Great Britain's Helen Wyman took top honours today at the European Cyclo- Cross Championships on a wet but fast Chantry Park in Ipswich.
The 31-year-old took the Elite Women’s European title in an enthralling race beating Sanne Van Paassen (Netherlands) in a sprint finish which also saw Great Britain's Nikki Harris take the bronze.
A fast start on the tarmac road saw the bunch hit the grass at a quick pace and it was Wyman who led the field out of the first turn with Harris, Van Paassen and Gabby Day in close contact. With the pace settling down towards the end of the first lap it would be Day who lost a little pace and began to drop back from the initial early leaders.
Steady riding by Sanne Cant and Christel Ferrier- Bruneau saw the two ease their way up to fourth and fifth respectively with Day and Lucie Chainel-Lefevre chasing back in sixth and seventh.
With twenty minutes of the race gone it was Wyman who would start to test her companions and with a powerful push on the pedals Harris started to feel the pain and dropped back but Van Paassen couldn't be dropped and the two would swap places for the remainder of the race.
Ferrier-Bruneau and Cant were riding their own battle and seemed resigned to settle for the lower places. The final lap saw the two riders playing the cat and mouse game, Van Paassen at times seeming to virtually stop but Wyman played an experienced hand and with the noisy crowd knowing there could be a British champion at the end of the lap shouted the British girl around the course.
Coming out of the bottom corner onto the finishing straight the two leaders were wheel to wheel but a dead start favoured Wyman who took the title a wheel ahead of the Dutch girl. Harris crossed the line in third place alone and much to the crowds delight making a Great Britain Gold and Bronze.
An excellent ride by Louise Robinson still proving a force to be reckoned with took a fine 8th place and with Gabby day one place ahead the day would finish with four Great Britain Girls in the top ten.
What they said
“I've had a pretty spectacular week,” said Helen Wyman. “Second in the World Cup, winning at Koppenberg on Thursday and now winning here is pretty exciting. I really wanted to win here today although Koppenberg was my goal and I knew if I had the form there I could carry it on to today.
“I did feel tired at Koppenberg because of the amount of travelling we had been doing but I did feel pretty fresh today. I knew i could hold my own on this course and Van Paassen was the person to beat, both Nikki and I actually spoke about that and we both agreed that we had to beat her.
“I rode the race hard and Nikki sat on to keep fresh so she could do some work later on in the race but when I went with her we dropped Nikki, Van Paassen was riding hard then she just seemed to stop to let me take the front but there was no way I was going through when I knew Nikki was just behind us.
“I tried to attack her a few times but she's the sort of rider you just cannot shift. When we came onto the finishing straight I knew I could beat her because it was an uphill sprint and the crowd were screaming at me to win, I've been waiting my whole career to have a home advantage and finally I get to win and they had to dig out the national anthem.”
Nikki Harris said: “It would have been nice to be on the top step today but I was on the full limit from the gun. Helen and Sanne were the strongest riders today so I'm happy with third, it was the best I could have got.
“The course today was fast. I prefer it a bit heavier and more difficult, but today was a flat-out course. I'm happy to be getting decent results now, I had a summer of putting hard work in with the training. I rode Koppenberg the other day and I think I could still feel it in my legs today but a lot of the girls here also rode it so they all must have felt the same, Van Paassen didn't ride it though."
2011 silver medallist Mike Teunissen went one better today in the Under 23's Championship race by taking the gold.
The young Dutchman took the win with a sprint finish from team mate Come Van Kessel who took the silver after a late attack in the closing lap. Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe secured the bronze crossing the line just a second behind.
A strong line up made certain there wouldn't be any breaks going during the opening laps, an early attack by Teunissen towards the end of the first lap was only allowed a few seconds away before the chasing group driven by Van Kessel pulled the race favourite back into the fold.
For the next few laps a long string of some twenty riders would be the focus of the race, no one being allowed to make the break. With 25 minutes completed the elastic was beginning to stretch and coming past the pit area Teunissen, Van Kessel and Julian Alaphilippe made the jump off the front pulling a small but useful looking gap from the rest of the main bunch.
The three escapees remained away for the following couple of laps but with a little over one and a half remaining Teunissen made his move away from the two and looked as though he would take a solo ride to the finish but on the final lap Van Kessel and Alaphillippei were joined by the Belgian Jens Adams.
