Per Stand Hagenes lives up to his role as favourite
Friday 24 September 2021
The winner of the first road race in the 2021 UCI Road World Championships has been crowned. After a very strong last lap, Per Strand Hagenes, who was tipped to win the Men Junior Road Race, crossed the finish line first, with Grégoire from France and the Estonian rider Mihkels securing silver and bronze respectively.
Around 8.15 am, the riders took the road in Leuven for the first road race in these World Championships. A gruelling circuit awaited them, include 8 laps of the loop around the city: But the pack of 173 rider was raring to go, albeit a bit nervous at the start of the 121.8-km race. The pre-race favourites? The Norwegian Hagenes, Segaert who was riding before a home crowd and Grégoire from France.
The race was frantic from the start, with a group of three riders successfully breaking away early on. Tarling from Great Britain, Kiadac from the Czech Republic and Luehrs from Germany were able to leave the pack behind them for a number of laps. But the pack gapped up the breakaway with the group’s lead hovering around one minute.
By the fifth lap, the French had clearly enough, stepping up the pace considerably and bringing the breakaway group back in line. The French were clearly putting all their money on Grégoire, setting the pace for the pack, unlike the Norwegians and the Danes who had lost a number of important pawns in their strategy as the pack thinned.
With 17 km left to the finish line, Gautherat and Le Huitouze from France, along with Schrag from Germany, Belletta from Italy and Pickering from Great Britain made another attempt to break away. They headed into the last lap with the pack hot on their heels. They were soon joined by favourites Romain Grégoire and Per Strand Hagenes.
With three riders in the front group, France clearly had a winning hand until the Norwegian favourite Per Strand Hagenes accelerated on the penultimate climb on the Wijnpers. With less than half a lap to go, Hagenes powered away through Leuven’s city centre, in a decisive solo attack.
The Frenchman Grégoire attempted to chase down Hagenes but had to settle for silver. The bronze was decided in the sprint, with the Estonian rider Mihkels joining Hagenes and Grégoire on the podium. Hagenes, meanwhile, was still clearly enjoying his superb solo attack, taking the first ever junior road race world title for Norway.