Kwiatkowski wins world’s road race
PONFERRADA, Spain (AP) – Michal Kwiatkowski of Poland pulled away from a star-studded field to win a gruelling road race at the cycling World Championships today.
Catching the race favourites eying one another, Kwiatkowski slipped away from the peloton near the end to join a breakaway group of four riders and didn’t stop, staying ahead of the chasers on the final descent.
The 24-year-old Kwiatkowski had time to stop pedalling and lift his arms in celebration of his country’s first gold medal in the event. The Pole finished the rainy 254.8-kilometre (158.3-mile) ride that started in the midst of heavy fog in six and a half hours.
“I was feeling right on the last lap,” Kwiatkowski said. “I was just going for the win and I tried to risk it because I saw that some of the riders were still calculating. I didn’t and I won. This is incredible.”
Simon Gerrans of Australia edged ahead of four others for the silver, one second behind Kwiatkowski. Spaniard Alejandro Valverde was third for the third straight year.
Gerrans said it was hard to watch Kwiatkowski cross first.
“Honestly, I wanted to cry when I crossed the finish line,” Gerrans said. “To be so close and see it slip away is very disappointing.”
The 14 laps of the 18.2-kilometre route on well-paved roads took riders by a Templar castle in the city of Ponferrada and through its hilly surroundings in northern Spain. The course featured two short climbs, but the trickiest part was its long descent back into the city because of the wet surface.
The course was long but not very demanding, meaning that most of the strongest riders arrived in position to challenge for the title.
Even so, former Tour de France winner Chris Froome withdrew with less than three laps to go after falling behind the peloton. The British rider also failed to finish last year’s race in Florence, Italy.
Just when the sun had started to shine after a rainy morning, Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali fell in a low-speed crash involving a handful of riders. The Italian appeared unhurt and was able to join the peloton, but couldn’t contend for the win.