UCI 2019 Road World Championships: Mikkel Bjerg and Chloe Dygert make history in Yorkshire

The rain in Yorkshire didn’t prevent Mikkel Bjerg from taking his third straight UCI World Championship title in the Under 23 individual time trial. This unprecedented hat-trick was followed by a first Elite individual time trial World title for America’s Chloé Dygert who created a surprise by beating Dutch favourites Anna van der Breggen and Annemiek van Vleuten by an enormous margin!

Chloé Dygert upsets Dutch favourites

Having celebrated a one-two at the previous two editions of the UCI World Championships for the individual time trial, Dutch stars van Vleuten and van der Breggen were logically touted as favourites. But Dygert, who started 20th from the end,  smashed the leading time of Alena Amialiusik from Belarus at both the intermediate timecheck and at the finish line so it was clear throughout her flying ride that she’d be hard to beat on her day of excellence.

Van Vleuten and van der Breggen were 1’09’’ and 1’10’’ down on the American respectively at the 14.2km mark, and at the end had reversed their positions but each increased their deficits to 1’32’’ and 1’53’’. One year ago, van der Breggen and van Vleuten were separated by 30’’ in the same event with their compatriot Ellen van Dijk third at 1’25’’.

But Dygert, 22, a five-time UCI World Champion on the track, including two titles in the individual pursuit in 2017 and 2018, wasn’t surprised by her stunning victory.

“I really prepared very well for this,” she calmly explained before receiving the rainbow jersey. “We took this year and just worked towards this race. I had my concussion last year so we had to take this slow and now we’re looking forward to [the Olympic Games in] Tokyo. It’s always very special to wear the stripes, it’s everybody’s goal, and I’m just super thankful for everyone who believed in me. I live in Washington State so I’m used to riding in the rain and I knew everyone else was going to be scared so I tried to make the most of it.”

Dygert succeeded Amber Neben who was the last American to become individual time trial UCI World Champion. The 44-year-old posted another great performance, finishing fourth at 2’39’’, and her embrace of the newly-crowned athlete appeared to be a symbolic handover to the new generation. Dygert had already been the UCI World Champion in the Juniors in Richmond, USA, for both ITT and road racing, in 2015 – it was just a matter of time before she’d come of age.

Mikkel Bjerg makes it three

Earlier, Denmark’s Mikkel Bjerg became the first athlete to win the Under 23 UCI World Championship title for the individual time trial three years in a row. At the age of 20 and in the third of four years in the Under 23 category, he imposed himself in Yorkshire as he had done in Bergen in 2017 and Innsbruck-Tirol in 2018, although this year with a reduced advantage over his rivals.

From a margin of 1’05’’ over Brandon McNulty in Norway and 33’’ over Belgium’s Brent Van Moer in Austria, Bjerg’s domination was reduced to 27’’ over Ian Garrison and 28’’ over McNulty, both from the USA, while his compatriot Mathias Norsgaard Jørgensen and Van Moer, who had accompanied him on the podium last year, were to finish in fourth and fifth positions.

“Today was really crazy,” said Bjerg, who covered the 30.3km course at the average speed of 45.1km/h. “The weather conditions were absolutely terrible, but I managed to pull it off. I was told five minutes before the start that there were some big puddles on the road and my coach tried to navigate me through the easiest line. There was so much pressure, and I would say it came mostly from myself. It would almost have been not good if I didn’t win, so I’m really happy to take a third title.”

The race was held in pouring rain with the conditions worsening in the middle of the running. Norway’s Iver Johan Knotten suffered a mechanical after posting the fastest first intermediate time and was fuming at the end. Italian national champion Matteo Sobrero had a flat tyre before being overhauled by McNulty. Hungary’s Attila Valter crashed. Danish and European champion Johan Price-Pejtersen, who rode in the wettest weather, hit a pool so deep that he went down. But at the end of the day, it was the five most awaited time trial specialists who topped the classification and announced themselves as future champions among the pro cyclists.