Elia Viviani was thrilled to take the European road race champion's title at the UEC Road European Championships on Sunday, winning from a three-man breakaway as opposed to the bunch sprints the Italian's used to winning from. Belgium's Yves Lampaert took the silver medal, with Germany's Pascal Ackermann completing the podium.
"It's absolutely amazing," said Viviani via his Deceuninck-QuickStep trade team's website. "I can't find the words to tell you what this means to me. I came out of the Tour de France with good condition, and was hoping to be in contention for the gold medal. To finally get it, two years after I finished runner-up, gives me immense joy."
In 2017, when the championships were held in Herning, Denmark, Viviani finished second to Norway's Alexander Kristoff in a bunch sprint. On Sunday, however, Viviani soon found himself as part of a 13-rider breakaway on the flat and windy course in Alkmaar, in the Netherlands, which also included his Italian teammate and defending champion Matteo Trentin. With around 25km to go, Viviani, Lampaert and Ackermann escaped off the front, and the trio built up an unassailable lead over the rest to ensure that the medals would be divided up between them.
Lampaert attacked with 3.5km to go, and Viviani was content to let Ackermann try to reel him in. However, once it was clear that the German was unable to close the gap, Viviani jumped after Lampaert, leaving Ackermann behind with 3km to race.
In the closing stages of the race, Viviani sat on Lampaerts wheel, and then launched his sprint with 150 metres to go, easily dispatching Lampaert to take the title.
"We watched all the other races here in Alkmaar and we knew that we had to change our tactic, because the wind was to play a big part in the outcome, as it did the entire week. I had really strong legs, and took a lot of risks today, and it all paid off. Being there at the front together with Yves, who is my [Deceuninck-QuickStep] teammate and a good friend, was really nice and special. I am extremely happy, and proud of this win – one of the finest of my entire career, as it didn't come from a bunch sprint."
Lampaert's second place also meant that both elite men's events at the European Championships were won by a Deceuninck-QuickStep rider, with the runner-up on both occasions also from the same trade team – although the championships were disputed between national teams.
The individual time trial last week was won by Belgium's Remco Evenepoel, with Deceuninck teammate Kasper Asgreen, representing Denmark, taking the silver medal.
"The race split quite early under the impetus of the Italians," explained road-race silver medallist Lampaert. "Then, as things progressed, only 13 guys remained at the front, and I was one of them. When the three of us rode clear with 25 kilometres left, we knew that, despite the gap being just 30 seconds, it wasn't going to be easy for the chasers to close it, so we pushed hard, as that was the big chance to hold firm our advantage.
"Going into the last kilometres, I was aware that I didn't stand a chance in the sprint, so I tried to go alone, but Elia was strong and managed to bridge across. I'm happy with my result, as taking second place and the silver medal is the best outcome, considering everything," the 2018 Belgian road race champion said.
Lampaert will remain with Deceuninck-QuickStep next season, but new European champion Elia Viviani is heading for pastures new in 2020, having recently confirmed a move to French team Cofidis.