DOHA: Two road races led to two bunch sprints at the UCI Road World Championships Doha 2016. After Norway’s Kristoffer Halvorsen in the men’s Under-23 race, Elisa Balsamo sealed an Italian gold medal with a perfectly led-out sprint in the women’s junior road race on Friday.
Skylar Schneider from the USA and Norway’s Susanne Andersen grabbed silver and bronze after 74.5 kilometres on the 15.2 kilometre Pearl circuit finishing in 1:53:04, the same as 51 more riders.
“Unbelievable”, said Balsamo after crossing the line. “A big thank you to my team mates. They were so beautiful and strong. It’s our title not only mine. This is great, not only for us, but for the whole of Italian female cycling.”
Schneider was not able to capitalise on her teammates' hard work to keep the peloton together in the final lap.
She was well placed in Balsamo’s wheel, but did not have the speed to surpass her opponent on the line.
Andersen tried to jump from Schneider’s wheel but she too lacked the pure speed of Balsamo, who held the others of with grace.
Shattered bikes all over the place
Fate struck only three kilometres into the race, or was it inattention?
At the only slightly bending wide road in the first loop of The Pearl circuit, more than half of the bunch came to a standstill in a major crash, with shattered bikes, flying water bottles and riders screaming all over the place.
Twenty-odd women managed to escape the chaos, but for all others pre-race plans were thrown into the bin.
They had to remount and try to catch up with the front group as soon as possible. Mexican Ana Marina Herros did not make it to the first crossing of the finish line and was the first rider to quit the race.
Favourites trying to catch up
Although there were no major injuries, the crash was a serious setback for some of the pre-race favourites.
At the first passage of the finish line, with four 15.3 laps to go, the peloton was split in two main groups with a 22-second gap.
Further adrift rode many small groups of riders in an effort to catch-up. The two main groups merged in the first full lap and the peloton consisted of about 55 riders at the second passage.
France’s Julliete Labous, who came third in the women’s junior ITT, and Oceanian champion Chloe Morgan, were still 22 seconds behind, but managed to join the pack in the second full lap.
Dutch sprinting prodigy Arianna Pruisscher was more than a minute behind, and Japan’s national junior champion Misuzu Shimoyama rode a lost race, crossing the line more than two-and-a-half minutes down on the peloton.
USA make pace
With three laps to go several riders tried to make a jump, but no one managed to escape. Heading into the final lap, 56 riders crossed the finish line in the same time behind Dutch Maaike Boogaard, who led the pack.
For most of the final lap the American girls made pace, keeping the speed high enough to discourage any attacking thoughts of other riders.
When the Americans gave way with five kilometres to go, Spain’s Miriam Gardachal tried to jump, but she was countered quickly by the Germans and all teams started looking at each other while trying to organise a lead-out for their sprinters.
Azzurre dominate final kilometre
Italy took a commanding lead when the bunch cleared the red flag to enter the final kilometre and then Letizia Paternoster and Lisa Morzenti perfectly piloted Balsamo to the line.
The Italian sprinter held off Schneider and Andersen, who tried to jump from behind, but were not able to overhaul.
"The attacks were tough throughout the race. The whole peloton was moving closely. I narrowly avoided a crash in the first few kilometres. Elisa had a perfect ride out in the final stretch and she deserved to win," said Andersen who offered Norway its second medal at the UCI Road World Championships Doha, 2016. -- Press release