behind, in the bunch sprint, Caleb Ewan (Australia) finished second, and Kristoffer Skjerping (Norway) was third.
“I felt good the whole day,” said Bystrom. “It was a really nervous peloton, especially in the beginning. It’s always like that in the worlds.
“I think [Norwegian cycling] is really good right now. We have really good professional riders. [The 2017 world championships in Bergen, Norway] is not far away from where I live, that’s going to be super special I’m looking forward to it.”