Bjorg Lambrecht as top contender to U23 World Championships
Ambitious to the starting line in Kufstein.
Lotto Soudal rider Bjorg Lambrecht managed to conquer the silver medal in the U23 road race! On the demanding course in Innsbruck, the 21-year-old Belgian proved to be one of the strongest riders in the race. Unfortunately for Lambrecht, he had to deal with a very solid Swiss team. Eventually, it was the Swiss rider Marc Hirschi who triumphed and kept Lambrecht from taking home the rainbow jersey.
When the U23 riders entered the first local lap in Innsbruck, the Belgian team took their responsibility and started to close the gap on the early breakaway. Thanks to the work of amongst others Lotto Soudal’s U23 rider Brent Van Moer, the last survivor of the break, the Canadian Zukowsky was caught. At 50 kilometres from the finish, seven riders, including some pre-race favourites managed to escape the already reduced bunch. It was Lambrecht’s compatriot Steff Cras who sacrificed his own chances and neutralised this dangerous attempt at around twenty kilometres from the line. Lambrecht then decided to take matters into his own hands and attacked! The Swiss rider Marc Hirschi and the Finnish Jaakko Hanninen were the only two riders to stay on the wheel of the Lotto Soudal rider. After the ultimate ascent of the day, Hirschi accelerated during the descent and was able to create a small gap over his two breakaway companions. Lambrecht gave his all to catch the Swiss rider, but Hirschi didn’t break, persisted in his effort and eventually conquered the rainbow jersey. During the sprint for second place, Lambrecht beat Hanninen and took the silver medal! James Shaw, the British Lotto Soudal rider was also up there, in the chasing group right behind Lambrecht and finished in a beautiful tenth place.
This silver medal is the culmination of a very nice season.
Bjorg Lambrecht: “I am very happy with this silver medal! It’s a pity that I wasn’t able to distance my two breakaway companions on the climb, because I knew that it would be very hard going into the descent with the two of them. However, they both proved to be extremely strong and I just couldn’t create a lasting gap. The plan was to attack from third position, but I suspect that Hirschi knew what I was up to. His pulls at the front were getting shorter and shorter, and in the end, I think that’s what reduced my chances as well. Either way, he’s an extremely strong and smart rider, so I’ll have to be satisfied with this second place. I know Hirschi for quite some time now and I knew he is a good descender. During the last three laps, I noticed that the entire Swiss team was going downhill really fast, something I’m not the best at. It’s a shame that I couldn’t follow Hirschi, but I can’t blame myself!”
“The entire Belgian team did a great job and I am very grateful to my teammates for their splendid performance. The way Steff Cras closed the last gap was impressive. He was extremely strong and I’m really thankful for that gesture. I’m certainly going to return the favour in the future. At around fifteen kilometres from the line, I accelerated and I got Hirschi and Hanninen on my wheel. The pre-race plan was to commence the ultimate ascent with as little riders as possible, a plan which also succeeded. I would have liked the climb in the final ascent to be a little steeper. That way I could have been able to make a bigger difference. I don’t have the same descending skills as Hirschi, so I couldn’t respond to his attack. For a moment, I hoped to catch the Swiss during the little climb at the very end, but when I got closer, he accelerated once again. Hanninen and I worked together really well, I knew he was a decent climber because a few years ago, we were in a breakaway together. I told him to ride and to cooperate until the finish, because we could both earn a medal. We would ride till the line and see who would take second place. Luckily, I was able to start the sprint in second place and beat him.”
“My second place means another medal for Belgium and hopefully, we can add some more this weekend. I definitely see some opportunities for the Belgians in the upcoming races. The pros will face a fierce climb at the end, but if a Belgian rider anticipates before the ascent, the team certainly stands a chance. It’s a lovely course, but there are few moments where recovery is possible. So, I realize that I set a nice performance today! We will definitely celebrate tonight. The end of the season is approaching and we all worked very hard for this. This silver medal is the culmination of a nice season. I am very happy with my first year as a pro: I learned a lot, participated in some beautiful races and I was able to reap the benefits during this World Championship. It’s a wonderful start of my career as a pro!’