Great Britain finished the 2023 UEC Road European Championships at the top of the medal table with two gold and two silver medals, concluding the event with a valiant effort from the elite men’s road race squad.
In an incredibly animated race, which gave riders no real let-up from the off, the British squad of Lewis Askey, Sean Flynn, Luke Rowe, Mark Stewart, Josh Tarling, Ben Turner, Ethan Vernon and Sam Watson rode a skilled race. The team fought hard all day and made good tactical decisions which saw them consistently feature in moves throughout an incredibly fatiguing 199.8km race.
A breakaway of five riders saw the first significant move of the day, with recently crowned elite men’s ITT European champion Josh Tarling included in the mix. Alongside Norman Vahtra, Rory Townsend, Stefan Bissegger and Mathias Vacek, the quintet managed to get a strong 90-second lead up the road. A crash in the peloton saw a number of riders, including Great Britain’s Luke Rowe and Ethan Vernon needing bike changes, allowing the lead group to extend their lead to almost two minutes.
The rest of the 115km route to the circuit saw the peloton move at pace to slowly eat away at the breakaway’s lead, bringing the gap down to 23 seconds as the race made its way to the start of six 13.7km circuits. Early on in the first circuit, after the first ascent up the Col du Vam, Tarling found himself pulled back into the peloton after having made his presence known in his first elite European championship road race.
An attritional race was to be played out across the following four circuits as attack after attack came from within the peloton, with nations working hard to shut down any moves and keep the group together as one. As the aggressive racing continued, the two lead riders were reeled in and one lead group re-formed, but not for long.
With 34km to go, an attack was launched with eight riders breaking away, including Wout Van Aert and Great Britain’s Sean Flynn; however, the peloton was alive to the threat and the break did not last long.
With two laps to go, attacks were coming thick and fast, with Ben Turner in contention as another group went off the front but was quickly brought back into the group. Seconds later, an unfortunate crash neutralised a number of challengers, including many of the British team, giving the lead riders the opportunity to extend their lead, and ultimately putting the squad out of contention for a British podium position.
Flynn made one final move to be alongside Italy’s Filippo Ganna just before the last ascent but was ultimately unable to see it through as a 10-man group took a 25-second lead on the peloton.
The race saw an explosive finish after a gutsy solo breakaway with 12km to go, which saw Christophe Laporte of France almost caught by Wout Van Aert with metres to go, giving one final push to take the European champion’s jersey.
Great Britain Cycling Team elite women’s road race, full results:
15th Ethan Vernon
24th Ben Turner
25th Sam Watson
31st Lewis Askey
32nd Sean Flynn
69th Mark Stewart
75th Luke Rowe
DNF Josh Tarling