Fifth for Swift in Bergen

Fifth for Swift in Bergen

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Great Britain Cycling Team’s Ben Swift finished fifth in the elite men’s road race on the final day of the UCI Road World Championships.

The British rider was pipped to the medals in a bunch sprint as Slovakia’s Peter Sagan completed a sensational hat-trick of world titles.

It was the first bunch sprint for the gold of the week in Bergen - one that did not look likely for the majority of the race.

An early breakaway, led by the Irish, got over two minutes up the road in the opening kilometres of the 267.5km race.

With 30km gone the 10-rider group had opened up a lead of 9:30 on the peloton, but there was no concern from the rest of the race - many of the riders were chatting and joking, well aware that a significant distance remained.

As the race entered the main Bergen circuit, the lead was reduced to around 6:30, but the peloton remained content to allow the group to stay up the road.

With six laps remaining, Maxim Belkov of Russia had had enough of the impasse, and fled the peloton in a bid to catch the front runners, now down to seven riders, whose lead was less than three minutes.

While the Russian move didn’t stick, it did inspire the peloton to kick on, with the Dutch riders starting the move around the 90km mark.

Willem Smit of South Africa ploughed ahead alone, but was soon reeled in to set up a fascinating second half of the race.

Ben Swift slipped off the peloton needing a bike change, but excellent work from Owain Doull and Jon Dibben helped him to get back into the bunch - the effort from Doull and Dibben, as well as Ian Stannard and Adam Blythe in the opening exchanges, seeing them abandon the race.

With four laps remaining, a few riders attempted attacks, but it was Belgium’s Tim Wellens who made the first move that sticked, with seven other riders, including Colombia’s Jarlinson Pantano and Lars Boom of the Netherlands joining him as they opened up a lead of around 45 seconds.

The peloton reduced the gap slightly, to around 30 seconds, before closing in on the penultimate descent of Salmon Hill to bring the field back together for the final lap.

Salmon Hill had proved decisive in the other road races this week and all eyes were on the peloton on the approach to the climb as France’s Julian Alaphilippe burst away, opening a significant gap, closely followed by Gianni Moscon of Italy.

Great Britain Cycling Team's Ben Swift finishes fifth in the UCI Road World Championships elite men's road race

Ben Swift chased, in a following group of around 20 riders and as the chasers closed in, Alaphilippe attacked again, pulling clear of the fading Moscon.

The chasers’ efforts were not in vain, as they reeled in the leaders in the final kilometre, with Swift well placed for the final sprint.

But the defending world champion Peter Sagan was not to be beaten in his pursuit of a historic third set of rainbow stripes in a row.

Home rider Alexander Kristoff took silver, just inches behind Sagan with Australia’s Michael Matthews taking bronze.

Swift crossed the line to take fifth and praised his team's efforts.

"I'm happy (with fifth) but you always want more, I was close on the finish there.

"I think the team rode really really well, I think we have got a young team, I think we're working towards the future really. I think we can be really happy with the group ride we did there.

"A real special thanks to Owain Doull and Jon Dibben, I had a bike change at a really really bad moment and they brought me back incredibly well."

Peter Kennaugh finished in 37th, 1:22 back while Scott Thwaites and Mark Christian finished 98th and 99th respectively, 7:33 behind the race leaders with Tao Geoghegan Hart 118th, 10:21 back.