Despite taking a wrong turn late in the race, Russian Aigul Gareeva managed to grab gold in the women’s junior individual time trial on the second day of the 2019 UCI Road World Championships in Yorkshire, England.
Gareeva, who started third from last, was locked in a tight on-course battle with Britain’s Elynor Backstedt when she stayed straight instead of going right at a crucial right-hand turn. The gaffe likely cost her at least 6-7 seconds, as she ended up about 30 feet off course and had to do a 180-degree turn, get back on track, and then get back up to speed.
But Gareeva was just that much better on the 13.8km course, shooting across the finish line in a time of 22:16.23, 3.61 seconds faster than previous hot seat holder Shirin van Anrooij of The Netherlands. Then the waiting game began, with Backstedt the lone serious challenger left to finish the ever rolling circuit around the English countryside. The Brit, who’s the daughter of 2004 Paris-Roubaix champ Magnus Backstedt, faded at the finish and ended up third, at 10.93.
Americans Zoe Ta-Perez and Megan Jastrab both finished top 10 in the 50-rider field, placing seventh at 25.91 and ninth at 44.45 respectively.
Afterwards Gareeva was visibly shaking, clearly overcome with both excitement and relief.
“To be world champion is not the most important thing,” said Gareeva, who was second to van Anrooij at the European Championships earlier this year. “I am most excited to show the people where I live and that know me that if you believe you can achieve something better in your life.”
Backstedt, who was third in this same event last year in Innsbruck, also had a close call, washing out her back wheel during a right turn about halfway through her spin around the clockwise looping course. But initially it didn’t appear to cost her, as she was less than a second down on Gareeva at the ensuing time check.
But the Russian was clearly the better rider on the second half of the circuit, and despite getting momentarily lost, won going away.
“I don’t know what happened,” she said. “There were people there telling me to make the turn, but I went forward instead.”
Fortunately for Gareeva, she’ll now go forward wearing the rainbow stripes.