There was to be no Yorkshire winner of the major prizes at the UCI Road World Championships over the weekend, but there were two notable performances.
Otley’s Lizzie Deignan, just three weeks after undergoing emergency surgery to remove her appendix, managed to cross the line in 40th in Bergen, having been at the front of the bunch at one stage, giving chase to the breakaway leader.
My team kept me going. If they weren’t there I might have pulled out.Lizzie Deignan
“I can’t be too disappointed, we were in every move and we can be really proud,” said Deignan, 28, the 2015 world champion, whose preparations for this year’s race had been severely hampered by the surgery.
“My team kept me going. If they weren’t there I might have pulled out.”
Holland’s Chantal Blaak, picture, claimed gold as Great Britain’s Hannah Barnes saw her brave bid for a medal end in disappointment.
And in the men’s race yesterday, Rotherham’s Ben Swift rode to a surprise fifth-place finish behind Slovakia’s Peter Sagan, who won the world title for a third straight year.
Swift was one of three Yorkshiremen in the nine-man Great Britain team alongside Burley-in-Wharfedale’s Scott Thwaites and Sheffield’s Adam Blythe.
But it was a team shorn of 2011 world champion and headline act Mark Cavendish through injury, and one team chief Rod Ellingworth said would do well to place anyone inside the top 10.
But Swift defied the low billing to produce a strong result, building on the 12th-place he earned in the world championship road race in Spain three years ago.
The 29-year-old South Yorkshireman said: “Sagan was incredible, I think all of us were trying a couple of moves because it was all over the place, but he did amazing.
“The British team was brilliant today, we set out what we wanted to do and everyone rode brilliantly.”
But no one could stop Sagan, who won in dramatic fashion.
The Slovakian had barely featured among the lead riders throughout the 267.5-kilometre race in Bergen. He was classified 80th approaching the final climb up Salmon Hill, but timed his ride to perfection.
Sagan held off Norwegian Alexander Kristoff in a sprint finish to become the first man to win three consecutive world crowns.
Frenchman Tony Gallopin attempted to break clear 13km from home, but he was swallowed up at the foot of Salmon Hill.
At the same time a crash accounted for several riders, before Italian Gianni Moscon and France’s Julian Alaphilippe used the final climb to steal a march on the peloton. With 4.3km left Alaphilippe made what appeared to be a decisive burst, but he was eventually chased down.
Sagan and Kristoff forced themselves to the head of the pack and crossed the finish line together with the 27-year-old winning by a hair’s breadth.
“It was not easy, guys were changing in the front all the time,” said Sagan.
“I tried to go with the breakaway and it came down to a sprint, it was unbelievable.
“(Three in a row) is something special for sure.
“For me it’s something very nice.”
In the women’s race, eventual winner Blaak was caught up in a crash early in the 152.8km race before producing a perfectly-timed break with seven kilometres remaining to cross the line 28 seconds ahead of the chasing pack.
Australia’s Katrin Garfoot claimed silver in a sprint finish, with Denmark’s Amalie Dideriksen taking the bronze, while Barnes had to settle for 14th place as the race came back together around the final bend.
Barnes was part of several breakaways and looked primed for a medal as she joined Blaak and Audrey Cordon in opening up a gap of nine seconds in the closing stages, only to be caught by Blaak’s team-mates Annemiek van Vlueten and Anna van der Breggen, as well as Garfoot and Katarzyna Niewiadoma.
And that meant when Blaak attacked there was little chance of a co-ordinated chase from behind, allowing the Dutch national champion to power to victory. “I can’t believe it,” said Blaak. “Everything happened in the race. I crashed and was in a lot of pain and thought my race was over.”
Barnes said: “It was quite frustrating with the Dutch there. I wanted to work and they were all settling for second place. I stood up to sprint but my legs had nothing left. I can’t be too disappointed with that.”
Leeds’s Tom Pidcock, 18, who won the junior time-trial earlier in the week, finished 25th in the junior road race.