Preview: Vos, Van der Breggen, Johansson and other top Europeans to compete at first-ever elite European Championships

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One glance at the startlist for this weekend’s European Championships in France shows that the race for the coveted gold-starred blue jersey will be hard-fought. All road Olympic medalists — Anna van der Breggen (NED), Emma Johansson (SWE) and Elisa Longo Borghini (ITA) — are slated to compete as are former world champions Marianne Vos, Giorgia Bronzini and Tatiana Guderzo.

Medals. UEC

The first-ever elite European Championship events

The European Championships, regulated by the Union Européenne de Cyclisme (UEC), has been held since 1995, but 2016 will be the first year with the addition of elite categories. Previously the championships were limited to U23 and Junior categories only, and many on the startlist for the elite events are former U23 or junior champions.

Racing starts Wednesday, September 14, and concludes with the men’s elite road race on Sunday, September 18. Perfectly placed in between the Rio Olympics and the UCI World Road Championships  in October, these championships should serve as good training, as well as give the riders another indication as to where they stand in comparison to their rivals.

The 2016 European Championships Programme:

Wednesday, September 14: ITT Junior women, ITT Junior Men, ITT U23 men
Thursday, September 15: ITT Elite and Espoir women, ITT Elite Men
Friday, September 16: Road race Junior women, Road race Espoir men
Saturday, September 17: Road race Elite and Espoir women, road race Junior men
Sunday, September 18: Road race Elite men

A last-minute host city change

Nice was due to host the event but withdrew following the terrorist attack in July. The UEC reviewed bids from several cities, including Yorkshire and Trentino, but decided to keep the event on French soil and assigned the event to the city of Plumelec.

Plumelec is no stranger to being a host city, having welcomed the Tour de France five times as well as several French professional Championships. The GP Plumelec-Morbihan, a UCI 1.1. race, is held there annually as well.

The Courses

The European Championship road course will follow the challenging route of the GP Plumelec-Morbihan with its famous Côte de Cadoudal, a 1.8-kilometre climb with an average gradient of 7.8%. The race finish will be at the summit. The women’s peloton will complete the 13.9-kilometre circuit eight times for a total of 111.2 kilometres.

UEC Championships 2016 - RR women

The 25.4-kilometre time trial course borrows heavily from the road circuit and as such, features several climbs and after a rather technical last few kilometres with lots of cornering will end on top of the Côte de Cadoudal.

UEC Championships 2016 - TT women

The Competition

TT favourites

Zabelinskaya (Russia), Armstrong (USA), Van der Breggen (The Netherlands)
Zabelinskaya (Russia), Armstrong (USA), Van der Breggen (The Netherlands) on the Rio Olympics podium

Olga Zabelinskaya (BePink, Russia)
Russian rider Olga Zabelinskaya is going into the race as  a top favourite. She was a silver medallist in Rio last month and a two-time bronze medallist in London in 2012. Despite having had some time away from racing after testing positive for octopamine in 2014, Zabelinskaya showed that she is in great form in Rio, coming in just five seconds slower than gold medallist Kristin Armstrong.

Anna van der Breggen (Rabo Liv, The Netherlands)
She won Olympic gold in the women’s road race in Rio last month and followed her performance up with another medal-winning ride in the time trial just a few days later. Anna van der Breggen clearly timed her peak fitness right for the Olympics and if she has managed to hold onto that fitness, she should be in great form to take home another set of medals at the European championships.

Ellen van Dijk (Boels-Dolmans, The Netherlands)
I have no doubt that Ellen van Dijk would have medalled in the Rio time trial if she hadn’t ridden off the road early on in the race.  She  slipped into the gutter in a moment of carelessness and lost precious seconds trying to get going again. Even so, despite the mishap, she came in just 11 seconds behind compatriot and bronze medallist Anna van der Breggen. Van Dijk usually prefers a flat course but in Rio she showed tremendous form on the hills and the course in Plumelec, baring any mishaps, could be her chance at redemption.

Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5, Italy)
Italian Elisa Longo Borghini made an excellent Olympic debut in Rio last month, earning a bronze medal in the road race and a fifth place finish in the time trial behind Dutch powerhouse Ellen van Dijk. Coming into form later in spring, Borghini won the Italian time trial title, and showed good form in the Giro d’Italia where she took third in the time trial and won the mountain classification. She may not be strong enough for the win in Plumelec, but she’s definitely a podium contender.

Read the full startlist here 

Road race favourites

 

Anna van der Breggen wins the women's Olympic road race in Rio.
Anna van der Breggen wins the women’s Olympic road race in Rio.

Anna van der Breggen (Rabo Liv, The Netherlands)
It may seem repetitive but she did it at the World Championships in Richmond last season and again at the Rio Olympics, so it’s likely that Van der Breggen will medal in both races at the European championships as well. She may even win both. Van der Breggen is in superb form, and the Olympic champion will undoubtedly be heavily watched during the race.

Marianne Vos (Rabo Liv, The Netherlands)
It’s been exactly 10 years since Marianne Vos won the European title a first time as a junior. Ten years later she hopes to do it again. The winningest rider of all time is certainly keen to add this new elite title to her palmares.

Vos is showing good form with a stage win at the Lotto Belgium Tour, where she also took home the points classification jersey. Big question will be if she’s playing domestique again or if she’ll be given the green light to go for the win.

The whole Dutch squad has the potential to win as Chantal Blaak has had her best season yet, Ellen van Dijk is in great climbing form, Lucinda Brand just won the Tour of Norway as well as a stage in the Lotto Belgium Tour, and sprinter Amy Pieters who will be a good asset should the race come down to a mad dash for the finish.

Emma Johansson (Wiggle High5, Sweden)
Emma Johansson is always a serious podium candidate. Her whole career has been a tale of seconds including a silver medal at the 2008 and 2016 Olympics, silver again at the 2013 UCI Road World Championships, and finishing as the runner up in the UCI World Cup series no less than four times. Who wouldn’t love to see her win, especially as she’s planning on retiring at the end of the season. Johansson’s got a strong Swedish team to support her including Vargarda winner Emilia Fahlin.

Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5, Italy)
As mentioned above, Longo Borghini is in good form. Coming off two top five performances in Rio and a successful Giro d’Italia before that, she stands a great chance at medalling in the road race. Plus, she’ll have super strong team to support her with former world champions Giorgia Bronzini and Tatiana Guderzo, veteran Rosella Ratto, and  Elena Cecchini (Canyon-SRAM), who is considered somewhat of a potential winner herself after winning the Thüringen Rundfahrt.

We would have listed Polish rider Kasia Niewiadoma (Rabo-Liv), who’s pictured in the feature image, as a race favourite but she’ll be riding in the U23 race with the hope of defending her European U23 Champion title from last year.  

Read the full startlist here 

Watch it live

Thanks to a partnership between the UEC and EBU-Eurovision, the weekend road races will be broadcast live in nearly 60 countries.

TV Schedule

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