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Herning, Denmark, provided the scene for the 2017 European championships. After an elite category was added to the event for the first time in 2016, the race immediately attracted a star studded field. Several national time trial champions lined up in Plumelec, France, in a bid to be crowned the first elite European time trial champion.
Ellen van Dijk was awarded the newly designed white skinsuit with blue details and golden stars in the inaugural elite event and was back in 2017 to defend her title.
There was no match for Van Dijk, who powered to the win almost a minute ahead of silver medalist Ann-Sophie Duyck (Belgium). Anna van der Breggen (The Netherlands) also picked up another medal in the event, after earning silver last year. She took bronze ahead of the third Dutch rider participating in the event, Lucinda Brand, who finished fourth.
The European championships time trial course
The U23 and elite women were faced with a relatively long individual time trial. Their 31.5 kilometre time trial covered a mostly flat course through the suburbs south of Herning.
There were 32 riders on the start list of the 2017 European time trial championships and, looking at the results of the U23 women, we were expecting big time differences.
Almost a quarter of an hour divided the U23 winner, Pernille Matthiessen (Denmark) and the last finisher, Hatice Yilmaz from Turkey. But even the fifth place finisher, Severine Eraud (France) already saw herself 1’40” down on Matthiessen.
It’s wasn’t the profile that made this an interesting time trial course, but the slightly technical start and finish sections, combined with the bad Danish weather conditions, which were present in the elite time trial championships.
How the race began
In the pouring rain, Romanian time trial champion Ana Covrig (Top Girls Fassa Bortolo) was the first rider to roll off the start ramp.
The slippery roads proved challenging, as Emilia Fahlin (Sweden) experienced when she crashed in the first corner. She wasn’t back on her bike immediately and fifteen minutes later, the organisers announced that Fahlin had abandoned the race.
Her Wiggle-High5 teammate Giorgia Bronzini, who will only be racing the European road race this Saturday, immediately took to Twitter for some comforting words:
@EmiliaFahlin what doesn’t kill make you stronger!!! Common champ, the bad luck will run away!
— Giorgia Bronzini (@GiorgiaBronzini) August 3, 2017
Eugenia Bujak (Poland) set the fastest time at the first intermediate time check, but with only the third rider on the road, lots would still be changing as the race went on.
The tenth rider who took to the start, Lucinda Brand (The Netherlands) set the fastest time at the second intermediate time check. However, when her compatriot Anna van der Breggen arrived at the split, she was 16 seconds faster. Van der Breggen set a time of 20’44”, with 14 riders still to cross that time check behind her.
One of the dangers came from the third-to-last rider out of the start blocks, as Belgian time trial champ Ann-Sophie Duyck took off seven seconds from Van der Breggen’s time at the first intermediate time check. But defending champion Ellen van Dijk (The Netherlands) posted the biggest threat, as she bested Duyck’s time by another 11 seconds at the first intermediate time check.
Van Dijk had been the last rider off the start podium, Keen to prolong her title, she went into the race aggressively. She held her bike when her wheel slipped in one of the treacherous corners, but it will certainly have taken away some confidence going into the rest of the race.
At the second time split, it already looked like it was going to be a battle for the silver medal, as Van Dijk posted a time of 20’09” against 20’36” for Duyck, 20’44” for Van der Breggen and 21’00” for Brand. It also looked like the three Dutch riders would all be getting into the top five.
The finish line
At the finish line, Brand moved into the hot seat as she set a time of 42’32”. It’s worth noting that the top four of yesterday’s U23 event all posted quicker times. It says something about today’s horrible weather conditions, but also about the quality of those U23 riders.
The heavy rainfall made it almost impossible to identify Van der Breggen as she crossed the finish line. At 41’37”, she was almost a minute faster than Brand and moved her compatriot out of the hot seat.
It was a waiting game for Van Dijk and Drops Cyling riders Duyck and Martina Ritter (Austria) to arrive. Ritter was only four seconds slower than Brand at the second time check and was still2 a potential medal winner. However, Ritter couldn’t get to Brand’s time, finishing two seconds behind her in provisional third place.
Duyck managed to ride a stellar second half of her time trial and finished in 41’31”, six seconds faster than Van der Breggen. She moved into the hot seat, with Van der Breggen and Brand moving down into second and third place.
The only question was: did Van Dijk manage to hold her lead, or was Duyck’s incredible second half enough to take over the European title?
If Duyck rode an incredible second half, then Van Dijk’s closing kilometres were out of this world. When she crossed the finish line, she stopped the clock at 40’33”, almost a minute ahead of silver medal winner Duyck.
— Road&Mud (@_RoadAndMud) August 3, 2017
Van Dijk will keep her white and blue starred skinsuit for another year to show everyone she’s the fastest European time trialist.
“It was a beautiful course, a really hard course,” said Van Dijk after her win. “It was up and down all the time, it was really a power course.”
“I’m really happy with this title,” she continued. “It’s really nice to be the best of Europe and of course I’m always trying to be the best. I was in good shape at the Olympics, but couldn’t get a medal there because I made a mistake. The next big goal is of course the Worlds, but for now I just enjoy this moment and this title.”
Happy to prolong my European TT title! Just couldn’t let this super fanclub down! pic.twitter.com/acD4dSziK9
— Ellen van Dijk (@ellenvdijk) 3 augustus 2017
“I think second was the highest achievable result because this motor next to me is so strong, she deserved to win,” Duyck said about Van Dijk in the post-race press conference. “I can’t believe I took the second place, it was really wet, which made it a bit slippery and dangerous.”
“It was a long race, which suited me,” she said. “It was a nice course, some little hills, some technical corners, and of course I’m very happy.”
“The time trial was important to me,” Van der Breggen stipulated when asked whether her focus had been more on the European road race. “I think every championship is important, so I was happy with a podium place.”
European championships elite ITT – top ten
- Ellen van Dijk (The Netherlands) – 40’33”
- Ann-Sophie Duyck (Belgium) + 00:58
- Anna van der Breggen (The Netherlands) + 01:04
- Lucinda Brand (The Netherlands) + 01:58
- Martina Ritter (Austria) + 02:06
- Eugenia Bujak (Poland) + 02:13
- Kasia Pawlowska (Poland) + 2:22
- Olga Zabelinskaya (Russia) + 2:28
- Olga Shekel (Ukraine) + 2:39
- Julie Leth (Denmark) + 2:49