The three worked together to pull the leader back but it was Teunissen who had the legs to take the sprint and the European title. Steve James was the highest placed British rider, the current British Under 23 rider finished a credible 25th, 1minute 45 seconds down on Teunissen.
What they said
“For the last two years I've worked hard for this victory and I'm very pleased,” said Mike Teunissen. “I didn't get it all my own way, I thought I could make an early gap in the first few laps and I thought the peloton would sit looking at each other but it didn't happen like that so I had to wait until the end of the race and I had the strongest legs so I got the win.
“I think on this kind of course it is best to try and get a gap on the rest of the field and ride your own pace and that’s what I did today and it worked well. The course here is quite tough, there are a lot of hard little climbs and it was quite windy so it was a little hard riding away by myself but I was strong enough where it mattered.”
As expected it was Mathieu Van Der Poel who took the Junior title - the current World Champion hasn't lost a race in International competition since taking the European title in Italy last year.
The young Dutchman dominated the race from the gun leaving Clement Russo and Yannick Peters to sprint for the silver and bronze.
From the gun Van Der Poel stamped his authority on the race soon pulling 100 metres over the chasing pair of Nicolas Cleppe and Quiten Hermans who in turn had pulled a small gap on the rest of the field.
Barring any major problems the title was virtually wrapped up by the end of the second lap, Van Der Poel was now away, only having to glance across the field to the chasing field on the odd occasion.
A fight was still on for the remaining medals, Russo was leading a group of six, including Peeters and Martijn Budding. The Italian Gieole Bertolini was just out of the back of the group unable to find the extra pace to hook on.
With two laps to go Peeters, Russo and Cleppe were working well together but the gap to Van Der Poel was too great to bridge, Kobe Gossens and Joseph Thomas were a few meters off the three and Bertolini was still riding his own race.
Van Der Poel took a solo victory leaving Russo and Peeters to sprint for second and third spot, the pace proving just a bit too much for Budding who was dropped on the closing lap. Jake Womersley was the highest placed great Britain rider riding a fine race to finish 14th, 1:54 adrift of the winner.
What they said
Mathieu Van Der Poel: “From the beginning of the race I found I had a small gap on the front so I continued to ride strongly and the gap increased for me which is always good. I prefer to ride muddy courses but today was very fast and I found it difficult to ride alone on the front for the whole race but it meant I could ride my own race and not worry too much about the rest of the field.”
Jake Womersley: “Today was great, it’s not often you get to ride with the best riders in the World. I rode well at Abergavenny a few weeks ago and got second and it felt good to be riding well today. I never thought I'd finished so high, I was battling for 10th at one time but I've learned so much just being able to race here.”
Women - Full results
1 Helen Wyman (Great Britain) 43.52
2 Sanne Van Paassen (Netherlands) 43.52
3 Nikki Harris (Great Britain) 44.16
4 Christel Ferrier-Bruneau (France) 44.42
5 Sanne Cant (Belgium) 45.06
6 Lucie Chainel-Lefevre (France) 45.16
7 Gabby Day (Great Britain) 45.22
8 Louise Robinson (Great Britain) 45.52
9 Sophie De Boar (Netherlands) 46.13
10 Ellen Van Loy (Belgium) 46.20
Under-23s - Full results
1 Mike Teunissen (Netherlands) 48.19
2 Come Van Kessel (Netherlands) 48.19
3 Julian Allaphilippe (France) 48.20
4 Jens Adams (Belgium) 48.21
5 Wout Van Aert (Belgium) 48.28
6 Emiel Dolfsma (Netherlands) 48.38
7 Clement Venturini (France) 48.41
8 Tim Merlier (Belgium) 48.41
9 Toon Aerts (Belgium) 48.41
10 Michael Vanhourenhout (Belgium) 48.41
Juniors - Full results
1 Mathieu Van Der Poel (Netherlands) 41.25
2 Clement Russo (France) 41.56
3 Yannick Peeters (Belgium) 41.56
4 Martijn Budding (Netherlands) 42.03
5 Nicolas Cleppe (Belgium) 42.08
6 Gieole Bertolini (Italy) 42.28
7 Kobe Goossens (Belgium) 42.37
8 Thomas Joseph (Belgium) 42.50
9 Quinten Hermans (Belgium) 43.12
10 Richard Jansen (Netherlands) 43.13
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