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Filippo Baroncini wins crash-riddled U23 road race as Eritrea hits historic podium

Biniam Ghirmay delivers Eritrea's first worlds medal in second, and Olav Kooij (Netherlands) kicks to third. 

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LEUVEN, Belgium (VN) — Italy’s Filippo Baroncini attacked late out of the lead group to win the rainbow jersey in Friday’s world championship men’s U23 road race.

Crashes marred much of the action until the late laps on a highly competitive 160.9km race.

Despite a desperate late chase, the Italian fended off the favored Dutch and Belgians to win.

“It’s a dream for me,” Baroncini said. “It was stressful all day for everyone. It’s a victory I’ve been dreaming for all my life. All was perfect for me and my team. My attack in the final was planned before the race, and all went well. It’s a big emotion for me. It was ‘Go! Go! Go!’ to the final and win this race.”

Eritrea hit its first worlds’ podium with Biniam Ghirmay in second, while Olav Kooij (Netherlands) kicked to third.

Luke Lamperti led Team USA with 10th in a day that saw the squad active throughout the race.

Mauro Schmid (Switzerland), a winner of a stage in the Giro d’Italia this year, jumped on the bell lap out of an attacking group that included American Kevin Vermaerke.

“I was thinking we were gone, but I realized some guys didn’t want to pull through, so for me, the only option was to keep the pace high,” Schmid said. “I had a gap, and I tried to continue because I had really good legs. I tried to go to the line but came a little bit short. I’m happy with my performance today.”

Belgium and the Netherlands were pulling hard out the lead chasing group to try to set up their fastest finishers for a reduced bunch sprint. The Vermaerke group was swept up, leaving Schmid dangling off the front with 12 seconds with under 10km to go.

The race blew up on the penultimate climb with 6km to go, and Baroncini rolled the dice.

Kevin Vermaerke rides into promising group

With 58km to go, the day’s first major action opened up. Following an unfortunate string of horrible crashes, the attrition started to take its toll going into the decisive part of the race.

France’s Hubert Page jumped clear with 60km to go to scoop up the remnants of the day’s early break, setting up the deciding action in a nervous, brutal race.

Crashes took down dozens of riders, including USA Cycling’s Magnus Sheffield and Sean Quinn.

In a quest to win America’s first U23 world title, USA Cycling’s Kevin Vermaerke (Team DSM) snuck into a group of nine riders which pulled clear with 40km to go. With a good mix of teams, the leaders immediately started to work together to open a 20-second gap.

France and Spain gave chase as the gap grew to the main chasing group, still quite large with about 60 riders or so as the race headed into the closing laps in Leuven.

Crashes mar approach to finishing loops

One of the main protagonists during the U23 road race were the innumerable crashes.

The race was stopped and restarted in the opening kilometers following a pileup at the back of the bunch that brought down several riders, including from Team GB and Italy.

From there, it was one crash after another at choke points where the road squeezed in due to traffic furniture and the many corners, a sensation made even more challenging by narrow fencing.

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Three riders pulled clear early but the main bunch was jumpy as the race left Antwerp and headed south toward the finishing loops. The gap topped six minutes as the race neared Leuven.

More crashes blighted the ensuing laps, and the first major separation came with about 65km left to go. The bunch fractured on the “Flanders Loop,” with the remnants of the day’s early break finally being swept up.

2021 UCI Road Cycling World Championships Results U23 Men

  1. Filippo Baroncini (Italy), 3:37:36
  2. Biniam Ghirmay Hailu (Eritrea), at 0:02
  3. Olav Kooij (Netherlands), at s.t.
  4. Michele Gazzoli (Italy), at s.t.
  5. Lewis Askey (Great Britain), at s.t.
  6. Thibau Nys (Belgium), at s.t.
  7. Luca Colnaghi (Italy), at s.t.
  8. Paul Penhoët (France), at s.t.
  9. Vinicius Rangel Costa (Brazil), at s.t.
  10. Luke Lamperti (United States), at s.t.