The Junior & U23 European Championships at Verbania (in Northern Italy's Piedmont Region) ended Sunday in an all-Italian festa with the closing event, the Junior Women's Road Race, being won by a girl of the host nation.
Not an "average" girl though, but Her Royal Majesty Valentina Scandolara, winner of this same title also the past year ... and of the Italian national title under two weeks ago ... and of half a dozen more national championships ... and she was even three-time Italian Cross-Country Champion (yes, her legs are fast also off the bike) ... and she's a very good student in her high School also. And she's just 18!
It must not have been that difficult for such a natural-born winner teenager to account for her rivals in the small bunch sprint this 86.4-kilometre (four laps of the "usual" circuit of 21.6 kilometres) contest came down to. The girl from the Verona area beat Ukraine's Valeriya Kononenko - winner of the ITT race Friday - and Belgium's Jessie Daams, as much as ten more members of the front group that formed during the last lap and featured also Britain's Katie Colclough, Evelyn Arys and Kaat Hannes of Belgium, France's Marlene Petit and Aurore Verhoven, Scandolara's teammate Rossella Callovi (she was much of help to her team leader, but so did the whole Squadra Azzurra), Anne Van der Bregge (Netherlands), Nicole Hanselmann (Switzerland) plus Maria Mishina (Russia) and Ielizaveta Oshurkova (Ukraine).
Marlene Petit gave it a go and breaking away from the front group with 4k left, but her hopes evaporated about a thousand metres later. The only earlier attack worthy of particular mention had come during lap three, courtesy of Holland's Winanda Spoor, that wasn't allowed to stay clear longer than eight kilometres and put more than half a minute into the 40-strong main group anyway.
European Champs: Junior Women’s RR (86.4 km): Top 10 Places
1. Valentina Scandolara (Ita) - 02h22'06" (36.481 kph)
2. Valeriya Kononenko (Ukr) - s.t.
3. Jessie Daams (Bel) - s.t.
4. Aurore Verhoeven (Fra) - s.t.
5. Marlene Petit (Fra) - s.t.
6. Anne Van der Breggen (Hol) - s.t.
7. Kaat Hannes (Bel) - s.t.
8. Katie Colclough (GBR) - s.t.
9. Evelyn Arys (Bel) - s.t.
10. Maria Mishina (Rus) - s.t.
Earlier in the day, Johan Le Bon
had emerged victor from the pouring rain to take the road race title in the Junior Men's class. The 18-year-old Frenchman, usually wearing the Union Cycliste Briochine team jersey, had given a first display of his skills two days before by nabbing the bronze in the Junior men's ITT from Arona to Stresa. But one medal wasn't enough for the young gun from Brittany, who took the big prize Sunday thanks to a powerful and timely attack about 2 kilometres from the finish of the 129.6-km bike battle.
Le Bon managed to ride away from his breakaway companions, amongst whom were Britain's Luke Rowe and Polish hopeful Piotr Gawronsky, that eventually landed on the other podium spots. The lad from Cardiff finally succeeded in getting the United Kingdom into the medal places, after two narrowly missed attempts by Katie Colclough and Ben Swift respectively. The other escapees were the winner's fellow countrymen Laurent Brochard and Denis Zimine plus Tomas Danacik of the Czech Republic, Matteo Cattaneo of Italy, Lukasz Owisan (also from Poland) and Nejc Kosir of Slovenia. In fact only Owisan tried to follow Le Bon, but resistance was futile and the Pole, 30th place getter across the line, had to give up his hopes.
Like "Queen Valentina" in the girls' event, the winner finished off an excellent teamwork: France did a helluva job basically throughout this hectic - in spite of adverse weather conditions - competition, getting also Brochard (since the first half) and Zimine (later) in the breakaways. But the winning group, containing Le Bon and the other top finishers, was made at km. 112 only. Then the Breton put in the crucial attack and continued his march to the gold all by himself. Fans from the land of Le Tour may not be having a good time when it comes to the current professional cycling scene, but with prospects like Le Bon and Cyril Gautier (winner of the U23 RR event this past Saturday) they can legitimately hope for a better future.
