HARROGATE, England (Reuters) – Mads Pedersen won a brutal, rain-ravaged race to become Denmark’s first road race world champion on Sunday as all the favorites saw their hopes washed away in Yorkshire.
The 23-year-old did not appear in any pre-race predictions but as the big names fell away Pedersen seized his chance to claim a stunning victory.
After an attritional 261km traced in diabolical weather conditions, Pedersen found himself in a three-man fight for gold with the experienced Matteo Trentin and Stefan Kung on the final 14km circuit of Harrogate.
Trentin looked favorite as the trio rounded the last corner before the long drag up Parliament Street to the finishing line.
The Italian attacked first but he was powerless as Pedersen roared by to take the title. Swiss Kung took the bronze.
“It’s every rider’s dream to wear the rainbow jersey. For me to do it now is unbelievable,” Pedersen said.
“It was just survive and hope for the best in the sprint. I just hoped that when I saw the finish line all the pain would be gone and I could do a good sprint.”
Dutch favorite Mathieu van der Poel looked in the hunt for victory but he cracked in spectacular fashion on as the final circuit began. Belgium veteran Philippe Gilbert, another pre-race favorite, suffered a crash and abandoned in tears.
Peter Sagan left his challenge to late as his attempt to win a record fourth world road title ended in failure.
He finished strongly to finish fifth, behind Gianni Moscon.
More than half of the field failed to finish on a day of torrential rain that forced UCI Road World Championship organizers to slightly shorten the race on safety grounds.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge