The u23 World Road Race Championships ran its course in Ponferrada yesterday with the Norwegian, Sven Bystrom winning the coveted rainbow stripes. Bystrom put in a late attack on the final climb of the race and soloed his way to victory over the final 7km’s. The chasing pack were only 40 riders strong and were led home by Australia’s Caleb Ewan just 7 seconds behind. Kristoffer Skjerping made it a great day for Norway by rounding of the podium.
Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung had both Louis Meintjes (South Africa) and Merhawi Kudus (Eritrea) present in the race. After a flurry of attacks on the first 18.2km lap, finally 3 riders would go clear on lap 2. With not all that much fire power in the break and an Australian team that was intent on keeping the race together, the escapees were kept to around a 2 and half minute gap for most of the race. Meintjes bid his time in the peloton, being well looked after by his South African teammates. Kudus had quite a challenging day as he had to go through 2 wheel changes and a bike change.
With 5 laps to go the racing lit up once again with the Dutch and German riders becoming very active. By the 7th lap the race situation saw 7 riders up the road with just under a minutes lead. This was the point were the South African team had to start playing their cards. After Willie Smit had put in a good attack which increased the pace of the race, Jayde Julius and Kevin Patten brought Meintjes to the front of the bunch.
As the race approached the 2 climbs on circuit for the 3rd last time, Julius ramped up the pace at the head of the peloton with Patten and Meintjes in tow. Just like a sprint leadout, once Julius was done Patten took over before Meintjes launched his attack on the strung out race. Meintjes caught and passed the 7 leaders who were only 30″ ahead on the climb and pushed on solo. Unfortunately the climbs were not hard or long enough for Meintjes to open up much more than a minutes lead.
With Meintjes being a real danger man, Australia put 5 riders on the front to chase down the lone South African champion. On the 2nd last lap a group 17 riders, including Kudus jumped across to Meintjes. Still the Australian team kept a high tempo and brought it all back together for the last lap. With only 40 riders left it was a free for all on the last lap with Meintjes and Kudus both putting in attacks on the final climbs but were chased down immediately. Australia had finally run out of resources and this allowed Bystrom to make the decisive move with 7km to go. In the end Kudus crossed the line 25th and Meintjes in 28th, a great effort by our 2 young climbers on a course that did not really suit them.
Merhawi Kudus trying to jump across to his Team MTN-Qhubeka teammate…