Italy took the first rainbow jersey of the 2017 World Championships in Bergen, dominating the junior women's time trial.
Elena Pirrone took the world title with Alessia Vigilia taking silver. Vigilia was first to start the 16.1km time trial and sat in the race leaders hot seat until last starter Pirrone came home just six seconds faster. Australia's Madeleine Fasnacht was third.
Italy was hoping that national road race and time trial champion Letizia Paternoster would also perform well, and possibly complete the podium but she was hit by a bike and radio problem during her ride, finishing a disappointing ninth.
The Italian women's programme under national coach Dino Salvoldi has produced a string of world champions and successful riders in the last decade. The “junior azure” are enjoying an especially successful season, taking a haul of medals and titles on the track and road.
Pirrone won the European time trial title in Herning in the summer and now has the rainbow jersey too. She has fought her way out of the shadow of Vigilia and Paternoster to confirm that Italy has another talented young rider that should develop and mature, eventually replacing current elite athletes Elisa Longo Borghini and Giorgia Bronzini.
"It's incredible to win both. I didn't expect to win the European title but today I was very motivated and knew the course was perfect for me. I'm good on hard course like this because I can climb pretty well," she said, showing maturity and determination beyond her years.
Salvoldi has developed a successful programme to develop female athletes in Italy. Resources are not huge but the riders have raced and trained together for much of the summer. The young Italian athletes are often inspired by their parents or brothers and sisters who raced. They are managing to mix training and racing with school, winning races and scoring highly in exams.
"Being part of the national team has helped me develop and grows a rider," Pirrone explained. "The national team has held a lot of training camps and training sessions during the summer. We spend a lot of time together so we're very close as a team and we all get on. That makes a difference for sure. We ride as a team and help each other in every moment."
Pirrone and Vigilia both come from Bolzano, high up in the north of Italy. Pirrone's parents both raced and so fully support their daughter's career. She hugged them just after the finish line and dedicated her world title to them.
Pirrone revealed she will turn professional and ride for the Astana women's team in 2018. However, school exams will be as big of a goal as cycling results.
"Next year I've got my important school exams and so my first season as an elite rider will be a difficult season. I want to study law at University. I want to follow in the footsteps of Manuel Quinziato, who is from the same area as me," she explained.
"It'll take time to step up a level but I'm not going to rush things. I want to do things, right and I'm sure I can enjoy a good career as I grow and develop."
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