France and Belgium led the way at the European Road Championships last week in Olomouc in the Czech Republic. The two nations went home with six and four medals respectively out of the total of 24 available.
Under-23: Belgium dominates Men's events, Italy the Women's
It was in the Men's Under-23 category that the Belgians really made their mark, firstly with the triumph of Victor Campenaerts in the time trial. The 21-year-old former swimmer and triathlete finished ahead of the Ukrainian rider Oleksandr Golovash, who took bronze in the event last year, and Germany's Jasha SÃ¼tterlin. Sean De Bie then brought Belgium a further victory in the road race, winning the sprint from breakaway companions Petr VakoÄ (Czech Republic) and Toms SkujiÅÅ¡ (Latvia).Â Coming into the event with some good results in earlier rounds of the UCI Nations' Cup (4th in the Tour of Flanders Espoirs, 2nd in the CÃ´te Picarde), the Belgian rider hung on over the last climb of the circuit. "Everyone was at their limit, that's why we arrived at the finish in a group," explained De Bie.
In the Women's Under-23 events, Ukrainian rider Hanna Solovey took victory in the time trial while the Italians Susanna Zorzi and Francesca Cauz filled the two top spots in the road race.
Juniors: French secure the double â twice
French riders dominated the Junior events. SÃ©vÃ©rine Eraud won the women's time trial before securing a silver medal in the road race behind her compatriot GrÃ©ta Richioud. Richioud took advantage of efficient teamwork in the break, taking flight in the final kilometres to cross the line alone. "I didn't think I could do it," she said. "But I heard my teammates shout after I attacked that I had got a gap."
The Men Junior road race was another happy occasion for the French, with Frank Bonnamour winning 22 seconds ahead of his compatriot Elie Gesbert. In the time trial, Russia's Nikolay Cherkasov beat Igor Decraene (Belgium) by a single second while RÃ©mi Cavagna (France) completed the podium.
UCI Nations' Cup: France leads the way in Under-23 category
The European Road Championships, forming part of the UCI Nations' Cup for both Juniors (road race and time trial) and Under-23 (road race only), inevitably shook up the standings.Â In the Under-23 competition, France (56 points) overtook the Netherlands (53 points) while Belgium (51 points) retained third place. Everything is at stake in the mountains in the next, and final, round, the Tour de lâAvenir from 24-31 August.
In the Juniors Nations' Cup, the French are making a late surge. Although still leading the standings on 219 points, Denmark did not add to its total at the European Championships and witnessed its advantage over second-placed France (203 points) cut by nearly half. Great Britain lies third on 161 points. The final standings will be decided over the last two rounds, the TrophÃ©e Centre Morbihan on 3-4 August and the time trial and road race at the UCI Road World Championships in Tuscany (Italy) at the end of September.