A brilliant bit of bike racing in the final kilometres of the men’s junior race saw Emil Herzog deliver Germany’s first road rainbow jersey since 2016.
Herzog had been the only rider with the legs to bring back a surging Antonio Morgado, who had gone solo at the start of the final lap. The Portuguese rider forced him to start the sprint first and just about drew level, but Herzog had just enough left to hang on and take the victory by a little less than a bike length.
The best of the rest was Belgium’s Vlad Van Mechelen, who won the reduced bunch sprint to claim the bronze medal.
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There was little time for the riders to settle into a rhythm, the first few laps were replete with aggression and characterised by attacking racing from the outset.
With riders refusing to hold back, the wet conditions made for treacherous cornering and saw several hitting the deck in early crashes.
Time trial champion and one of the favourites, Britain’s Josh Tarling, was one of the hardest fallers. Despite his best efforts to keep going, the 18 year-old ultimately succumbed to his injuries and called it quits after four laps.
An attritional course featuring the leg-sapping Mount Pleasant climb left riders all over the road and allowed a small break to get away. With around 40km of racing completed, the dozen riders had an advantage of a minute.
There was too much motivation behind for that to be that, however, and the chasers, spread across multiple countries, cooperated well to keep the race from running away from them.
Midway through the race, Morgado spent several kilometres off the front on his own, an effort that may have made the difference at the finish.
He again went solo early on the last lap, with 15km to go, and was able to manifest a gap that steadied around 25 seconds but briefly went as high as 40.
On the hardest gradients of Mount Pleasant, a climb which averaged 7% but in places went well above 10, he battled on. The energy having seemingly gone out of the riders in the chase, riders fell away one by one as the group disintegrated into pieces.
The moustachioed Morgado made it over the top with the result firmly in the balance.

Herzog wins junior road race after thrilling sprint showdown with Morgado

Germany's Herzog was the only rider who looked capable of bringing Morgado back. The talented mountain biker seemed to have saved himself for the descent, and was able to eat into Morgado’s lead as the road levelled out.
Into the final 5km of the race and Morgado was hanging on by his fingernails. Herzog had him in his sights.
With 3km remaining the Portuguese rider admitted defeat, allowed Herzog to take over at the front and affording himself a moment of recovery.
The pair rode together for 500m or so, ensuring the result would be between them, before Herzog tried a move 1.5km from the finish. Morgado was able to bring him back and set the race up for a sprint finish.
Herzog was forced to lead it out as Morgado waited in the wheel for as long as he possibly could. After starting his own sprint, 200m from the line, he was able to draw level - but not pull ahead - as Herzog crept ahead again to celebrate a great victory.
“I worked so hard for this," said Herzog. "Last year I had a bit of bad luck but today everything went perfect.
"It was the hardest sprint of my whole life. We were side by side and I just didn’t stop.”
From the eight riders who contested the sprint for third it was Belgium's Van Mechelen who had the strongest finish and was delighted with the bronze medal.

TOP 10

1. Emil Herzog (Germany) 3:11:07
2. António Morgado (Portugal) ''
3. Vlad Van Mechelen (Belgium) +0'55
4. Paul Magnier (France) ''
5. Artem Shmidt (United States) ''
6. Menno Huising (Netherlands) ''
7. Thibaud Gruel (France) ''
8. Frank Ragilo (Estonia) ''
9. Zachary Walker (Great Britain) ''
10. Pavel Novak (Czech Republic) ''
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