Julian Alaphilippe (France), a pre-race favourite, says the cold and wet weather in the Yorkshire 2019 World Championships got the best of him.
Alaphilippe managed to finish 28th behind winner Mads Pedersen (Denmark), but could not follow the winning attacks.
“It’s been a day of suffering, very difficult, I have rarely experienced this since the beginning of my career, we’ll all remember it,” he said.
“I have no regrets, we respected the instructions given by [national coach] Thomas Voeckler, and we were beaten by stronger riders.
“I’m still cold despite the fact that I’ve been finished for a while. These are not the conditions that I prefer, I gave it my all but was well beaten.”
There was no rainbow at the end of the race to top off what has been a champion’s season. Alaphilippe won Strade Bianche, Milan-San Remo, Flèche Wallonne and at the Tour de France, led for more than half the race with two stage wins.
He was among the favourites that included Peter Sagan (Slovakia), Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) and Greg Van Avermaet (Belgian). However, Dane Pedersen surprised the cycling world.
Over the 261.8 kilometres, the rain never let up and the temperatures never reached over 15°C. Riders dropped out each circuit, only 46 of the 197 competitors finished in Harrogate.
“On the approach of the circuit, I began to get more and more cold, and there was nothing to do unfortunately,” Alaphilippe continued.
“My team-mates did a lot of work so that I could race the final properly, refuel, helped me with new dry kit. But when the cold strikes you, it’s hard to fight, and, again I repeat, it’s not the weather conditions that I prefer.”
He finished at 2-26 minutes behind Pedersen with the gold medal, but remains “happy” to have completed the race.
“I am not at all sad. I am very happy to have finished, I am proud of the effort of the French team. We raced very well,” he said.
“We can be disappointed with the raw performance because inevitably we hoped for better, but we did the right thing. I’ll say it again, the day was very hard for everyone.”
Next he plans on racing Milano-Torino on October 9 and Il Lombardia on October 12 before the 2019 season ends.