Pirrone doubles up in Junior Women’s Road Race, Cosnefroy the fastest in the U-23 Men
It has been a perfect 2017 UCI Road World Championships for Italy’s Elena Pirrone, who followed up her gold medal in the Junior Women’s Time Trial with a gold in the Junior Women’s Road Race on Friday.
Making the most of a well-calculated long distance attack, Pirrone broke away on the second last descent of the decisive Salmon Hill climb. She finally crossed the line in Festplassen 12 seconds ahead of Emma Norsgaard Jorgensen of Denmark, the fastest in a group of 11 chasers. Eliza Paternoster made it two medals out of three for Italy by claiming the bronze, two places better than her fifth spot in the same road race event in last year's World Championships in Qatar.
Pirrone’s advantage on the last lap and a half sometimes shrank to as low as 12 seconds, but with more than triple that total - 40 seconds - as she approached Salmon Hill for a last time, it was clear that any chasing group would have collaborate well to chase her down. But that pooling of mutual interests, particularly with two Italian teammates marking any counter-attacks in the main forward group, was severely lacking.
Pirrone’s fine solo win means the Junior Women’s Road Race title and the coveted rainbow jersey that goes with it will stay in Italy for the second year running, following Elisa Balsamo’s gold medal in Qatar last October. Pirrone has also repeated the same double Junior Women’s gold in road race and time trial events taken by Chloe Dygert for the USA back in the 2015 Road World Championships.
“It’s incredible, amazing, I never dreamed of doing something like this;” Pirrone said after the rainsoaked 76.4 kilometre race, “Words fail me, I’m so happy.”
“Our pre-race tactic was to wait until about half way through and then toughen it up before starting the breaks with the last lap, so I was worried about whether I was taking too big a risk by attacking a little earlier.”
“And in fact I felt terrible with about 10 kilometres to go, I got cramps. But my form was good, very good, I came through that, and I’m very pleased with what I’ve managed to achieve.”
As for the future, Pirrone said “I’ll be turning pro next year so my dream is to do on advancing there and some day end up as a World Champion in the elite category, too.”
In Friday’s second event, the Under 23 Men’s Road Race, Benoît Cosnefroy both outduelled German Lennard Kämna and held off the speeding remnants of the peloton to snatch a last-ditch triumph for France.
Cosnefroy’s victory, the fourth in this category for France since 2009, came at the end of a highly tactical, hard-fought 191 kilometre race, where arguably the key moment was when the Frenchman soloed across to a late attack by Kämna on the last of the ten laps.
France had already softened up the opposition with an attack on Salmon Hill by Benjamin Thomas, so strong that Kämna the only rider to blast across to Thomas then go it alone over the summit.
However, Kämna’s 12 second advantage at the top of Salmon Hill was not enough to stop Cosnefroy from reaching him on the descent.
Whilst the chasing group was able to sweep up two late counter moves by Ivan Garcia Cortina (Spain) and Wilmar Paredes Zapata (Colombia), Cosnefroy and Kamna stayed away to the line. Despite the chasers bearing down steadily on the duo, Cosnefrfy nonetheless kept his nerve perfectly and charged away less than 200 metres from the line, easily beating Kämna by over a bikelength. Three seconds later, Michael Carbel Svendgaard led in the chasing group to claim the bronze for Denmark.
“I had a brilliant level of team support, that really helped me to save my energy right up to the last lap,” Cosnefroy said. “I knew that a World Championships is often won on the last lap and I waited right until then. I was worried about using up energy by going full out on the descent, but then I said to myself, you might as well try, you don’t want to leave this race with any regrets.”
“I said to myself I had to try with the break, it was one chance out of two. Winning is just incredible.”
Racing continues on Saturday with the Men’s Junior event, totalling 133.8 kilometres and the Women’s Road Race, over a distance of 152.8 kilometres.