Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Belgians sweep U23 Euro Championships

In somewhat of a surprise, Belgium swept the U23 men's road events at the Junior and U23 European Championships in Brno and Olomouc, Czech Republic last week. While Belgium was a big favorite for the road race, it was the win in the time trial that turned heads.

Friday saw the U23 Time Trial and while the pre-race favorites did well, it was Victor Campenaerts (Lotto Belisol U23) who took the surprise victory in Brno ahead of Ukranian Oleksandr Golovash and German powerhouse Jasha Sütterlin. Marlen Zmorka, once called an alien by Italian U23 TT power Davide Martinelli this year, finished 4th while Andzs Flaksis (Bontrager) did very well to finish 5th.

Campenaerts is a time trial specialist but going into the event, it didn't seem like he would be challenging for the win. A top 5, yes, but riders like Sütterlin, Golovash, Zmorka and Rasmus Sterobo would probably beat him. From his post-race interview, it was gleaned that he had been specifically training for a 30-minute effort for the last couple of months and while he did well in the Vuelta a Madrid and was apart of the winning Belgian TTT Championship team for the 2nd year running, he was a bit under the radar. Campenaerts, a former triathlete, has a very traditional style on the bike with a long and low position and has a back that is flatter than the Dutch coast. While this result is impressive, it remains to be seen if he can perform like this again later in the season.

I always feel like the European Championships, especially the TT, are a bit overrated just for the simple fact that since they are held in the late July, many racers are not on their peak form. Those like Sütterlin just came from the Giro della Valle d'Aosta while there are others that are just coming off breaks and not on their best. In any case, these races have produced surprises in the past so if Campenaerts finishes 10th at the Worlds TT, this writer will not be surprised.

  1. Victor Campenaerts (Belgium)
  2. Oleksandr Golovash (Ukraine) +7"
  3. Jasha Sütterlin (Germany) +25"
  4. Marlen Zmorka (Ukraine) +37"
  5. Andzs Flaksis (Latvia) +39"
  6. Alexis Guérin (France) +40"
  7. Alexis Gougeard (France) +41"
  8. Bekir Baki Akirsan (Turkey) +44"
  9. Maximilian Schachmann (Germany) +47"
  10. Rasmus Sterobo (Denmark) +49"
Sunday's road race was a brutal affair with a whole host of DNFs and some electric racing filled with attacking. The race started franticly with a whole host of attacks and crashes taking out some riders early in the race. Italy and France both fielded deep teams and were the early pace makers but when the race began to heat up, Italy was on the short end of the stick with just Alberto Bettiol and Davide Villella in the finale.

On the final lap, Alexander Foliforov (Russia) attacked and Sean De Bie (Belgium) was quick to be on his wheel and they were joined by Petr Vakoc (Etixx-iHNed/Czech Republic), Toms Skujins (Latvia), Julian Alaphilippe and Olivier Le Gac (France), Maximilian Kuen and Lukas Pöstlberger (Austria) and Bettiol.

De Bie takes the sprint with ease (Photo: Cristian Torri)

 Coming into the finish, both Austrians were distanced as the sprint was becoming inevitable. It was De Bie who was able to easily take the sprint over Vakoc and Skujins and take his first UCI win of the season. De Bie, who just came off a Italian training camp and the Czech Cycling Tour, is going very well and will be looking for a result in the U23 World Championships in Florence, where he will be one of the protected riders. Vakoc has been on fire as of late by winning the Vuelta a Madrid overall, a stage win at the Czech Cycling Tour plus a stage win and now with a podium at the U23 Euros. One of the sensations of the season. Skujins, one of this site's favorite riders, continues a strong season with 3rd and will be one to watch in l'Avenir and at Worlds. Julian Alaphilippe finished 4th and has been another very consistent rider over the whole year while Alexander Foliforov, who finished 5th overall in Valle d'Aosta, showed off his good form with 5th.

Two placings to look at are 10th and 11th in Davide Villella and Luka Pibernik. Villella, known for his Valle d'Aosta overall win two weekends ago, beat out Pibernik, the elite champion of Slovenia, for 10th in the chasing group sprint and could be two to watch come time for Worlds in Florence. 
  1. Sean De Bie (Belgium)
  2. Petr Vakoc (Czech Republic)
  3. Toms Skujins (Latvia)
  4. Julian Alaphilippe (France)
  5. Alexander Foliforov (Russia)
  6. Olivier Le Gac (France) +5"
  7. Alberto Bettiol (Italy) +7"
  8. Maximilian Kuen (Austria) +17"
  9. Lukas Pöstlberger (Austra) +31"
  10. Davide Villella (Italy) +1'03"

No comments:

Post a Comment