Defending champion Mikkel Bjerg (Denmark) made sure the form book was firmly respected by retaining his World U23 time trial title at Innsbruck on Monday. Fastest at the mid-way checkpoint, Bjerg was one of the few riders to ride strongly in both halves of the race, running out winner by 33 seconds over the 28km course.
Speaking seconds after the race, Bjerg said: “My whole season has been about preparing for this race. I came here last week and I’ve seen the course every day. It’s great to pull it off. My feelings during the race were exceptional. The next step in my career will be to improve my road racing.”
To make the day even more special for the Dane, his fiancee’s brother, Mathias Norsgaard Jorgensen, won the bronze medal.
“The course suited me really well”, said Bjerg in the press conference. “It was similar to Bergen, shorter but more explosive. We worked with our coach to be able to go really hard on the climbs and recover for being fast on the flat at the end. Mathias [Norsgaard Jorgensen] and I train a lot together; I’m engaged to his sister. A good training environment has paid off today – normally at the end of the season, it’s hard mentally, but we were able to push each other to perform this late”.
The two Danish athletes were separated in the results by early starter Brent Van Moer (Belgium), whose effort survived 42 assaults by his competitors and was topped only by the last rider to start.
Further down the field, the anticipated challenges from Lennard Kamna (Germany) and Andreas Leknessund (Norway) faltered in the hilly back end of the race, as did Baby Giro TT runner-up Joao Almeida (Portugal).
Carrying form through from April to the end of September is difficult and this is especially true in the under-23 category, which peaks in May/June, with even the Tour de l’Avenir in late August feeling slightly “after the Lord Mayor’s Show”. Many riders peaked earlier in the year in order to secure the (bigger?) goal of a professional contract, not wishing to save their best legs for the autumn once rosters have been filled.
Full results are available here.
As Van Moer reclined in the hot seat at the finish, and Bjerg completed his warmup, British rider Charlie Tanfield was only a few seconds late to the start. Exactly what he was doing remains a mystery, so “chatting to Pedro Delgado” remains a possibility.
— Dan Bigham (@DanBiggles22) September 24, 2018
For reasons best known to themselves, the organisers have made a wide range of images of sheep and goats available for media use.
In the Espoirs.World Animal Of The Year 2018 rankings, the example below – believed to be a sheep – scores major bonus points for being alive, but its lack of horns and a jaunty expression means it fails to knock the Isard (from the Ronde de l’Isard, obv) from the number one spot.
Images: Innsbruck-Tirol 2018 / BettiniPhoto