The 2016 UCI World Road Race Championships concluded today with the elite men’s 257km road race. Defending champion, Peter Sagan (Slovakia) was able to retain his crown and sprinted to victory just ahead of our very own Mark Cavendish and Tom Boonen (Belgium) placed 3rd.
Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were proud to have no less than 16 riders take the start in Doha this morning, all ready to represent their respective nations. As racing got underway it was riders from our African Team that really lit up the race. Nic Dougall (South Africa) was joined by Natnael Berhane (Eritrea) in an attack after just 3km of racing. Our 2 African riders pulled 5 more riders away with them to form the break of the day.
As the lead group made its way up the Arabian Gulf, the peloton was happy to give them a good gap and the advantage blew out to just over 10 minutes rather quickly. Mark Cavendish’s Great Britain squad along with our Belorussian champion, Kanstantsin Siutsou controlled the gap from the front of the main bunch. It was a unique situation to have riders from our African Team really dictating the pace of the race from both ends.
As expected though the soaring temperatures and typical Qatari crosswinds would play a huge role in today’s race and the race defining moment came with still 175km to go. After a 80km trip up the Arabian Gulf, the main bunch turned back towards Doha and Great Britain and Belgium chose this exact moment to put the race into the gutter. Minutes later and the crosswinds had blown the race to pieces.
Cavendish was on song, despite a nasty crash in training on Wednesday, and he made the 29 rider front split. Our African Team also had Edvald Boasson Hagen in this group, representing his Norwegian squad. The nation with the upper hand though was Belgium, as they had 6 riders in front. The big losers were Germany as not one of their 3 favourites was able to make the selection. Belgium were relentless in driving the pace and this saw a 6-minute gap to the early break squashed in just 30km. The 2nd group was also around 28 riders strong and Germany were leading the chase there, but they could not match the Belgian pace setting up ahead.
Coming into Doha and entering the 15km finishing circuit which would be completed 7 times, it was just the 2 reduced groups that remained in contention and they were separated by 1 minute. From our African Team’s perspective, we couldn’t have been happier with the situation by having 4 of our riders in the leading group. Italy started to assist Belgium up front and this pretty much meant it was game over for group 2, the gap started growing and there was no more cohesion in the chase. The World Champion was going to come from the group of Cavendish, Boasson Hagen, Dougall and Berhane.
When the bell lap was reached, just 21 riders remained after a few of the workhorses from the other nations had dropped. It was a stellar group of riders still left though with the likes of Elia Viviani and Giacomo Nizzolo representing Italy, Michael Matthews there for Australia, Alexander Kristoff also there for Norway and Belgium having Van Avermaet and Boonen in contention too. Holland was the team to make the next move though as Niki Terpstra put in an attack which Boasson Hagen covered, and then Tom Leezer countered his Dutch teammate with 5km to go. Norway and Belgium gave chase but it was only just inside of 1km to go when it all came back together.
The sprint finale was a bit messy and Cavendish initially had the wheel of Sagan. Sagan then went right to start his sprint and Cavendish left, unfortunately all the traffic was on the left and our Manxman had to pause his sprint briefly to avoid colliding with Matthews. Sagan was able to gain some ground in this moment and even though Cavendish was coming back up to the Slovakian, there was just not enough road left. Sagan crossed the line first with Cavendish 2nd and Boonen 3rd.
Edvald Boasson Hagen was 6th in the sprint, Natnael Berhane was 13th and Nic Dougall placed 18th. While it was so close yet so far for Cavendish, we can only be proud of our African Team by placing 4 riders in the top 20 of the World Championships. For the first time ever Africa also had 2 top 20 finishers at the World Championships Elite road race.
Mark Cavendish – Rider
I am little disappointed, tactically I made a mistake. I wanted to be on the wheel of Sagan and ultimately I was, but then all of a sudden the road was blocked. I was trying to find a way through and at around 100 meters I had to stop pedaling to go around Matthews. I got back onto Tom Boonen but it was too late, I couldn’t get back onto Sagan. I feel I lost gold rather than I won silver today. We did all we could, it was tough losing Luke Rowe to a puncture because then we would have had 3 in front which would have been valuable in the final, but that’s how it is. It’s difficult to take any positives out of today.
Nic Dougall – Rider
It was going to be windy today so I thought I should go up the road. Luckily I had Natnael with me and we worked well together. We were a group of 7 and then obviously it split behind us and the favourites came across to us with 29 guys and then it was just a matter of survival until the circuits. I was just trying to get around, eat, drink and not cramp. It was a hectic race but awesome to be a part of and be in the front group. I gave everything so it was a good day.