Lorena Wiebes beats Elisa Balsamo to become European Champion

Lorena Wiebes European Champion Cor Vos

Dutch rider Lorena Wiebes has won her first European Women’s Cycling Championship in today’s race in Munich. She finished around half a wheel ahead of Elisa Balsamo on the finishing line as the other nations took the race to the Netherlands. Rachele Barbieri was 3rd after continuing her lead out for Balsamo to the line. With Lisa Brennauer finishing 4th in her last race as a professional, she had confirmed her retirement leading into these European Championships.

Early racing

Israeli Omer Shapira was the first to go on the attack, almost from the gun. She got a gap and shortly afterwards Slovene Urska Zigart decided to push on to close the gap. Shapira heard she was coming over from a moto rider and sat up to allow Zigart to join her. The pair worked well together and got around a 2-minute gap ahead of the peloton.

As the race got to the hilly middle part of the race, several German riders attacked one after the other. An attack would go, get closed and then another German rider would attempt to go up the road. The Dutch were forced to close down almost all of these moves. France also got involved in the moves, missing their lead sprinter Clara Copponi who had to pull out because of Covid. All these attacks resulted in the gap to Shapira and Zigart being wiped out and the pair were caught.

Dutch efforts

Audrey Cordon-Ragot launched repeated strong attacks and it was the same with Coralie Demay too. France was desperate to create some distance and was regularly joined by Spain and Germany too. The Dutch were unable to simply let a rider like Cordon-Ragot get an advantage so spent a long while on the front closing gaps again. As the race left the hills, the attacks dwindled and the flat city roads prevented much of the dangerous moves from before.

A trio did get away, Lea Lin Teutenberg, Juliette Labous and Sheyla Gutierrez, each representing one of the big nations without a key sprinter. The Dutch measured the gap and kept it controlled, largely through the early work of Jeanne Korevaar. Once Ellen van Dijk took over, the result was never in doubt – it was going to be a sprint. The trio were eventually caught with around 3km to race.

Sprint finish

We had a great sight from the overhead view of the Dutch sprint train on the left and the Italian sprint train on the right-hand side of the road. They were powering along, desperate to be in a strong position going into the 180-degree turn with 1km to go. Italy came through that corner the fastest and had a numerical advantage over the Dutch. On the opposite side of the road, Wiebes’ had her train melt away and once Charlotte Kool was done, Wiebes switched across the road to join the Italians.

Wiebes managed to displace Brennauer from the wheel of Balsamo and as Barbieri led out, Wiebes put the power down. Balsamo went the opposite side of Barbieri and it looked so close heading for the finish line. As it was, Wiebes won by half a wheel on the line with Barbieri a bike length or two back from the lead pair. The victory sees Wiebes take her first continental championships. She was national champion in 2019, European champion this year and maybe set to be a future world champion on a suitable course too.

“As expected the Italian train came up late in the final kilometre. We were on the left and they were on the right and I jumped across to them after some strong work by the team, and Floortje and Charlotte in the finale. I then just gave it everything to the line.

We really worked as a team and we had a really clear plan. The pressure was on today but I’ve had good practice at being the finisher with Team DSM so I just tried to stay calm. It’s special to take the win for the national team and win the jersey.”

Lorena Wiebes

Main photo credit: Cor Vos