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BRUGES, Belgium (VN) — The death of Danish former pro Chris Anker Sørensen hit the Denmark team at the road world championships hard.
Sørensen was killed when he was struck by a van driver Saturday while out riding in Belgium ahead of the worlds. He was due to work as a pundit for the Danish TV2 Sport television channel at the event.
Mikkel Bjerg was too emotional to talk to the media after his ride, but Kasper Asgreen said he had the former pro in his mind when things got difficult during Sunday’s elite men’s time trial in the first competition of the eight-day event.
The 26-year-old wanted to make the podium in honor of his compatriot.
“It was very tough news to get last night. We got told quite late in the evening, just before it was released to the public,” Asgreen told the media in Bruges. “It took the edge of the mood and the whole morning in the hotel it has been a little bit tense and he’s in the back of the mind of everybody.
“For me personally, I was thinking about him today when it hurt. I tried to keep on fighting and just to push through the pain and to hopefully try to get that medal for Chris.”
Asgreen came very close to securing that podium place, missing out on the bronze medal by just two seconds to Remco Evenepoel. Asgreen lost ground to Evenepoel in the middle third of the 43.3km but started closing on him in the final section into Bruges, but it was not enough to overhaul the Belgian rider.
“I was on the limit in the last 10k. Once you hear that you’re so close, you dig out something extra. Then you go a little bit up and down and you pay for it a little bit. You just try again to squeeze a bit more out. It’s a constant battle but it wasn’t enough,” Asgreen said.
“I feel like I did a decent time trial. I don’t think I could have found that much more time. Obviously, in such a long TT you can find a second here or there but I’m sure that Remco feels the same way. In the end, that’s what it is all about, minimizing a few seconds here and there. I think I did a decent TT, so once the immediate disappointment is gone, I think I’ll be happy.”
Despite his own immediate disappointment, he could not begrudge his trade teammate for taking the bronze.
“Leaving the medal to a friend is easier. I know Remco worked really hard to get back from his injuries and it’s very well deserved that he can take a medal,” he said.
Despite being the best-placed Dane on Sunday, Asgreen will sit out the mixed team relay during the week as he gets ready for the road race in a week’s time.
Given the similarities in the course, as the reigning Tour of Flanders champion Asgreen will be one of the major contenders for glory in Leuven — along with several of his teammates.
“With the courses that we have here, the efforts are quite similar. So, fortunately, I feel like the preparation for both events have played together nicely, and I feel well prepared,” Asgreen said.
“Both courses are pretty well designed for me. I’ve been looking forward to this world championships for a long time. I feel like I am where I want to be and it’s full focus on next Sunday.”