This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Lukas Baum (Germany) dominated the junior men's cross country race at the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa on Thursday. Baum rode in solo for a gold medal ahead of Canada's Peter Disera and Italy's Gioele Bertolini.
"I prepared the whole year for this race; it was my highlight," said Baum. "My form just kept getting better and better up until this point. Now I am national, European and world champion. I guess I did something right this year, and it's such an amazing feeling. I'm super happy!"
Baum planted himself at the front of the charging peloton from the gun and he would remain there throughout the rest of the five-lap race, which was run in hot, dry, dusty and windy conditions. Throughout the race, he had different company at different times.
His first companion at the front was Samuel Gaze (New Zealand), who was in the second spot halfway through the first lap. He abruptly dropped away from the front, coming toward the pits in 13th place at the end of the first lap and then dropping out.
Raphael Gay (France) took over the second spot next, but he, too, would have issues. A front flat tire during the second lap and a crash cost him five places. Unlike Gaze, Gay did not give up and continued to chase for the rest of the race.
Baum said, "I knew I was strong, but it was hard to be in front all the time. I crashed on lap 2 and the French guy fell in front of me, I rode over him. My bars were a little sideways. After that, I was always afraid of the technical sections because I had to ride them carefully with my twisted bars. I focused on the uphill and keeping it safe on the technical sections."
Baum also noted that he had flatted three times in training so put more pressure in his tires today to cope with the compression that happens in them on the downhill, technical sections and to roll better over the asphalt-like, hardpack sections.
Georg Egger (Germany), Bertolini, Jan Vastl (Czech Republic) and Disera all looked to have a real chance at a medal as they battled behind Baum.
Bronze medallist Bertolini rode perhaps the most consistently of everyone other than Baum in the top five.
Egger, who was in second place for a time, slipped out of his pedal and dropped his chain, an incident that let Disera make "an unplanned" move into second.
Disera put in an impressive second half of the race, moving from fifth to that second spot on the second last lap. The Canadian powered onward to the finish to take the silver medal.
"Throughout the race, I tried to ride my own pace and not deal with any of the attacks that were happening," said Disera. "I felt super smooth on the downhills and I was happy with that."
"I was strong in the technical areas. I wasn't overly strong on the steep climbs, which was concerning when we were in the group of second through fourth and fifth was just behind, but when I did make a gap happen, I was quite pleased and was going to stay there."
Near the end of the race, a determined Gay had clawed his way back up to fourth and had Bertolini and the bronze medal in his sights, but he couldn't quite pull it off, and the Italian held on for third place, adding to the gold medal he won with his team in the relay yesterday.
"I'm very happy for a second medal," said Bertolini. "Yesterday's medal was very special and motivated me to race to get another today. I saw the French rider behind me and pushed very hard at the end."
"I kept racing and chased hard after my flat and crash," said a disappointed Gay. "I rode hard and felt like my ride deserved a better placing than fourth."
- It was so hot and dry and windy that a code red fire warning was issued for the mountain and everyone was prohibited from smoking.
- Lucas Newcomb (United States) did not start after injuring himself during training.