It was a day of mixed emotions for the home team at the Glasgow World Championships in both the men’s and women’s junior road races on Saturday.
The home team started the day as outright favourites for the junior women’s title. However, thanks to a blistering long range attack from France’s Julie Bego they were forced to settle for second place and a silver medal for Cat Ferguson.
Led by Emma Trott - sister of multiple Olympic champion Laura Kenny - the British team were aiming to secure the rainbow jersey for Ferguson who came into the race as the group’s lead rider.
Ferguson has rapidly developed a name for herself as a rising star in women’s cycling and has previously won the junior Tour of Flanders, Trofeo Alfredo Binda and a stage in the recent Bizkaikoloreak Nations Cup stage race to further underline her credentials.
Speaking to the media after the race, Ferguson explained that the initial frustration at missing out on the rainbow bands had worn off and that she was proud of the team’s achievement.
"If you told me at the start of the season I'd come second here I'd be so happy,” she said. “So far my season's gone really well - I took a couple of wins in the Nations Cups. GB came here looking for the gold medal and the jersey, whether it was me winning or one of my teammates. So it's a little bit frustrating with the silver but it's not the end of the world.
“I definitely felt a bit of pressure as I've won two Nations Cups on quite a similar course to this as well, so I felt like I was the favourite coming in. But equally, pressure gives you adrenaline, it helps you. So as a first year I felt less pressure because I knew I had a whole other year."
Bego launched what would be the race winning move 20 kilometres from the line on one of the smaller climbs on the course. It had been widely anticipated that the steep Montrose street would prove to be decisive although Bego caught the British team unawares on the smaller Eldon street ramp.
Ferguson had enough left to win the sprint for second but explained that she had felt some frustration at the lack of cohesion in the chasing group behind the Frenchwoman.
"When Julie went I was quite poorly positioned, I was marking the Italian girl and my teammate was on Julie," Ferguson explained. "Unfortunately she couldn't hold onto Julie and that's when she got away.”
"There was a group of maybe ten left and we tried to encourage them to chase,” she added. “We'd been told prior by coach Emma [Trott] that if we got into this scenario I should do less because I have quite a good sprint. So it was down to Awen Roberts and Imogen Wolff to chase.
"I did come through and tried to encourage the other nations with numbers but unfortunately, GB was the only team trying to chase and unfortunately, it didn't work."
As the race progressed, light rain started to fall causing the already fast and technical cause to become even more slick. Several riders succumbed to crashes or mechanical incidents and Ferguson explained that she believed the weather had given Bego an advantage once she got up the road.
"The rain helped Julie - it made it harder to see her and we didn't know how big the gap was," Ferguson said as she explained that the British team had been forced to do the majority of the work in the second group to reel her back in. “Belgium had two and there were a couple other of the favourites in there. So we spoke to them trying to encourage them to work but they just wouldn't so it was very difficult to gain on Bego."
Carnage from the start
Meanwhile Denmark’s Albert Philipsen took the honours in the men’s race after launching a stinging move from a seven man breakaway that had originally included Britain’s Matthew Brennan.
Speaking to Cycling Weekly after the race, Brennan explained that the relentless nature of the Glasgow course meant that he blew up in the closing stages and had nothing left to give.
“It was just carnage from the start,” Brennan said. “I knew you had to sort of be at the front end of it and I was looking down at my power metre and for the first 45 minutes I was doing 350 watts average but I couldn't hold that.
“I knew something would snap eventually and once I got up the road that was pretty tough. I just kept working but unfortunately I just ran out our legs really and cramped up as well.”
Brennan fought valiantly to stay with the pace of the leaders but the punchy climbs eventually took their toll. The British rider explained that as the climbs began to bite, he was roared on by support from the roadside.
“I really enjoyed the crowds,” Brennan said. “I was absolutely swinging at the end and zigzagging up some of the climbs but the crowds really helped me get up there.”
Brennan explained that the nature of the course meant that positioning was of vital importance going into the fast and sweeping bends.
“It's a rock hard circuit and there's nowhere to hide,” he said. “You have to really make sure you're in the right places. There's no point sitting in the bunch because it's hard going up the road, you might as well just do what you can and get yourself up the road. But yeah, it was a pretty brutal circuit and I think it was one of the toughest races I've ever done this year.”
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