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Axel Laurance (France) won an under-23 road race at the Glasgow World Championships after taking part in the day’s early break before pulling away on his own with a shade under two laps to go.
Antonio Morgado (Portugal) won the silver medal sprint ahead of Martin Svrcek (Slovakia), with Jack Rootkin-Gray (Great Britain) taking fourth ahead of time trial champion Lorenzo Milesi (Italy).
Laurance’s crisp acceleration at 27km saw him clear of the reduced front group and he smartly managed his lead thereafter, closing down the final Montrose Street climb to claim the rainbow jersey just two seconds ahead of the closing chasers quickly.
On a day of persistent rain and a crash-ridden race, Laurance’s decision-making was impeccable. Watching the eight-man move sparked by Milesi with around 148km to race, Laurance managed to avoid the clashes and confusion in the peloton, while his timing was impeccable in the final, with the chasers lacking cohesion which allowed him to accumulate a winning lead.
“It wasn’t the plan to go too early, but with the rain it was so hard, every corner was very nerve-wracking, so I said, ‘OK, maybe it’s better to be in front and have that pace,'” Laurance explained afterwards.
“I really waited and waited because it was still a long way to the finish. I knew it was only 40 or 50 seconds and it was impossible to gain more time, but I really managed to save my legs as much as possible. Then in the finale, I didn’t want to see four or five guys come back, so I said let’s try. My legs weren’t crazy with 30k to go, but I said, I’m ahead, so now I have to try.”
Laurance spent the 2022 season with B&B Hotels, finishing second behind Wout van Aert in the Bretagne Classic and winning a stage in the CRO race. He signed for the Alpecin-Deceuninck development team after the B&B team collapsed last winter, but a permanent promotion to the WorldTour is surely imminent.
By the time Laurance took the bell with 14km to go, he had a 24-second lead over a chase group that included two men – Milesi and Rootkin-Gray – who had also spent the day outside the front. Morgado and Svrcek were notoriously fresher but, in reality, in a race as nerve-wracking as this one, there was precious little hiding.
The chase became more cohesive in the final lap, with Milesi particularly impressive, and he was very close to Laurance at the foot of Montrose Street, but the Frenchman had enough in reserve to reach the top of the climb in front. and had time to savor his victory in the final meters before collapsing on the side of the road from exhaustion over the line.
Morgado, who recently signed a long-term deal with the UAE’s Emirates, won the silver medal sprint, although the Portuguese rider’s disappointment at missing out on the rainbow jersey was palpable. Laurance’s victory, however, was a triumph of strength and cunning.
“I knew on this course it was possible to do something like that, but I didn’t believe it until the last 500 meters because I was completely into my effort, so I wasn’t thinking about anything,” Laurance said. “I gave everything to my bike in the last lap. I saw stars in my eyes. So at the moment it’s impossible to believe.”
How it unfolded
The peloton signaled away from Loch Lomond under low cloud and persistent rain, and it quickly became apparent that there would be tangible benefits in getting ahead of the peloton and avoiding the inevitable slew of crashes and crashes that would follow in the technical section, lesson learned down town.
World time trial champion Lorenzo Milesi sparked the main drive of the day and was joined on the attack by Laurance, Antoine Huby (France), Jack Rootkin-Gray (GB), Moritz Kretschy (Germany), Trym Brennsæter (Norway), Brody. McDonald (USA) and Alastair Mackellar (Australia).
The eight leaders never had a huge margin, with the Belgian team taking over the chase, but they maintained an advantage of around a minute as they headed into Glasgow and the seven laps of this 14km circuit.
Laurance’s spell at the front was not without its own problems as he was forced into a solitary pursuit of the front group after an early bike change, but the Frenchman was back on board by the time they reached Glasgow.
Once on track, Laurance would lose teammate Huby in a collision with 72km to go, but reinforcements would arrive in the front group in the form of Ivàn Romeo (Spain), who managed to cross on his own.
The eight leaders still had a minute in hand with four laps to go as the peloton continued to split and reform amid the continued spate of crashes. 2021 European Road Champion Thibau Nys (Belgium) made a strong attempt to pass but was unable to match the leaders.
The leading group eventually fragmented as the race progressed, with Milesi, Rootkin-Gray, Kretschy and Laurance remaining in front with 45km to go, while Alec Segaert led the chase for Belgium.
However, none of the Belgian team managed to get across, and instead it was Morgado and Svrcek who managed to make the junction with just over two laps to go. By then, it seemed clear that the world champion would come from the front group. Rootkin-Gray was particularly aggressive, trying to split the group as the road climbed, but it was Laurance who provided the main attack with 27km to go.
At first, Rootkin-Gray tried to follow him alone before returning to the rest of the hunters. Morgado showed his strength every time he went up the road, but, initially at least, the chase was staccato. Laurance didn’t need a second invitation to build a winning edge.
The results are supported by First Cycling
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