Italy won the opening race of the European Road Championships in Trento, dominating the Team Relay event thanks to the power of Filippo Ganna in the men's trio and the combined strength of Elisa Longo Borghini, Elena Cecchini and Marta Cavalli in their ride.
Riders contested the Team Relay on a 22.4km flat valley time trial course south of Trento, with the three men riding the out and back course before the three women started their ride.
Italy set a combined time of 51:59, the only team to go below the 52-minute mark.
Germany finished second in a time of 52:20, with the Netherlands third in 52:25. France was fourth in 53:27.
Just eight teams took part in the Team Relay, with Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar unable to race with his partner Urška Žigart after a teammate fell ill.
Ganna dragged the Italian men's trio along for much of their ride, with Italian national time trial Matteo Sobrero doing some turns, as Alessandro De Marchi tried to stay in contact and help whenever he could until being distanced in the final kilometres.
Longo Borghini, Cecchini and Cavalli stayed together for all of their 22.4km ride, taking smooth equal turns and producing a controlled ride.
The Netherlands set the fastest time, dominating the early wave of riders on the out and back course as they tried to repeat their 2019 title. However, Bouwman was dropped by Bauke Mollema and Jos van Emden with five kilometres to go in the men's ride and Floortje Mackaij, Amy Pieters and Demi Vollering were unable to make up for the time lost.
Germany produced a well-drilled ride to win the silver medal just six seconds faster than the Netherlands, with Maximilian Walscheid dragging along the men for long spells of their rider. Corinna Lechner, Mieke Kroger and Tanja Erath finished together in the women's ride to seal the silver medal.
"This is a fantastic result for us and a great way to start these fantastic races. It's important for us and a good sign for the races to come," Ganna said before the Italian national anthem rang out over Trento and the six riders squeezed onto the podium in their new European champions jersey.
23-year-old Marta Cavalli was pushed to speak on television by her older and better-known teammates Longo Borghini and Cecchini.
"It's a surprise to win, this is the first time in the Team Relay and I've only done one TTT at the Giro Rosa," Cavalli said.
"We'd never ridden together either and it wasn't easy because there was a lot of wind. But we rode a controlled ride because we knew we were ahead. It's great to win here in front of the Italian fans. It's also the first win of my 2021 season."
Ganna was a surprise selection for the Italy but proved to be the driving force of the men's trio. However, he will have to recover quickly for the men's individual time trial on Thursday afternoon on the same 22.4km course.
"We'll see if my body has recovered well and then we'll try to start fast like today. I think I'm feeling good and hope to do as well as possible," he said.
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