PONFERRADA, Spain (AFP) — Australia’s Simon Gerrans said he wanted to cry after crossing the line just one second behind new world champion Michal Kwiatkowski.
The 34-year-old came up agonizingly short as Kwiatkowski became Poland’s first ever world champion.
Gerrans edged Alejandro Valverde of host Spain for the silver medal in a six-man sprint behind the breakaway winner.
“I felt like I wanted to cry when I crossed the finishing line. To be so close to the world title and see it slip away in the final kilometers,” said the Orica-GreenEdge rider.
“Coming to the finish with a small group racing for second place, I knew I had good legs and if the thing had unfolded differently in the final, I’d have been racing for victory.
“I’m a little disappointed but at the same time really happy with the way I raced. I had fantastic support from my Aussie teammates so I couldn’t have asked for a lot more at the end of the day.”
Gerrans admitted he hadn’t seen Kwiatkowski slip off the front of the peloton with 8km left on the penultimate descent, but he said he could have no qualms about his own race.
“I haven’t got too many regrets with the way I raced. I was just beaten by a stronger rider with better tactics,” he said.
“Michal’s definitely a worthy winner. Overall I can look back at the race and be happy with what I was able to achieve.
“I’m happy with the way I raced but always to come second in a big race like this, particularly the world championships, is disappointing in one respect as well.”
Valverde, who has earned bronze the last three years and also was third in 2006 and second in both 2003 and 2005, agreed he could not have done much more either.
And he denied that he had missed the boat by not covering Kwiatkowski’s move.
“When Kwiatkowski attacked there was a group in front of him, he didn’t just catch me out, there were other teams that should have worked with us too. It was difficult to control,” he said.
“We were under a bit of pressure but since we got a medal we did what we were expected to do. I’m happy with the bronze I got today.”
Kwiatkowski said his success wrapped up an impressive year for Polish cycling.
“For Polish cycling, it’s really important to finish the season like that. We’ve had such incredible results with Rafal Majka winning two stages in the Tour and Przemyslaw Niemiec winning a stage in the Vuelta,” said the 24-year-old.
“Now I have the rainbow jersey, it’s such an amazing feeling. I said Saturday to the guys, ‘I feel great.’ I said again at the start of the race, ‘I need support.’
“I felt relaxed the whole day. With this [wet] weather it’s really important to stay at the front. It was important for me, I could believe in myself. I had such great support from my mates, that gave me a lot of energy at the end.”