The European Junior & U23 road cycling Champs continued Saturday with the U23 Women's and Men's Road races, held over a circuit of 21 kilometres - to be completed multiple times - around the Lago Maggiore lakeside resort of Verbania in the Piedmont region of northern Italy. And we challenged the heat and the mighty sun of an Italian early summer week-end to watch - live on the spot - two excellent competitions, won by Lithuania's Rasa Lelivyte
in the demoiselles case and the Frenchman Cyril Gautier
amongst the boys.
The two races had quite different dynamics anyway. The women's event came down to a field sprint of 11 girls, one of whom was the Italian sensation Martia Bastianelli, but the current rainbow jersey holder didn't enjoy the same success as at the past World Champs; not even the fact Marianne Vos and other usual rivals of hers were not around proved to be much of help to the young campionessa from the Rome area. In the end Bastianelli had to be content with landing on the lowest podium step. Well, in fact she wasn't content at all, at least in the immediate aftermaths of the race, and the lack of anything similar to a smile couldn't be more different than Lelivyte's happiness, but a medal bronze is no bad thing, especially when you have the rainbow jersey on your shoulders and all the eyes of your rivals on you. And also when you're still trying to get back into top form; hopefully Marta will in the forthcoming Giro d'Italia femminile. Ultratalented Rasa, who will turn 20 the next July 22nd, is not new to beating Italians in top races anyway: as a junior she prevailed over Marina Romoli and Eleonora Patuzzo in the 2006 World Champs. No rainbow joy for her at the 2007 Euros though: the Lithuanian finished third behind Vos and the same Bastianelli. It didn't take longer than one year for Lelivyte to take her revenge.
The peloton stayed in control of things during most of the six-lap bikefight Saturday. Nothing in particular occurred in the two opening laps, with the news being made by the Turkish contingent: two of their four girls dropped out after less than a dozen kilometres, and the third one walked the same way during lap one. We wanted hard Semra Yetis - the only remainder of the wild bunch from Ankara and surroundings - to finish the race, and she came close to, but unfortunately pulled out of the contest after getting lapped in the last part of the ride. Still, you can be sure the Turkish team (coaches included) enjoyed their stay in one of Europe's nicest lakeside resorts.
Laura Lepsaru of Estonia and Switzerland's Andrea Wolfer earned some media exposure as they put in the first, brief attack at the end of the second lap. More solo breakaway attempts followed, featuring Venera Absalymova of the Russian squad, her team mate Anna Potokina and Germany's Romy Kasper, just to name a few. But the peloton, driven mainly by the Dutch and Italian chase machines, proved up to the challenge and didn't let any of them gain more than 20-30 seconds.
The battle broke out for real only after the bell kept signalling the last lap, with just 45 riders left in the bunch. Denise Zuckermandel of Germany (re)started the fireworks with some 18k to go, but her solo adventure was over a couple miles later. The tempo was high, but nevertheless both Leleivyte and Bastianelli managed to come into action and escape the marshalling of the gruppo. They got Lieselot Decroix (Belgium), Anna Sanchis Chafer (Spain), Oxana Kozonchuk (Russia) and Dutch talent Regina Bruins as fellow attackers. The girls stayed away for a short time only, but most of them gave it a shot again in the last five kilometres.
And this time was the good one: Leleivyte, Bastianelli, Sanchis, Kozonchuk and Bruins opened some gap, enjoying (??) the company of Julie Krasniak (France) and Leysa Kalitovska (Ukraine). More riders got across to the frontrunners, taking the lead group up to eleven. It was about time for a sprint, and the sprint came, with Leleivyte sending the whole Lithuanian troop at Verbania on cloud nine while efforts from combative Bastianelli didn't get proper reward. In between the European Champion and the World Champion was Ukraine's Leysa Kalitovska, who added a silver medal to the ITT bronze medal she captured two days earlier. Too bad that there are no more races left for her to make her climbing to the top of the podium complete ...
