Photo Essay: Team USA takes on worlds in Norway

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VN podcast, ep. 52: Worlds, banned beards, and Froome vs. Dumoulin

Welcome to the VeloNews cycling podcast, where we discuss the latest trends, news, and controversies in the world of cycling.

It was a three-Pete! The world championships in Bergen, Norway finished up over the weekend and Peter Sagan took home his third rainbow in a row. Fred Dreier, Caley Fretz, and Spencer Powlison discuss whether WorldTour riders should be allowed in the U23 race, how the American women could have factored in the finale, whether Tom Dumoulin’s TT win is a bad sign for Chris Froome, and more. Plus, a deep discussion of a Belgian team’s new beard ban.

If you like what you hear, subscribe to the VeloNews podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play. Also, check out the VeloNews Fast Talk training podcast with Trevor Connor and Fretz.

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Photo Essay: Blaak wins women’s world title

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Worlds video: What you missed in the final 4km

Cycling fans everywhere experienced an excruciating four kilometers of racing Sunday during the climax of the men’s world road race championships. Were they suffering through a max interval on their home trainers? Did the dog knock a scalding cup of coffee into their lap? No — way worse. The TV moto feed cut out. No pictures. Just commentators left guessing and fans left in the dark.

Prior to the Great Bergen Blackout, we were watching a nail-biting chase. Italian Gianni Moscon was off the front with France’s Julian Alaphilippe. Former world time trial champion Vasil Kiryienka (Belarus) was chasing with Giro wunderkind Lukas Postlberger (Austria).

And then, we had nothing, nothing but a fixed-camera shot of Bergen, Norway’s quaint harbor and the throngs of salmon-eating fans. The announcers were devastated. Twitter had a melt-down.

Finally, with one kilometer to go, we saw Denmark’s Chris Juul-Jensen appear alone, only to be swallowed up by the field. The sprint between home favorite Alexander Kristoff and Slovak Peter Sagan was thrilling. But what happened before then?

Thankfully, we have the Internet. CyclingHub posted the helicopter footage from the final kilometers. I noticed two key moments.

Moment #1: Sagan sneaks up the road

Overall, Sagan rode a quiet, calculated race. This was to his advantage, but when the cameras cut away he got a bit frisky. Ben Swift (Great Britain) attacked up the right side. What looks to be Kazakhstan’s Alexey Lutsenko follows the move, and Sagan hops on his wheel. A fourth rider, Fernando Gaviria (Colombia), joins. The peloton hits the panic button and closes the gap.

Before long, they catch Kiryienka. Postlberger returned to the peloton just before the fireworks kicked off. More importantly, the frantic pace brings them closer to Moscon and Alaphilippe.

Moment #2: Gaviria goes again

For being such a reliable sprinter, it was surprising to see Gaviria riding for a breakaway in the final kilometers. He didn’t spend a ton of matches to follow Swift’s attack, so he goes again soon thereafter. Sagan again closes a little gap to the Colombian.

However, the move that seals the breakaway’s fate — and Sagan owes Gaviria an overpriced Norwegian beer for this one — comes right before the final kilometer. Gaviria goes yet again, and this time he’s accompanied by Juul-Jensen. They catch the move, bringing the peloton within shouting distance of the front. The Dane keeps going in a bid for solo victory. But the Italians are intent on a sprint finish with Moscon caught. Alberto Bettiol leads out the bunch, and the rest is history.

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Kristoff comes inches short of capping Bergen worlds with gold

Norwegian Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin) nearly put the cherry on the cake for Bergen after a week of hosting the 2017 world championships. Only Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) could stop him from winning the men’s road race by half a wheel Sunday.

Norway hosted the worlds for the first time since 1993, when Lance Armstrong won in Oslo. The idea to host another worlds developed after Thor Hushovd’s 2010 worlds victory in Geelong, Australia, and the recent run of success by Kristoff and Edvald Boasson Hagen.

“It was quite insane, a lot of people,” Kristoff commented on the home crowd in the port city, which used to serve the Vikings.

“When you think of how many people were all over the course, then it’s sick. It was a crazy atmosphere.”

The fans built up gradually from the opening team time trial on Sunday. Sunweb won the women’s event just over a week ago.

Controversy surrounded the bike changes allowed for the men’s individual time trial Wednesday, but the 3.4-kilometer uphill finish gave fans a place to gather and party to see their favorites grind past. One over-enthusiastic fan running after German Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin) was side-tackled by police.

It became a time trial worth watching, given the tactics and the close three-way battle between eventual winner Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo), and Chris Froome (Sky).

“The atmosphere was amazing,” said four-time world TT champion Martin. “Even if it wasn’t my kind of course, it was one of the best finales I’ve ever raced.”

The rest day allowed organizers to prepare Salmon Hill and the road circuit coming after the early leg down the west coast. It marked four years since Florence hosted the worlds and was the end of Brian Cookson’s short reign as UCI president. In a sport that frequently sees photo-finishes and castigation battles won by seconds, Frenchman David Lappartient took a landslide 37-8 presidential victory during the governing body’s meeting.

Peter Sagan, the eventual elite men’s road race winner and the first rider two earn three consecutive titles, flew in that day. He acknowledged the fans, who eventually stacked the road course 10-deep and waved Norwegian, Slovakian, and even Eritrean flags.

“I heard a story that there was some group of my fans which flew from Krakow in Poland, and half the plane had [Michal] Kwiatkowski [fans] and half a plane for Sagan,” he said. “Another group flew from Vienna, and Prague. … Yes, it was crazy [the amount of people traveling to Bergen].

“What surprised me a lot were the Norwegian fans. It was nice that they also cheered for us, and that’s crazy. They are so happy I am here, and I also really appreciate that from Norway.”

When the television signal on the course briefly vanished at 4km to race, the fixed camera focused on the finishing straight forced viewers to take note of the crowd size. It appeared similar to Richmond, Virginia, when Sagan won his first title two years ago, but it clearly dwarfed the one last year when the peloton raced in the Qatari desert. Sagan said he was sorry to deprive Kristoff the home win and what would have been the cherry on Bergen’s cake.

“For sure it was a great atmosphere,” Kristoff added. “You expect a lot of people, you’ve probably already seen a lot of Norwegians at the Tour de France. I think the whole city and a lot of people from all around the country came here to celebrate.”

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