In a dazzling showcase of tactical nous and raw power, Dutch rider Mischa Bredewold clinched the European Championships with a solo tour de force, thereby continuing the Netherlands’ longstanding supremacy in the event. The race, which began in Meppel and incorporated the challenging VAM-berg climb, witnessed a gritty performance from Bredewold, who broke free from an elite pack in the final lap and clung on to her narrow lead. Fellow Dutch cyclist Lorena Wiebes clinched silver in a sprint finish, rounding off a celebratory day for the host nation. Belgian Lotte Kopecky took home the bronze.
Early Chaos, but No Breaks
The race saw an inauspicious beginning, as a section of the convoy veered off course, causing a momentary halt. Once restarted, the pace was relentless. Initial attempts to form breakaways were largely unsuccessful, maintaining a large peloton until the first full lap of five around the VAM-berg.
It was at this juncture that Italy’s Soraya Paladin, Switzerland’s Elise Chabbey, and Serbia’s Jelena Erić managed to get a slight edge. The Dutch team went on a concerted chase, spearheaded by Bredewold, Riejanne Markus, and Loes Adegeest. However, the Dutch women were initially unsuccessful in reining in the trio, creating an atmosphere ripe for drama.
Just 30 kilometres from the finish, the race was completely reset. Various attacks sprang from the peloton, but none were decisive. Finally, Bredewold seized her moment. With perfect timing, she bolted, catching the field off guard. A surge of acceleration saw her lead balloon rapidly. Teammates, including Wiebes, executed masterful blocking tactics to stave off the chasing pack.
Bredewold’s lead dwindled due to a surge from Switzerland’s Marlen Reusser, but the Swiss found herself marked by Demi Vollering, effectively neutralising the chase. In the meantime, Emma Norsgaard set off on a solo hunt of Bredewold but was caught on the final climb. Holding a meagre 11-second lead on the Atteropad, Bredewold showed no signs of faltering. A final uphill battle on the VAMberg was tense, but the Classic Lorient Agglomération winner Mischa Bredewold held on, adding her name to an illustrious list of Dutch European champions.
Despite a podium finish, Wiebes, the outgoing champion, admitted to mixed feelings. Wiebes had hoped for a bunch sprint but acknowledged the collective team aim was met. “It feels a bit like ‘almost, but not quite’ this year, as many times I’ve had to sprint for second or third because a teammate broke away. But I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made,” Wiebes said.
Lotte Kopecky, already enjoying a phenomenal season, settled for bronze. She acknowledged the difficulty of challenging the Dutch team, especially given the race conditions. “I had little choice but to remain passive when Bredewold broke away. Reacting would have prompted another Dutch attack; the story would have been the same,” said Kopecky.
For Bredewold, it was an almost surreal victory. In a post-race interview, she encapsulated the ecstasy of her gold medal performance. “I have no words. It feels like I’m in a haze. The plan was to keep attacking and make the race tough; I was very much in that mindset.”
2023 European Championship Elites Road Race
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