European Champs: U23 Women’s Road Race (129.6 km): Results
1. LELEIVYTE, RASA - LITHUANIA - 03h30'56'' (36.859 kph)
2. KALITOVSKA, LESYA - UKRAINE - s.t.
3. BASTIANELLI, MARTA - ITALY - s.t.
4. BRENNAUER, LISA - GERMANY - s.t.
5. BRUNIS, REGINA - NETHERLANDS - s.t.
6. KRASNIAK, JULIE - FRANCE - s.t.
7. KOZONCHUK, OXANA - RUSSIA - s.t.
8. DECROIX, LISELOT - BELGIUM - s.t.
9. SANCHIS, ANNA - SPAIN - s.t.
10. GALYUK, SVITLANA - UKRAINE - s.t.
11. TUSLAITE, DAIVA - LITHUANIA - at 08''
12. CILVINAITE, INGA - LITHUANIA - at 27''
13. WOLFER, ANDREAS - SWITZERLAND - s.t.
14. JOSEFSSON, CATRINE - SWEDEN - s.t.
15. PAPKO, AKSANA - BELARUS - s.t.
16. RIVAT, AMELIE - FRANCE - s.t.
17. BERLATO, ELENA - ITALY - s.t.
18. HOHL, JENNIFER - SWITZERLAND - s.t.
19. AMIALYUSIK, ALENA - BELARUS - s.t.
20. MOLICHEVA, IRINA - RUSSIA - s.t.
21. LINDBERG, MARIE - SWEDEN - s.t.
22. ANDRUK, ALONA - UKRAINE - s.t.
23. POHL, STEPHANIE - GERMANY- s.t.
24. POPOVA, DARIA - RUSSIA - s.t.
25. SHARGA, OLENA - UKRAINE - s.t.
26. AUBRY, EMILIE - SWITZERLAND - s.t.
27. BRUCHENKOV, ALEXANDRA - RUSSIA - at 01'54"
28. DRUYTS, KELLY - BELGIUM - at 02'59"
29. JOERHEND, MARLEN - GERMANY- s.t.
30. MACHACOVA, JARMILA - CZECH REPUBLIC- s.t.
31. VAN DIJK, ELLEN - NETHERLANDS - s.t.
32. THUMM, CORINNA - GERMANY - s.t.
33. VAN VEEN, SUZANNE - NETHERLANDS - s.t.
34. PYRGIES, MAGDALENA - POLAND - s.t.
35. BRAVARD, MELANIE - FRANCE - s.t.
36. RYCZEK, AGNIESKZA - POLAND - s.t.
37. LEPASALU, LAURA - ESTONIA - s.t.
38. KASPER, ROMY - GERMANY - s.t.
39. ZUCKERMANDEL DENISE - GERMANY - at 03'58"
The bunch lost control of events after a short time in the seven-lap Men's Road Race
instead. Attacks came since the flag was dropped and Klaas Lodewijck (Belgium), fellow Beneluxian Michel Kreder (Netherlands), Biel Kadri (France), Florian Frohn (Germany) as much as the recently crowned Italian National Champion Damiano Caruso made the gap after ten kilometres. They put close to two minutes into the pack, led by the Russian armada, even though Lodewijck was replaced by the Latvian Gatis Smukulis by km. 52. Still, Belgium got back into the breakaway group at km. 70, courtesy of Jan Bakelants. Three more riders joined the front in lap four: Christoph Pfingsten for Germany, Blaz Furdi for Slovenia and Matteo Busato for the host country.
Kreder fell off the pace at km. 95 and Cyril Gautier put in his own show a dozen kilometres later: the young gun from Brittany powered away from the field and quickly made contact with the breakaway group, just to attack again with 40k to go. Bakelants and Kadri followed his move and so did Caruso and Furdi, resulting in a five-strong lead group. Around the halfway point of lap six, the peloton was trailing the Fab Five by over a minute, with solo chaser Busato sitting in between.
But when Gautier gave it a shot a going away solo with 26k remaining, his newest move bore fruit. The French rapidly took over a minute out of Bakelants, Kadri, Caruso and Furdi with Pavel Kochetkov of Russia and Laurent Beret of Switzerland successfully trying to join them, and the peloton some two minutes back as the bell was ringing.
The last lap drama saw the bunch regroup again behind the solo escapee, and finally chase hard, with the delay going down to the minute. In the meantime Daniel Martin succeeded in distancing himself from the pack, but his efforts to close down on Gautier were all in vain: the Irishman was brought back in the last couple miles. Nobody could stop the boy in white, red and blue from making his winning ride to the European title complete: Cyril Gautier crossed the line - his arms raised to celebrate - 24 seconds clear of the bunch, whose sprint for second place was won by Germany's Paul Voss. A well-earned prize for the guy who got his early season plans messed up as he fell and broke his collarbone at Tour of the Mediterranean in February. Cyril was back to the races slightly over one month ago.
Unaware of Gautier's stellar performance, and thinking that he was the winner, the German also raised his arms and yelled in joy as he crossed the finish line, celebrating his own ... er, presumed victory even more loudly than the actual champion did about half a minute earlier. Quite a tragicomic scene, albeit not that unusual in this sport, you know. Timofey Kritsky filled in the remaining podium place for the Russian Federation with Ben Swift in fourth; the Brits missed the podium by a whisker for the second time in two days. Despite Caruso's and Busato's solid rides, no Italians made the top ten, with 11th place finisher Simone Ponzi as the top-placed guy from the "home side".
European Champs: U23 Men's Road Race (151.2 km): Top 20 Spots
1. GAUTIER, CYRIL - FRANCE - 03h39'49''
2. VOSS, PAUL - GERMANY - at 24''
3. KRITSKIY, TIMOFEY - RUSSIA - s.t.
4. SWIFT, BEN - GREAT BRITAIN - s.t.
5. SCHORN, DANIEL - AUSTRIA - s.t.
6. KOREN, KRISTIJAN - SLOVENIA - s.t.
7. BEURET, LAURENT - SWITZERLAND - s.t.
8. NECHITA, ANDREI - ROMANIA - s.t.
9. BERDOS, OLEG - MOLDOVA - s.t.
10. PATERSKI, MACIEJ - POLAND - s.t.
11. PONZI, SIMONE - ITALY - s.t.
12. BAUGNIES, JEROME - BELGIUM - s.t.
13. DURASEK, KRISTIJAN - CROATIA - s.t.
14. VANMARCKE, SEP - BELGIUM - at 29''
15. MARYCZ, JAROSLAW - POLAND - s.t.
16. KOCHETKOV, PAVEL - RUSSIA - at 31''
17. SMUKULIS, GATIS - LATVIA - s.t.
18. CUNCHA, MARCO - PORTUGAL - s.t.
19. KOSYAKOV, PAVEL - RUSSIA - s.t.
20. PORESEV, ALEXANDER - RUSSIA - s.t.
* European Cycling Championships - Day One (U23 ITTs)
* European Cycling Championships - Day Two (Junior ITTs)