• A cold and disappointed Mathieu van der Poel arrives at the finish of the world championships road race. (Getty)Source: Getty
The hard luck stories from a world championship road race are an ever-present element of the analysis post-race.
Cycling Central

30 Sep 2019 - 12:26 PM  UPDATED 30 Sep 2019 - 12:27 PM

It's normal for the top riders having plenty of explaining to do after a world championships road race, the expectation being high that the top rider representing the nation will be wearing the rainbow jersey on the podium at the end of the race.

The 2019 edition saw this to a much greater extent than previous editions, as the rain and cold caused havoc within the race.

Nothing like a Dane: Pedersen wins road worlds title in treacherous conditions
23-year-old Mads Pedersen (Denmark) made the most of his team's tactical nous and hard work to make it into the decisive move of the race, outsprinting Matteo Trentin (Italy) and Stefan Küng (Switzerland) on the line, turning a grim day in the Yorkshire countryside into one full of rainbows.

Italians and Trentin can't capitalise on perfect scenario

With Gianni Moscon and Matteo Trentin in the final group of four and a minute's advantage over the chasing main group, it seemed that it was the Italians' race to lose. Moscon got dropped and Trentin sat on, but couldn't outsprint Pedersen at the finish, despite his status as a very handy sprinter.

"The World Championship is never in the pocket as you can see," Trentin said after the race. "Today was incredibly hard, so it can be one little thing. I got frozen at the end. I took off my jacket for the last lap and was frozen in 15 minutes."

"When Gianni dropped off the back, everyone knew we could medal. Everyone took a turn and no one played a game. I was trying to recover as much as I could for the final sprint but there is no story here. Mads won. That's all."

Trentin looked inconsolable immediately after the race, but maintained a more even demeanour when asked for comment.

"At the end of the day, one guy was better than me," said Trentin, "there is nothing to regret about my performance. One guy got the jersey and the other two got a medal, and all the rest have nothing. I was on the nothing side two years ago. That was even worse."

Van der Poel explodes dramatically on final lap

Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) went into the race as the bookie's favourite and looked well on the way to becoming the first male rider to hold both a cyclocross and road world title simultaneously. 

After bridging the gap to the leading group with Trentin, the in-form Dutchman was key to driving the pace and pushing the advantage of the leaders out to a minute on the chasing peloton. Then suddenly he slowed to a snail's pace and appeared a fraction of his normal self, eventually finishing over ten minutes down in 43rd place.

"I don't know what happened," said van der Poel. "All of sudden I had no strength anymore in my legs. I don't think that I made any mistakes today. I was in the right group but all of a sudden the tank was empty.

"That's not happened before but this is also the first time that I've raced this distance in the rain. It was raining all day, it was very cold and it was a very hard race."

"It's a world championship that I'll remember for a long time. Every rider who rode it will remember it for a long time. I was in a good group and I did everything right but all of a sudden I had nothing more.

"When I let the group go I was really dizzy and empty but in the last few kilometres, I felt good again. It was really strange.""

Van der Poel has been near unstoppable in his road appearances this season, winning 10 out of 29 race days he has completed this season. The season will be memorable for his powerhouse displays throughout, but he wasn't quite able to replicate that on the biggest stage.

"I wanted more today," said van der Poel. "It's not that I was close to the title. It's a missed opportunity but it's like I was close to the title."

Belgians battle despite favourite status

Belgium went into the race with two of the biggest favourites for the race victory in Philippe Gilbert and Greg van Avermaet but their plans were thrown into disarray as Gilbert crashed as the race entered the first of nine laps of the finishing circuit. 

Young sensation Remco Evenepoel waited and then drove the pace for Gilbert to attempt to return to the peloton, but it appeared that the situation wasn't clear to his Belgian teammates, with Tim Declercq set a hard tempo at the front of the race with van Avermaet in tow.

This eliminated both Gilbert and Evenepoel, and when the attacks started to go the remaining Belgians weren't able to make it to the front of the race.

"When the favourites went, we were not there, so then there's only one conclusion: we did not have the legs," said Belgian head coach Rik Verbrugghe. "When you don't have the legs, you can say what you want, it's impossible to do anything."

Gilbert was visibly emotional when he pulled out of the race, abandoning the race when it became clear he wasn't going to make it back.

"Those tears are normal," said Gilbert. "I have worked very hard towards this. It's a great disappointment."

"I don't understand my crash. Suddenly I was there on the ground. Perhaps a flat tire caused me to lose my balance. After the crash, the cold hit me and I had pain in my knee. I could still kick, but it brought up a lot of pain. It took too much out of me. It was impossible to go all the way back.

Greg van Avermaet echoed the sentiments of many in describing the toughness of the race and putting it down to a lack of legs at crucial moments.

"It was a super hard race," said van Avermaet. "I was completely empty in the finish like everybody else. I just tried to do my best, as good as possible, but I don't think I was capable of winning the race today."

Australia's shot at rainbows with Michael Matthews also fell short, with legs also to blame in the finale.

Matthews runs out of legs in Yorkshire to again fall short of rainbows
Australian Michael Matthews finished 24th in the world championships, a disappointing result on paper at the end of one of the toughest world championships road races in recent memory.