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Americans steered clear of hub-deep puddles in rainy conditions to finish second and third in the U23 men’s time trial at the UCI world road championships. Many other riders were not so lucky, some going down in spectacular crashes, as heavy rains soaked the Yorkshire worlds course early Tuesday afternoon.
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USA Cycling’s Ian Garrison was second at 27 seconds, while WorldTour-bound compatriot Brandon McNulty was third at 28 seconds to take silver and bronze respectively behind now three-time U23 TT champion Mikkel Bjerg. The unstoppable Dane finished in 40 minutes, 20 seconds on the slick and undulating 30.3km course.
“Today was really crazy,” said Bjerg, who spent the last two seasons with Hagens Berman Axeon, but will make the jump to the WorldTour in 2020 with UAE-Emirites. “The weather conditions were absolutely terrible, but I managed to pull it off. My goal will be to win the elites now.”
McNulty, a U23 silver medalist against the clock in 2017 and junior world time trial champion in 2016, couldn’t better his longtime nemesis Bjerg. But coupled with his bronze in the junior men’s 2015 worlds, McNulty earned his fourth career world championship medal. The 21-year-old will race in the U23 men’s road race Friday, and then finish the season with Rally-UHC before also making the leap to the WorldTour next season with UAE-Emirates.
Garrison, 21, was one second faster than his compatriot despite riding in a torrential downpour. After crossing the line with the then fastest time, he headed to the hot seat wrapped in a towel to dry off.
His time didn’t hold up, but it was still an impressive showing to go along with wins in both the elite and U23 U.S. national time trial titles this summer in North Carolina. The highly touted Hagens Berman Axeon rider had again delivered on high expectations.
The strong U.S. showing came on the heels of Quinn Simmons finishing fourth in the junior men’s time trial Monday, just seven seconds off the podium. Zoe Ta-Perez and Megan Jastrab finished seventh and ninth in the junior women’s time trial.
On Tuesday, all eyes were on Bjerg, who won the U23 time trial titles in 2017 and 2018.
“I was told that 5 minutes before the start that there were big puddles of water on the road,” said Bjerg, who then expertly piloted his white Pinarello Bolide TT bike around the treacherous course. “My coach tried to navigate me through the easiest line. He said hold onto your bars and just pedal full gas because you lose a lot of speed going through the water.”
Many are already comparing the 6-foot-2 Dane to a young Fabian Cancellara, and believe he could emerge as a dominant time trial force on the WorldTour. The 20-year-old shrugged off that pressure to rip the course. He was the only rider to average more than 45kph.
“This was the hardest because there was so much pressure mostly from myself going into the championships,” he said. “It would almost be not good if I didn’t win. I’m really happy to take the third title today.”