Italian rider Samuele Battistella was declared the winner of the Under-23 road race world championships on Friday, after Dutchman Nils Eekhoff was disqualified after the race.
Eekhoff won the sprint in downtown Harrogate ahead of Battistella and Stefan Bissegger of Switzerland. But he was later disqualified by the UCI race jury for allegedly riding behind a team car during the race.
“Maybe I don’t have the photo with the hands up. I’m sorry for [Eekhoff],” Battistella said. “I was happy with second place. Now I’m the world champion. I can’t believe it. It’s fantastic.”
The UCI decision bumped British rider Tom Pidcock into third place.
The sprint in downtown Harrogate came after a long and tactical race across Yorkshire, in which the peloton was soaked by driving rain and blown apart by gusting winds. The first major selection came with 50 kilometers remaining after the group ascended the course’s major climb, Greenhow Hill. Riders from Norway and Germany surged to the front and split the peloton apart in the crosswinds.
The front group was comprised of 25 riders, and no Americans or Canadian riders made the split. Present in the group were pre-race favorites Tom Pidcock of Great Britain and Mikkel Bjerg of Denmark.
The next move came with 16km remaining as Norwegian riders Idar Andersen and Tobias Foss forced a split, dragging Pidcock, Bissegger, Szymon Sajnok of Poland and Battistella up the road.
Andersen flatted on the penultimate lap up to the start/finish, and the five other riders accelerated along the last of three final circuits, and appeared destined to battle for the win.
But behind, an acceleration from Colombian rider Sergio Higuita drew out Eekhoff and Andreas Kron of Denmark. The trio slowly chased the group up front, which dropped Sajnok on a hill.
In his post-race interview, Eeckhout said he had crashed early in the race.
“I had a crash earlier in the day and I didn’t feel so good, but then on the local circuit I started to feel that my legs were really good,” Eeckhout said. “I thought the chance was quite small that we would get [across]. I got in a good group and we managed to make it over to the first group.”
The trio caught the four leaders inside 2km remaining, setting up the sprint to the line. Eekhoff hung in third before surging early, and appeared to be challenged by Higuita and Pidcock at the line. But a last-minute surge propelled him across in first, with Battistella and Bissegger taking the other two spots on the podium.
After the UCI decision, fans at the podium presentation booed as the jersey and medals were awarded to Battistella.
UCI World Under-23 Road Championships
- Samuele Battistella, Italy, 3:53:52
- Stefan Bissegger, Switzerland
- Thomas Pidcock, Great Britain
- Sergio Higuita, Colombia
- Andreas Kron, Denmark
- Tobias Foss, Norway, all at s.t.
- Pascal Eenkhoorn, The Netherlands, at 0:38
- Mikkel Bjerg, Denmark
- Mathieu Burgaudeau, France
- Torjus Sleen, Norway, all at s.t.