Kaden Hopkins recorded a Did Not Finish as he concluded competing in the 2022 UCI Road World Championships in Wollongong, Australia.
The race report stated, the heavens had well and truly opened by the time the Under 23 Men’s race came to the line and the rain didn’t look like stopping for the first couple of hours. Crashes occurred but it did not stop the speed of the race.
Hopkins said, “I was in a group with three Australians, a US rider and other countries, eight minutes back of the leader, but we were riding strongly and working together when the officials signalled for us to stop as we were starting the final lap”.
“I felt bad for the Australian riders not being able to finish the home nation Worlds and was a little surprised we were pulled given that the field had completely split and there were groups of riders just ahead of us, but that Worlds and I understand.”
Yevgeniy Fedorov, Kazakhstan, who just finished the Vuelta Espana and rides for UCI WorldTeam Astana Qazaqstan; Mathias Vacek, a Czech Republic, who rides for amateur team CK Příbram Fany Gastro; and Soren Waerenskjold of Norway who rides for UCI ProTeam Uno-X Pro Cycling Team and had just won the Worlds time trial earlier in the week, took gold, silver and bronze. Many of the pre-race favourites missed out in a brutal race that saw the riders competing against each other, the weather and the demanding terrain.
With 2,520 meters of climbing in rainy conditions, riders were seen abandoning the race as early as the first of ten gruelling laps. Multiple crashes and mechanicals, as well as the result of a very aggressive race, which became a war of attrition, would eventually see only 70 of the 129 starters finish the event.
Early in the race, a six-man breakaway formed, which built a three-minute lead over the rest of the field. Hopkins can be seen on race coverage, close to the front when the break went. When asked about this, Hopkins explained, ‘I was in a perfect position to go with it, but my coach and I had a race plan that I wanted to stick with it, to try and be in contention at the end if I could.’
Hopkins is known for getting in similar moves in races, most recently in an early breakaway in the Commonwealth Games, where Hopkins finished 14th. The plan for Worlds was to avoid getting caught up in early breaks to preserve energy.
“It was an early break, and with the course being so long with a lot of climbing, I wanted to stay with my plan”, Hopkins explained. “I knew the break would not survive going so early,” adding, “it is easy to look back afterwards, but I was happy with my decision.’
Hopkins stayed in a good position in the peloton, with his distinctive pink Bermuda jersey visible for much of the race. Still, with the major country’s teams becoming more organised and intent on controlling the race, the continual surges, particularly on the Mount Pleasant climb, which topped out at 14% lap after lap, would see Hopkins lose contact on lap eight.
Hopkins commented, ‘I had to work so hard to close gaps as the big teams controlled the front, it eventually took its toll, and I lost contact with the front of the race.
“It was a tough day with the climb and wet roads on a technical course. Even though I dropped back from the peloton, I kept working hard with a group of about ten riders, including three Australians. We were riding well together, it was disappointing that we got pulled, especially with just one lap to go, but I am pleased with my ride.’