Luis León Sánchez may be the one with a gold medal sitting on his mantelpiece but the inaugural European Games road race champion insists his triumph was a true team effort.
Having picked up bronze in the time trial three days previously, the Spaniard was fastest in the sprint from a late four-man escape on the 216-kilometre course that included stretches of cobbles and a climb to Baku’s old city.
Crucially, Spain had an extra card to play in the form of Jesús Herrada, who was also in the move and was able to set Sánchez up with a proper lead-out to get the better of Ukrainian Andriy Grivko and Czech Petr Vakov.
“First of all I want to thank my teammates, especially Jesús, who was phenomenal,” Sánchez said, according to the Spanish cycling federation's website. “It was thanks to him I was able to win, so he deserves the medal really. We knew that we had to be in the moves from the start to not leave ourselves vulnerable to teams who had an extra rider like Belgium, Holland, Russia, or Italy.
“And in the decisive moment, we managed to make it us who had the numerical advantage. In terms of the final, I felt good because I came with the spark of the Giro but having recovered well from its exertions.
“Winning isn’t easy but in the end I managed to pull it off thanks to that work from the team. It is always beautiful to achieve a triumph like this, but above all with the great atmosphere we’ve had in this squad."
Herrada’s work was all the more remarkable given that he had been involved in the day’s main breakaway, which formed half-way through the race and was caught on the 15th of the 16 laps of the course, having once had a lead of four minutes. Nevertheless, he still had the legs and the attacking intent to go again on the frantic final lap, forming a four-man group when Sánchez came up to join.
The cooperating quartet managed to cling on to their slim advantage over a chasing group that included Tom Boonen and Niki Terpstra, and Herrada’s mind turned to sacrificing his chances for the sake of his teammate.
“We had to be in the moves from the start so as not to have any problems,” said Herrada. “When they caught us I still had the strength to get myself in the decisive break but I was fading and noticing it in my turns.
“The fact that Luis arrived behind calmed me down and I decided to work for him, leading out the sprint so he could finish it off. I’m obviously very happy, because we have done a great job and it has culminated in the victory and my fourth place.”
Amialiusik continues success with gold in Baku
Alena Amialiusik (Belarus) continued her string of impressive results with a gold medal in the women's road race in Baku, Azerbaijan. After winning the Winston Salem Classic and landing on the podium at the Philadelphia World Cup, Amialiusik won the three-rider sprint at the European Games ahead of Poland’s Katarzyna Niewiadoma and Anna Van Der Breggen (Netherlands).
The trio were joined mid-way through the 125km race by Ellen van Dijk (Netherlands) and Rossella Ratto (Italy), but the latter punctured out of the move. Van Dijk, winner of the individual time trial, lost contact in the finale, leaving the trio to fight for the gold medal.
“My Belarusian teammates helped me a lot and I have to thank them for their work to achieve this gold medal," Amialiusik said. "I am so happy to win. I knew it would be a hard race, especially when the Dutch came with some of their strongest racers and it’s almost their Olympic team. The most important thing for me was to be smart, remain calm and have confidence in myself.”
Amialiusik will return to her professional team, Velocio-SRAM for the Italian ten-day stage race, Giro Rosa starting 3 July.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spain)||5:27:25|
|2||Andriy Grivko (Ukraine)|
|3||Petr Vakoc (Czech Republic)|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Alena Amialiusik (Belarus)||3:20:36|
|2||Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Poland)|
|3||Anna Van Der Breggen (Netherlands)|