Van Dijk solos to women's European Championship title

Ellen van Dijk (Netherlands) soloed to a remarkable victory in the women's road race at the European Championships in Trento, Italy, completing a near-perfect week following her silver medal in the time-trial on Thursday.

Once a world champion in the individual time-trial and four times a European champion in the same discipline, Van Dijk drew upon all this experience to measure her effort expertly after attacking the breakaway on the penultimate ascent of the Povo Climb, 26km from the finish.

As Van Dijk attacked from the breakaway, Liane Lippert (Germany) attacked from the peloton drawing out a select group of favourites. Though this group reduced Van Dijk's advantage to as little as ten seconds on the Povo climb, Van Dijk was able to rebuild her lead on the descent and flatter sections of the circuit, with her Netherlands teammates helping slow the chase.

In the sprint for the podium places, Lippert took the silver medal, a just reward for her endeavours, while Rasa Leleivyte (Lithuania) finished in third.

How it unfolded

The sixth edition of the women’s road race at the European Championships took place on a 13.2km circuit that began in Trento’s Piazza Duomo. 

Circling the town and skirting the mountains that loom over the landscape there, the circuit was tackled eight times. The Povo climb - a 3.6km ascent at 4.7 per cent - provided the primary obstacle on this course and, indeed, each time the peloton tackled these slopes it became a little smaller as riders were fired out the back of the group.

Though the start was delayed due to an ambulance on the circuit to treat a local resident, once the racing had started it was fast and frantic. 

As ever, the Dutch were the favourites for contained within their ranks were three former European champions — Marianne Vos, Amy Pieters and Annemiek van Vleuten. Accordingly, they, through Riejanne Markus, policed the front of the peloton, to prevent the formation of a breakaway before the first ascent of the Povo climb.

Starkly illustrating the difficulty of this climb, 25 riders slipped out of contention on this first ascent, unable to maintain the pace. On the next lap, the action took place at the front of the peloton rather than the back as various attacks sought to form a breakaway but still no group could escape the peloton’s clutches.

Finally, on the descent, Audrey Cordon-Ragot (France) launched the first of several French attacks,  and though she was chased down by Belgium and the Netherlands, her teammate Eugénie Duval immediately countered. Duval was joined by Tanja Erath (Germany) but Markus was once more posted to the front of the peloton and contained the danger that this pair posed.

Replicating the tactic she had employed on the previous lap, Cordon-Ragot attacked again with 80km to go. This time she was able to prise open a 20 second gap but was reabsorbed into the peloton shortly afterwards.

Fifteen kilometres later the day’s breakaway formed, composed of representatives from four of the strongest nations present: Van Dijk, Aude Biannic (France), Soraya Paladin (Italy) and Romy Kasper (Germany). They created a gap of almost a minute over the next ten kilometres.

This leading quartet became a trio, however, as Biannic was dropped on the slopes of the Povo climb, 48km from the finish. Simultaneously, Marianne Vos (Netherlands) was surprisingly distanced from the peloton, perhaps suffering in the heat.

In a display of their complex tactics and the multitudinous options available to them, the Netherlands led the chase despite Van Dijk’s presence in the breakaway. Belgium, who had no representation in this move, were content to follow in their wake.

The following ascent of the Povo Climb further diminished the firepower within the breakaway as Kasper was dropped, 35km from the finish, and as soon as she re-entered the peloton, the German team moved to the front to control the race. As a result of their efforts, combined with those of the Belgian team, the time gap began to fall a little.

With only Paladin for company, Van Dijk attacked on the flat section of the course but was unable to shake the attentions of the Italian. Showing the true extent of her form, Van Dijk accelerated again on the Povo climb 23km from the finish and was finally able to distance the talented Italian climber.

Forty seconds behind, meanwhile, a blistering attack by Liane Lippert (Germany) on the penultimate ascent of the Povo obliterated both the remnants of the peloton and the advantage that Van Dijk had built up. 

Lippert pulled away a select group comprised mainly of the pre-race favourites as Marlen Reusser (Switzerland), Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands), Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy), Alena Amialiusik (Belarus), Marta Cavalli (Italy), Rasa Leleivyte (Lithuania), Kasia Niewiadoma (Poland) and Demi Vollering (Netherlands) were all present. Once the initial acceleration had passed, however, the pace dissipated from this group and the time gap to Van Dijk expanded back to a minute again.

With Paladin dropped, the chase fell to Italy who had two riders in this group and Longo Borghini sacrificed herself for her younger teammate Cavalli, peeling off, exhausted, ten kilometres from the finish. 

On the steepest section of the last climb, Lippert attacked again, and the resulting acceleration more than halved the time gap to Van Dijk, who clung to just twenty seconds at the summit of the climb.

Once the climbing had finished, though, the course favoured Van Dijk due to her time-trialling abilities and the lack of cohesion within the chase group played into her favour.. 

