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Vuelta hero Magnus Cort climbs to worlds favorite status

After ripping to three stage wins in the Vuelta a España, the Danish breakaway artist will be among the favorites in Leuven for the rainbow jersey.

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Magnus Cort was king of the breakaways in the Vuelta a España.

Could the mustachioed Dane pull a similar heist in the elite men’s world championship road race later this month in Leuven? He’s hoping so.

“I am very excited, it’s a good course for me this year,” Cort said during the Vuelta. “It’s a hard, hilly course, and I think we will have a great Danish team.”

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Cort, 28, came into his own during this season. Already a consistent winner, he emerged from the Vuelta as one of the most strongest and aggressive riders in the race. So much so, he won the most aggressive prize at the Spanish grand tour.

Up next? The elite men’s road world championships on September 26 on a climb-riddled course that, at least on paper, could be ideal for his unique blend of climbing legs with a lethal finishing sprint.

Renowned for his daring breakaway exploits, Cort isn’t known for his one-day racing acumen. But for the worlds, especially when the race is 268km, it’s more about the legs and staying power than any tactical or one-day racing expertise.

“I have won one-day race in Almería,” he said with a smile. “I wouldn’t mind winning another one-day race.”

Danes will be among leading favorites

The Danes should have a very solid team for what’s expected to be a clash of the classics titans in Belgium.

Though the final selection has not yet been revealed, it is expected that Cort will join Kasper Asgreen and 2019 world champion Mads Pedersen, with Michel Valgreen and Mikkel Honoré round out the team.

Asgreen, winner of Tour of Flanders this year, will be a top favorite as well, giving the Danes multiple cards to play.

“We will have five riders selected, and no matter who is there, we have a competitive team,” Cort said. “The classics style of riders will go well there, like the riders who win at Flanders or Amstel Gold Race.”

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Or, at least Cort is hoping, the Vuelta as well.

A scan down the results sheets, however, does not bode well for Cort, at least statistically.

In three previous world championships, he twice finished 29th and did not finish in 2019, when compatriot Pedersen won in the cold, miserable weather in Yorkshire.

Among his track record in the monuments, he’s only finished in the top-10 once in 16 starts, and that came in the 2018 Milano-Sanremo with eighth. He was 20th in Tour of Flanders that year, hinting that he can handle the unrelenting bergs of Belgium.

“I haven’t been on the course myself. The national coach did it already, but it will be a hard one,” Cort said. “It will be a classics style of racing, with narrow roads, and you will need to have good legs to have any chance.”

Another race of reference is Brabantse Pijl, a course that covers some similar terrain to the finishing circuit in Leuven, which he raced this year for the first time. His result? 108th.

Some are also comparing it to Amstel Gold Race, with its endless corners and loops, but Cort’s only raced there once as well, finishing 39th this spring.

So why confident?

It’s his legs, and they’re whirring right now.

“I have had a great Vuelta and I have good legs coming out of the race,” he said. “So let’s see.”

‘Pulling a De Gendt’ during the Vuelta breakaways

Cort was among the strongest riders in the Vuelta, winning three stages in breakaways, finishing second in the final time trial, and nearly winning the brutally steep finale at Jaén de Valdepeñas, only to get swept up in the closing 150m.

His first victory came in Cullera and its steep, uphill finale, where he fended off Primož Roglič for the stage win. Roglič would get one back, besting Cort in the final TT in Santiago de Compostela in the Vuelta’s final stage.

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Cort won his second stage in a stinking hot stage into Córdoba, where a pair of steep climbs separated the pure sprinters, and he won out of a reduced GC bunch. His hat-trick came in stage 19, winning again out of a breakaway, with EF Education-Nippo teammate Lawson Craddock cheering as he watched Cort blast to victory as part of a seven-rider breakaway.

“The Vuelta really changed for me when Hugh went home,” he said. “After that, we had freedom to attack and to try to win stages, so I just went for it.”

Hugh Carthy, who started as the team’s protected leader, abandoned in stage 7, a day after Cort’s first stage win. With the GC responsibilities lifted off his shoulders, Cort took flight.

As a result of his shining Vuelta, Cort won the “most aggressive rider” prize and a trip to the final podium in Santiago de Compostela.

“I am very happy to get that prize,” Cort said. “I really loved to race aggressively in this Vuelta, and I am very proud to receive the nomination as the most aggressive rider.”

If Cort is as aggressive and strong in Leuven, anything could happen.