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European Championships: Küng retains time trial title

Stefan Kung (Switzerland) was crowned European time trial champion for a second year in a row after a blistering ride in Trento on Thursday.

The Swiss rider averaged over 55kph clock 24:30 on the 22.4km course, bettering the time posted by world champion Filippo Ganna (Italy) by a considerable eight seconds.

Remco Evenepoel (Belgium) won the bronze medal at 15 seconds. 

Kung defended the European title he won 12 months ago in Plouay, but did so this time against much sterner opposition, making this probably the most impressive result of his career.

The time trial was set up perfectly for the finale, with Kung, Ganna and Evenepoel all among the last four riders off the start ramp, and all separated by just four seconds at the halfway checkpoint.

Kung was the slowest of the three there, but rode a searing second half, catching his minute-man Remi Cavagna (France) and gaining eleven seconds on Ganna, who had been four seconds quicker at the halfway point.

That meant Ganna had to settle for silver medal, ending his fantastic run in time trials in front of home crowds, which included five stage wins against the clock at the last two editions of the Giro d’Italia, and gold at the World Championships last year. 

"It was a really fast course," explained Kung at the finish. "But even though on the way back we had a little tailwind, it was really important to keep some power until the end, with all the corners and the small bridges. 

"I knew when I did the intermediate [checkpoint] that I was within reach of the first two [Ganna and Evenepoel]. Normally it’s always my strength to come back in the end, and today I was just pushing and pushing and pushing."

The victory puts Kung among the top favourites to win the Worlds title in Flanders in just over a week’s time, and he stated his intention to go for victory.

"It’s nice to have the [European Champions] jersey, but my big goal is to have a different jersey on the 19th of September in Bruges. That’s my big goal that I’m working to since Tokyo."

How it unfolded

Despite being held in the mountainous region of Trentino, the time trial route remained in the valley, meaning it was almost totally flat. At 22.4km, it was also relatively short, favouring riders who can produce intensive efforts without having to sustain their efforts for too long.

2019 silver medallist Kasper Asgreen (Denmark) was third off, and inevitably set the early benchmark, covering the first half of the course in 12:53, and passing his minute-man Janos Pelikan (Hungary) en route to posting a time of 25:21 at the finish. 

Asgreen might have hoped to hold that lead for a while, but Edoardo Affini (Italy) was a whole 17 seconds quicker at the intermediate time check, reportedly averaging 53kph into a light headwind. Affini’s advantage over Asgreen decreased a little over the second half of the course, but 25:08 was still enough for him to move onto the hot seat.

His stay was short-lived, however, as Switzerland’s Stefan Bissegger (Switzerland) was on a flyer close behind him. The 23-year-old just about edged Affini by two seconds at the intermediate check-point, and then produced a very quick second-half to post a new best time 14 seconds quicker. 

The likes of Joao Almeida (Portugal), Max Walscheid (Germany) and Tadej Pogacar (Slovenia) — who was riding his first time trial since winning the Tour de France — all put in decent showings, but Bissegger’s time wasn’t challenged until the big guns going off at the very end.

First Filippo Ganna put 12 seconds into him at the intermediate check, then the very next man behind him, Remco Evenepoel, went just one second slower. When the last man out, defending champion Kung, posted a time just a few seconds slower than Evenpoel, it was clear we were in the midst of a fantastic three-way battle for gold.

Ganna was going so fast that he brought his minute-man - Tadej Pogacar, no less - within sight, and benefited from a few seconds of slipstream before passing him. 

The Italian smashed Bissegger’s time by 15 seconds, and looked like he was primed for what would have been his first ever European time trial title when Evenepoel faded slightly over the second half of the course.

But it turned out that Kung had ridden a negative split, and stormed to the line to defend his title by a very impressive seven seconds.

Full Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Stefan Küng (Switzerland) 0:24:29
2Filippo Ganna (Italy) 0:00:08
3Remco Evenepoel (Belgium) 0:00:15
4Stefan Bissegger (Switzerland) 0:00:23
5Maximilian Walscheid (Germany) 0:00:38
6Edoardo Affini (Italy) 0:00:39
7Kasper Asgreen (Denmark) 0:00:52
8Maciej Bodnar (Poland) 0:01:04
9Rémi Cavagna (France) 0:01:06
10João Almeida (Portugal) 0:01:17
11Jos van Emden (Netherlands) 0:01:17
12Tadej Pogačar (Slovenia) 0:01:21
13Rune Herregodts (Belgium) 0:01:30
14Rafael Reis (Portugal) 0:01:34
15Bruno Armirail (France) 0:01:35
16Miguel Heidemann (Germany) 0:01:38
17Jan Bárta (Czech Republic) 0:01:51
18Ryan Mullen (Ireland) 0:02:10
19Artem Nych (Russian Federation) 0:02:10
20Felix Ritzinger (Austria) 0:02:12
21Mikkel Bjerg (Denmark) 0:02:14
22Ognjen Ilić (Serbia) 0:02:17
23Barnabás Peák (Hungary) 0:02:18
24Julius van den Berg (Netherlands) 0:02:21
25Andreas Miltiadis (Cyprus) 0:02:30
26Artem Ovechkin (Russian Federation) 0:02:34
27Mykhaylo Kononenko (Ukraine) 0:02:35
28János Zsombor Pelikán (Hungary) 0:02:37
29Conn mc Dunphy (Ireland) 0:02:42
30Omer Goldstein (Israel) 0:02:42
31Oleksandr Holovash (Ukraine) 0:02:51
32Ukko Peltonen (Finland) 0:02:54
33Andrej Petrovski (North Macedonia) 0:03:09
34Michel Ries (Luxembourg) 0:03:09
35Spas Gyurov (Bulgaria) 0:03:32
36Venantas Lašinis (Lithuania) 0:04:02
37Ingvar Omarsson (Iceland) 0:04:04
38Ronald Kuba (Slovakia) 0:04:15
39Evaldas Siskevicius (Lithuania) 0:05:04

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