As on the previous lap, her advantage ballooned to around a minute again as she rode to the finish in central Trento, and she eventually sealed victory by 1:18, celebrating happily after completing one of her best victories of her prestigious career. 

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Full Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Ellen van Dijk (Netherlands) 2:50:35
2Liane Lippert (Germany) 0:01:18
3Rasa Leleivyte (Lithuania)
4Katarzyna Niewiadoma (Poland)
5Demi Vollering (Netherlands)
6Marta Cavalli (Italy)
7Marlen Reusser (Switzerland)
8Alena Amialiusik (Belarus)
9Annemiek van Vleuten (Netherlands) 0:01:21
10Elisa Balsamo (Italy) 0:02:29
11Lisa Brennauer (Germany)
12Floortje Mackaij (Netherlands)
13Eugenia Bujak (Slovenia)
14Lotte Kopecky (Belgium)
15Elise Chabbey (Switzerland)
16Amy Pieters (Netherlands)
17Riejanne Markus (Netherlands)
18Juliette Labous (France)
19Eider Merino Cortazar (Spain)
20Kathrin Hammes (Germany)
21Omer Shapira (Israel)
22Katrine Aalerud (Norway)
23Urška Žigart (Slovenia)
24Erica Magnaldi (Italy) 0:02:44
25Marta Lach (Poland) 0:04:19
26Victorie Guilman (France)
27Tamara Dronova (Russian Federation)
28Hanna Nilsson (Sweden) 0:04:21
29Mie Bjørndal Ottestad (Norway) 0:05:58
30Corinna Lechner (Germany) 0:06:32
31Susanne Andersen (Norway)
32Elisa Longo Borghini (Italy) 0:07:10
DNFChantal van den Broek-Blaak (Netherlands)
DNFMarianne Vos (Netherlands)
DNFSofia Bertizzolo (Italy)
DNFTatiana Guderzo (Italy)
DNFSoraya Paladin (Italy)
DNFDebora Silvestri (Italy)
DNFTrine Holmsgaard (Denmark)
DNFMarita Jensen (Denmark)
DNFPernille Mathiesen (Denmark)
DNFTanja Erath (Germany)
DNFRomy Kasper (Germany)
DNFLisa Klein (Germany)
DNFTrixi Worrack (Germany)
DNFValerie Demey (Belgium)
DNFAnn-Sophie Duyck (Belgium)
DNFLone Meertens (Belgium)
DNFSara van de Vel (Belgium)
DNFJulie van de Velde (Belgium)
DNFFien van Eynde (Belgium)
DNFJesse Vandenbulcke (Belgium)
DNFMalgorzata Jasinska (Poland)
DNFKarolina Karasiewicz (Poland)
DNFAurela Nerlo (Poland)
DNFAnna Plichta (Poland)
DNFDorota Przezak (Poland)
DNFAude Biannic (France)
DNFAudrey Cordon Ragot (France)
DNFEugénie Duval (France)
DNFGladys Verhulst (France)
DNFMorgane Coston (France)
DNFCaroline Baur (Switzerland)
DNFSandra Alonso Dominguez (Spain)
DNFZiortza Isasi Cristobal (Spain)
DNFEukene Larrarte Arteaga (Spain)
DNFIrene Mendez Melgarejo (Spain)
DNFLourdes Oyarbide Jimenez (Spain)
DNFGloria Rodriguez Sanchez (Spain)
DNFIngvild Gåskjenn (Norway)
DNFIngrid Lorvik (Norway)
DNFTatiana Antoshina (Russian Federation)
DNFAnastasiia Chursina (Russian Federation)
DNFSeda Krylova (Russian Federation)
DNFMargarita Syradoeva (Russian Federation)
DNFSarah Rijkes (Austria)
DNFChristina Schweinberger (Austria)
DNFAngelika Tazreiter (Austria)
DNFNathalie Eklund (Sweden)
DNFUrska Bravec (Slovenia)
DNFYuliia Biriukova (Ukraine)
DNFValeriya Kononenko (Ukraine)
DNFOlena Sharga (Ukraine)
DNFOlga Shekel (Ukraine)
DNFGanna Solovei (Ukraine)
DNFOlivija Baleišyte (Lithuania)
DNFInga Ešulien (Lithuania)
DNFViktorija Senkut (Lithuania)
DNFSzabó Zsófia
DNFBajgerová Nikola
DNFMachaová Jarmila
DNFNikola Noskova (Czech Republic)
DNFRotem Gafinovitz (Israel)
DNFLija Laizane (Latvia)
DNFTereza Medvedova (Slovakia)
DNFMegan Armitage (Ireland)
DNFEllen McDermott (Ireland)
DNFSilja Jóhannesdóttir (Iceland)
DNFHafdís Sigurðardóttir (Iceland)
DNFManuela Muresan (Romania)
DNFGeorgeta Ungureanu (Romania)
DNFVarvara Fasoi (Greece)

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