This weekend marked the annual staging of many of the European national championships, in which riders across the continent battle over the right to wear their national colours for the next year. Many big names were in action, and a few used the opportunity to fire a warning shot just days before the start of the Tour de France. Here’s how the major road races panned out.
There was something of a surprise winner in the Belgian national championships in on a flat course in Wielsbeke, with Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Belisol) taking victory in a sprint finish. He pipped Roy Jans (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) to the post, with Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) finishing third.
A strong breakaway of eight riders still had a gap of 20 seconds heading into the final 5km, though it was reeled in late. Courtesy of a strong lead-out from his teammate Jurgen Roelandts, Debusschere was on hand to take full advantage, crossing the line under typically Belgian leaden skies. Unfortunately Debusschere hasn’t been selected for the Tour de France, so he’ll have to wait a while to show off his Drikleur.
Individual time trial champion: Kristof Vandewalle (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).
In France, Arnaud Demare (FDJ) rubbed salt in the wounds of his teammate Nacer Bouhanni with his first ever national championship win. Having already pipped Bouhanni to a spot at the Tour de France, Demare outsprinted the 2012 French champion to take victory at Futuroscope in Poitiers.
Unsurprisingly Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) tried on numerous occasions to animate proceedings with an attack, and did manage to escape inside the final 30km alongside Ag2r’s Sebastien Turgot. However, they couldn’t stay away and it came down to a straight sprint. Kevin Reza (Europcar) rounded out the podium.
Individual time trial champion: Sylvain Chavanel (IAM)
Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) defended his German national title with a sprint win in Baunatal, edging out John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) to the finish.
A breakaway escaped early on and achieved a maximum gap of over five minutes, though their advantage was gradually closed down by the pursuing group. They weren’t helped by a subsequent attack from time trial specialist Tony Martin (OPQS), which ensured the peloton were even more vigilant with their chasing.
Eventually both the initial break and Martin were reeled in, with Greipel winning the sprint. The wonderfully named Phil Bauhaus (Stolting) finished third.
Individual time trial champion: Tony Martin (OPQS).
Unsurprisingly Sky were the dominant force in the British national championships in Abergavenny, despite the absence of the ill Mark Cavendish. Pete Kennaugh (Sky) took his first national title, nicking victory from teammate Ben Swift. Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEDGE) finished third.
Kennaugh and Swift broke clear of the rest of the field and went head-to-head for the final lap. Kennaugh drove the pace on at the front in a bid to crack his teammate, though Swift stayed locked to his wheel. Swift opened up his sprint first and was expected to comfortably ease away in the final 100 metres, though Kennaugh stunned by sneaking through on the right to take the win. Yates followed home over a minute later.
Individual time trial champion:Bradley Wiggins (Sky).
Over in Italy, the racing had a rather more hilly character. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) took advantage to win the race in Fondo, Trentino and pick up his first win of the season. With just a week to go until the Tour de France, he’ll be hoping he’s hitting form at just the right moment.
Attacks fired off the front of the peloton right from the outset, and the day’s major breakaway opened up a gap of over five minutes. However, Cannondale and Astana were always in control on the front of the peloton, and comfortably reeled the plucky escapees in. After a number of counter-attacks a strong group of six riders was left at the front, including the eventual winner. Nibali made the decisive move on the final climb, just pipping neo-pro Davide Formolo (Cannondale) to the line. Matteo Rabottini (Neri Sottoli) finished third.
Individual time trial champion: Adriano Malori (Movistar).
Jon Izagirre (Movistar) was crowned Spanish national champion on the course in Ponferrada that will host the World Championships road race later in the year. The Basque climber pipped teammate Alejandro Valverde to take the win, with young Euskadi rider Carlos Barbero finishing in third place.
The race began with ten riders escaping though their lead gradually evaporated and the serious attacks started. Movistar’s Imanol Erviti made the first bid for glory, though he didn’t get anywhere. With 12km remaining came the decisive move from Izagirre, who opened up a 20-second gap over the rest of the field.
Valverde soon accelerated in pursuit of his teammate and caught him as they entered Ponferrada, though Izagirre edged him to the line to take his first ever professional victory. The Basque rider dedicated the win to the late Euskaltel-Euskadi soigneur Rufino Murgia, who died last year.
Individual time trial champion:Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
Austria: Riccardo Zoidl (Trek)
Belarus: Yauheni Hutarovich (Ag2r-La Mondiale)
Czech Republic: Zdenek Stybar (OPQS)
Finland: Jussi Veikkanen (FDJ)
Luxembourg: Frank Schleck (Trek)
Netherlands: Sebastian Langeveld (Garmin-Sharp)
Portugal: Nelson Oliveira (Lampre-Merida)
Russia: Alexander Porsev (Katusha)
Slovakia: Peter Sagan (Cannondale)
Switzerland: Martin Elmiger (IAM)