Lorena Wiebes kicks past Elisa Balsamo to score European title
Top-favorite Wiebes delivers for the Dutch in downtown Munich.
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Lorena Wiebes (Netherlands) fended off Elisa Balsamo (Italy) in a tight sprint to become European road race champion.
The peloton’s two top sprinters kicked together in the Munich final and threw their bikes in unison only for the Dutchwoman to score gold and succeed her teammate Ellen van Dijk.
Rachele Barbieri (Italy) came across third after she led out Balsamo. Home rider Lisa Brennauer narrowly missed the podium with fourth in what was her final race before retirement.
Wiebes – who rides for Team DSM and is set to join SD Worx – has risen to the front of the sprint scene in recent years.
More than a dozen 2022 victories including two at the Tour de France Femmes and now the European champs make the 23-year-old a woman to watch in the Wollongong worlds.
“As expected, the Italian train came up, they were on the left, we were on the right,” Wiebes said. “At the end I ended up next to them, it was a really long sprint.
“We really worked as a team today and we really showed we’re a team. We had a clear plan and the pressure was on, but normally it’s like that with DSM so it was kind of familiar, but maybe a bit more pressure.”
The European road race championship saw the sprinter teams under pressure all day.
Omer Shapira (Israel) started the first break of the day before Urška Žigart (Slovenia) jumped over.
The two spent some time out front but the powerful German and Dutch teams looked intent on making the race hard in the peloton and kept the gap slim.
Audrey Cordon Ragot (France) kicked away at 90km and Elena Cecchini (Italy) and Stine Borgli (Norway) jumped over. The trio clawed across to the two leaders to form five, but the bunch loomed close behind and the race came back together at around 70km.
Racing was relentless for the next lumpy 20km. France and Germany kept attacking while Italy and the Netherlands marked for Balsmo and Wiebes respectively.
The rhythm eventually settled as the fully assembled bunch ripped into the first of two pan-flat Munich circuits at 30km to go.
The Dutch team massed to the front as it looked to keep a lid on the attacks, only for Juliette Labous (France) to kick away at 18km. Lea Lin Teutenberg (Germany) and Sheyla Gutiérrez (Spain) jumped across and the three inched clear.
The escape trio dangled just seconds ahead of the Dutch-powered peloton before defending champ Van Dijk brought the race together and the bunch hurtled toward the bunch sprint.
The Netherlands drilled the pace into the final deep in downtown Munich, and Italy came piling forward in the final 150 meters. Germany muscled up next but it all came down to Italy vs the Netherlands in the final straight.
The two sprint superteams assembled either side of the wide straight final and Italy moved first. Two riders led out for Balsamo as the Dutch train disintegrated. Wiebes and Lisa Brennauer (Germany) jumped onto Balsamo’s wheel just as Italy lit the final fuse.
Balsamo launched her sprint at 100 meters to go and Wiebes matched. It took two bike throws and a photo finish to decide before Wiebes was crowned champion.
Results will be available once stage has completed.