Some of Europe's best riders will descend on Alkmaar, in the Netherlands, from August 7-11 for the UEC Road European Championships, with defending champion Matteo Trentin of Italy going up against Great Britain's Mark Cavendish in the men's road race, and recent RideLondon Classique winner Lorena Wiebes of the Netherlands attempting to usurp Italy's Marta Bastianelli in the women's road race.
Organised since 1995 as an under-23 competition, and as an under-23 and junior competition from 2005, elite events weren't added to the programme until 2016, which means that the Flag of Europe champion's jersey is still a relatively new addition to the professional peloton.
Hosted by the European Cycling Union, this year's competition will serve to trial a new format of event ahead of its implementation at the UCI World Championships in the UK in late September: the mixed relay.
As well as the junior, under-23 and elite individual time trials and road races for both men and women, the elite men and women will compete in the new format, which will replace the team time trials at next month's World Championships, on the opening day of competition in Alkmaar.
Following the time trials, the elite women's road race takes place on Saturday, August 10, before the curtain goes down on the championships at the conclusion of the men's road race on Sunday, August 11.
Kicking off proceedings in Alkmaar on Wednesday is something completely new: the 'mixed relay' team time trial, in which national teams will race against one other, with three men starting the team time trial together – per a normal TTT – and completing a lap of the course before 'handing over' to three women, who will complete the race, with the times being taken on the second woman home.
The format will replace the team time trial – which was run between trade teams since its reintroduction in 2012 – at the World Championships, and so the European Championships event is something of a dress rehearsal for September's event at the Worlds in Yorkshire, in the UK.
According to the BBC, however, Great Britain will not field a squad for the mixed relay, which may indicate a lack of interest by them in the event for the Worlds on home soil in September, as this week's race will be an opportunity for national teams to try out riders – and test out the new format – ahead of the Worlds next month.
The elite women's individual time trial will get under way late morning on Thursday, after the U23 women's time trial, with the U23 men and the elite men's TT following in the afternoon. All time trials will take place over the same, flat 22.4km course – and the same course used for the mixed relay the previous day – meaning that the out-and-out strongest riders, save mishap, should prevail.
Defending women's champion Ellen van Dijk of the Netherlands will be very difficult to beat, due to the fact that she's competing on home soil and because she's won all three of the previous elite women's TT competitions. Her compatriot and two-time silver medallist Anna van der Breggen will not be lining out, leaving the race open for challengers from other nations – but it's certainly very hard to look past Van Dijk.
Britain's Alex Dowsett will surely be a medal prospect in the men's individual time trial in the absence of last year's winner Victor Campenaerts of Belgium. Campenaerts revealed last month that he didn't feel sufficiently recovered from having taken the Hour Record in April – and then having ridden the Giro d'Italia and won a stage at the Tour of Belgium – to defend his title.
As reported, there'll be no elite men's squad from Spain this year at any of the European Championship events, as the competition has been deemed by the Spanish federation to clash with too many other elite events. That means no Jonathan Castroviejo, who took silver behind Campenaerts at last year's time trial in Glasgow, Scotland, while bronze medallist Max Schachmann of Germany is not on his country's short list, either.
Dowsett will, however, come up against the likes of 2017 bronze medallist Ryan Mullen of Ireland, Danish time trial champion Kasper Asgreen, and Italian Filippo Ganna, who now rides on the road for Team Ineos, and is the reigning individual pursuit champion. Also targeting the time trial is 19-year-old Belgian wunderkind Remco Evenepoel, who won the Clasica San Sebastian in his first season as a pro with Deceuninck-QuickStep, which should make for a very open and entertaining race for the right to wear the European-flag skinsuit at all time trials over the next 12 months.
In the women's road race, last year's winner Marta Bastianelli, of Italy, will be hard to beat, but if anyone can, it's the in-form Lorena Wiebes – winner of the RideLondon Classique at the weekend – who will line up on home soil for the Netherlands.
It will be interesting to see exactly how the Netherlands play things for the road race, with a number of riders capable of winning, including Wiebes, 2017 winner Marianne Vos and Kirsten Wild, with the latter having been first across the finish line at the RideLondon Classique before being relegated for a dangerous manoeuvre that led to a crash, with second-placed Wiebes then being handed the victory as a result.
However, the very flat nature of the 11.5km road-race course – which the women will cover 10 times for a race total of 115km – has ensured that neither Olympic and world road race champion Anna van der Breggen, who also took the European title in 2016, nor reigning time trial world champion Annemiek van Vleuten will line up, giving the Dutch selectors slightly less of a headache.
While final start lists were yet to be published at the time of writing, the British team has announced its finalised squads for the championships, led by Mark Cavendish in the men's road race. Peter Sagan – who won the European road race title in 2016 – was named on Slovakia's long list, but is set to miss the event.
Norway have 2017 winner Alexander Kristoff, while Italy will field defending champion Matteo Trentin, who also won a stage at the recent Tour de France – for which Cavendish was overlooked entirely by his Dimension Data team.
While the majority of the men's road race will be held over the same flat 11.5km course used by the championships' other road races, the men will first complete a single loop of a 46.2km course.
Elite races at the 2019 UEC Road European Championships (all times are CEST)
Wednesday, August 7
14:30 – 16:30: Mixed relay (combined elite men's and women's team time trial), 44.8km
Thursday, August 8
10:45 – 12:00: Elite women's individual time trial, 22.4km
15:00 – 16:30: Elite men's individual time trial, 22.4km
Saturday, August 10
13:00 – 16:00: Elite women's road race, 115km
Sunday, August 11
11:30 – 16:00: Elite men's road race, 172.6km
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