Neilson Powless was once again the United States’ top finisher in the UCI Road World Championships, finishing 11th on the punchy, technical elite men’s road race in Glasgow, Scotland. But the result is only a fraction of the story: Powless was agonisingly close to catching the winning move but came up short.
The elite group with new world champion Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands), podium finishers Wout van Aert (Belgium) and Tadej Pogačar (Slovenia) and fourth-placed Mads Pedersen (Denmark) powered away from the larger group of favourites that Powless had survived through lap after lap of attrition.
A crash from Jhonatan Narvaez (Ecuador) in the right-hand turn before the steep Montrose Street climb split the group coming into the last three laps and, while Powless had them in sight, he just couldn’t reach them.
“I knew it was gonna be really, really tough to close it,” Powless said after he saw the gap. “So I tried to close it immediately – just give everything I had, and I came up about 50 metres too short. So I’m really, really disappointed about that. Because yeah, the winner came from that group. And I was right there.”
The four riders kept looking back as they powered away, watching as Powless was joined by Mauro Schmid (Switzerland) and Toms Skujinš (Latvia) and still couldn’t bridge across. “I think they also saw they had a gap. They were going just as hard as I was if not harder.”
Powless lost touch with the chasers and rolled in 4:20 behind Van der Poel, left wondering what could have been had he been able to stay with the group.
“The crash is what decided the race. At least that’s what this is what decided my race,” he said. “I was the first one to start chasing because everyone kind of hesitated for a second but they hesitated for two seconds and it was over. So I was really disappointed about that. But you know, I still have fun racing, along with all the suffering.”
The Americans were well represented throughout the race, with Kevin Vermaerke making the day’s early breakaway and going on the attack from it before it was caught on the Glasgow circuits.
“It was a long day out. It’s always a big day when you’re in the break at worlds and it’s a six-hour race but especially with this circuit,” Vermaerke told Cyclingnews.
“We wanted to have someone in the break just to avoid the carnage and laps and hope that a group could bridge up. When the peloton was about 25 seconds back I tried to go off on my own just to anticipate a move and yeah – one…