European Champs: Junior Men's Road Race (129.6 km): Results
1. LE BON, Johan FRANCE - 03h13'57" (40.093 kph)
2. ROWE, Luke GREAT BRITAIN - at 05"
3. GAWRONSKI, Piotr POLAND - s.t.
4. ZIMINE, Boris FRANCE - s.t.
5. KOŠIR, Nejc SLOVENIA - s.t.
6. CATTANEO, Matteo ITALY - s.t.
7. BROCHARD, Florent FRANCE - at 15"
8. SAGAN, Peter SLOVAKIA - at 25"
9. KWIATKOWSKI, Michal POLAND - at 31"
10. ALAFACI, Eugenio ITALY - at 55"
11. SBARAGLI, Kristian ITALY - s.t.
12. BARDET, Romain FRANCE - s.t.
13. MAYKIN, Roman RUSSIA - s.t.
14. PINOT, Thibaut FRANCE - s.t.
15. IVANOU, Yauhen BELARUS - s.t.
16. SPRENGERS, Thomas BELGIUM - s.t.
17. DANACIK, Tomas CZECH REPUBLIC - s.t.
18. BARBIN, Enrico ITALY - s.t.
19. ERSHOV, Artur RUSSIA - at 01'37 - s.t.
20. FELLINE, Fabio ITALY - s.t.
21. SOKOL , Jan AUSTRIA - s.t.
22. HERRADA LOPEZ, Jesus SPAIN - s.t.
23. SCHELLING, Patrick SWITZERLAND - s.t.
24. GRADEK, Kamil POLAND - s.t.
25. DANNER, Fabian GERMANY - s.t.
26. ALEKHIN, Sergey RUSSIA - s.t.
27. FREITAS, Daniel PORTUGAL - s.t.
28. MAQUET, Arnaud BELGIUM - s.t.
29. PETRUS, Lubomir CZECH REPUBLIC - s.t.
30. OWSIAN, Lukasz POLAND - s.t.
31. AHLSTRAND, Jonas SWEDEN - s.t.
32. ZIESLER, Johan Fredrix NORWAY - s.t.
33. POLJANEC, Erik SLOVENIA - s.t.
34. BÜRGEL, Bastian GERMANY - s.t.
35. BOUHANNI, Nacer FRANCE - s.t.
36. HASIBEDER, Thomas AUSTRIA - s.t.
37. WAEYTENS, Zico BELGIUM - s.t.
38. LAVERY, Philip IRELAND - s.t.
39. SILVA, Rafael PORTUGAL - s.t.
40. SKUJINS, Toms LATVIA - s.t.
41. DRUYTS, Gerry BELGIUM - s.t.
42. DŽAMASTAGIC, Mark SLOVENIA - s.t.
43. ROTH, Christopher GERMANY - s.t.
44. SCHLECHTER, Pit LUXEMBOURG - s.t.
45. TRATNIK, Jan SLOVENIA - s.t.
46. FERREIRA, Hélder PORTUGAL - s.t.
47. PLISKO, Siarhei BELARUS - s.t.
48. KLIMAKOV, Sergiy UKRAINE - s.t.
49. CABELLO BAENA, Antonio SPAIN - s.t.
50. ZHUPA, Eugert ALBANIA - s.t.
51. QUINTANILLA MARQUINA, Jesús SPAIN - s.t.
52. JAUN, Lukas SWITZERLAND - s.t.
53. HIRT, Jan CZECH REPUBLIC - at 02'03"
54. ZUBOV, Matvey RUSSIA - s.t.
55. LAZINSKIY, Denis RUSSIA - at 02'35"
56. VOROBYEV, Anton RUSSIA - s.t.
57. VASYLYEV, Maksym UKRAINE - at 02'47"
58. DE BIE, Sean BELGIUM - at 03'12"
59. POLJANSKI, Pawel POLAND - s.t.
60. KING, Alexander GREAT BRITAIN - s.t.
61. ZEKAVICA, Jovan SERBIA - s.t.
62. KOZOMARA, Nikola SERBIA - s.t.
63. KOCH, Michel GERMANY - at 03'25"
64. SURHANAU, Artur BELARUS - at 03'28"
65. EIDSHEIM, Filip NORWAY - s.t.
66. RAID, Risto ESTONIA - s.t.
67. WILLAM, Mike GERMANY - s.t.
68. ORLOV, Artem UKRAINE - s.t.
69. DUFFY, Michael IRELAND - s.t.
70. CHRISTIAN, Mark GREAT BRITAIN - s.t.
71. PROCNER, Michal SLOVAKIA - s.t.
72. PIOTROWICZ, Pawel POLAND - s.t.
73. BAZHKOU, Stanislau BELARUS - s.t.
74. MALINOUSKI, Artsiem BELARUS - s.t.
75. MOCAN, Alexandru MOLDOVA - s.t.
76. VAN DER SANDE, Tosh BELGIUM - at 04'06"
* European Cycling Championships - Day One (U23 ITTs)
* European Cycling Championships - Day Two (Junior ITTs)
* European Cycling Championships - Day Three (U23 Road Races)