WOLLONGONG, Australia (CT) – On a nondescript street in downtown Wollongong, in the space between two crowd control barriers, two young men embrace. One is beaming from the joy of a recent victory, the other is sobbing from the devastation of second place. Both are exhausted and both are stained with road spray after a wet junior road race.
Seventeen-year-old Emil Herzog (Germany) and 18-year-old Antonio Margado (Portugal) have just fought their way to a brilliant final in the opening road race of the 2022 World Cup. Margado was one of the main aggressors of the race, often on the attack, often testing his rivals whenever the road went uphill. Duke, the pre-race favorite, was much more weighted until the race required otherwise.
Duke got the booty and became the new world champion. But it was a close thing.
On slippery suburban roads a crash on the first lap ended the hopes of world time trial winner Josh Tarling (Great Britain) and silver medalist Hamish McKenzie (Australia). Later, from a front group that had split, turned and split again numerous times over the course of eight laps, Margado made a big move with 18km to go.
Rolling and weaving on the bike, the spirited Portuguese rider opened up a comfortable gap. Soon, on the last major climb of the race, about 8km from the finish, Herzog decided it was time. He attacked from the pursuit group and moved alone. Thus began a one-on-one duel that would define the race.
Margado walked alone in front, the many twists and turns of the downtown road course ensuring that once the Duke caught sight of Margado, he was soon out of sight again. But Duke kept coming.
With 4 km to go, the pair were separated by only seven seconds. Margada looked around with unwanted regularity, apparently frightened by the hot favorite on his tail. 3 km before the finish line, Margado sat down, deciding that his best chance to win would be in a two-man sprint. Herzog made it to the front and Margado came in at the back.
One and a half kilometers before the finish line, Herzog tried to distance himself from Margad, but the Portuguese driver coped with the task. When Herzog asked Margad to stop after some time, the Portuguese rider refused, tightening his shoes for the decisive final push.
When that sprint came, Margada quickly took the lead. But Duke managed to turn it back just before the line.
“I don’t think I’ve ever done such a hard sprint,” Herzog said later. “I think in a normal race I would have stopped pedaling, I don’t know, 50 meters before that because I was so screwed. Then it all worked out and it’s just… I can’t believe it.”
When Herzog put his hands up, Margado hit him on the steering wheel. And then around the right-hander after the finish, the two engaged in something that was part bike hug, part back slapping.
A few minutes later, in that lonely alley, they would be hugging from the motorcycle, Herzog happy and Margado confused. One world champion, the other silver medalist. Both are exciting prospects for the future; both show a mutual respect for each other’s strength and skill in a tough competition.
MJ World Championship – Road Race (WC)
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The joy, the devastation and the hugs that bound them
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