Norway claimed their first medal of the Flanders 2021 World Championships, as Per Strand Hagenes smashed the final 10km to win the junior road race rainbow jersey.
The 18-year-old is the first Norwegian to ever win the junior world title, after he attacked solo on a steep ramp 6km from the finish.
After launching a devastating move on the Wijnpers climb, Hagenes rode away to take the victory 20 seconds ahead of his nearest rivals.
Romain Grégoire of France was the best of the rest, taking the silver medal after failing to chase down Hagenes, while Madis Mihkels (Estonia) won the bunch sprint for third.
How it happened
The first road race of the 2021 Worlds was a brutal 121.4km around a city circuit in Leuven, as the junior men faced five laps of the 12km loop.
This was the first chance we’ve had to see some of the Leuven road race circuit, which features four categorised climbs - the Keizersberg, the Decouxlaan, the Wijnpers and Sint-Antoniusberg, before a final uncategorised ramp up the finish.
Racing was frantic from the flag, with a three-rider breakaway eventually getting clear early on, including Josh Tarling from Great Britain.
The gap hovered at around a minute for the break as France controlled the pace back in the bunch for pre-race favourite Grégoire.
After a steady middle section, the breakaway were finally brought back under the impetus of Denmark with around 30km left to the line.
It was a hugely attritional race, as huge swathes of the bunch were forced to pulled out in the closing kilometres as they were lapped by the rest of the field on the short and hilly circuit.
A two-rider attack from Germany and Italy was eventually followed by Finlay Pickering (Great Britain), along with Eddy le Huitouze and Pierre Gautherat both France, making it five riders out front with 20km to race.
But that leading group only had a modest advantage as the bunch had them within sight 15km from the line, causing the group to swell as riders bridged across.
Hagenes was the driving force behind a small group the powered across to the break, which finally made it to the front group 8km from the finish.
Early on the penultimate climb, Wijnpers (360 metres at eight per cent gradient), Hagenes put in an enormous dig to drop the rest of the field, with only Grégoire able to try and follow, the former still pulling away.
It was then an assured 5km solo run to the line for Hagenes, who will be joining the Jumbo-Visma development team for 2022, to claim the title, after his second place in the European Championships road race earlier this month
Britian’s best finisher was Max Poole, who sprinted to ninth place in the bunch.
The World Championships continue on Friday with the under-23 road race.
Road Word Championships 2021, men's junior road race: Leuven to Leuven (121.4km)
1. Per Strand Hagenes (Norway), in 2-43-48
2. Romain Grégoire (France), at 19s
3. Madis Mihkels (Estonia), at 24s
4. Martin Svrček (Slovakia)
5. Alexander Hajek (Austria)
6. António Morgado (Portugal)
7. Manuel Oioli (Italy)
8. Vlad Van Mechelen (Belgium)
9. Max Poole (Great Britain)
10. Luis-Joe Lührs (Germany), all at same time
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