These European Championships held in Herning (Denmark) have been one of the most exciting events of the year. Here we highlight some of the reasons:
DENMARK IS COMING
Danish riders are coming. Home soil played an extra- motivating role for the Danes, and they delivered some stunning results: 5 medals (1 bronze, 2 silvers and 2 golds) in 6 races is unparalleled for the red & white team. It shows the extraordinary work being done by the Danish national federation and Catherine Marsal. A labour of love, patience, experience and female psychology. Denmark is a force to reckon in women’s cycling, and very likely the country of the bacon (?!) is nourishing some of the big champions of the future.
Who can challenge the Dutch team nowadays in the big events? Since London Olympics, their strength seems to increase every year. In Herning, they did not even need Annemiek van Vleuten, probably the fittest rider these days. As Gracie Elvin finely expressed on twitter: “this line up is one of the scariest things a non-Dutch rider can see. And AvVleuten isn’t even there!”
Their superiority in numbers provides the tactical advantage: they play the game they want whenever they want. Echelons, breakaways, sprints … they have the strongest cards in all situations. But they have also proved they are the force to beat when they are just 4, like in Olympic Games. I don’t see it changing in the next years, and probably the change of the guard won’t happen until the “4 magic Vs” (Vos, Van Vleuten, Van Dijk, Van der Breggen) leave the game.
HER MAJESTY DELIVERED ANOTHER ONE FOR THE RECORDS
Marianne Vos won the European road race in 2006 and 2007 as an under-23. I bet this elite title has got an extra-value for her (135 professional wins … just on the road, I am dizzy to think about her cyclocross figures!)
It is a big reward after hard work, of 2 years filled with injury, crashes and team difficulties. And I am sure it is being savoured like a good wine. With depth and maturity. She looked peacefully delighted on the podium and press conference. Not easy to deliver a win when your team has played the perfect race and you HAVE to solve it, gold being the only satisfying result.
In 2017, Marianne adds this Euro jersey to 6 other victories: both 1.1 Trofee Maarten Wynants & Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik (from my view, the best race of 2017 so far) , Rabobank 7- Dorpenomloop Aalburg (1.2) and 2.1 BeNe Ladies Tour (2 stages and GC).
SPAIN ON THE RISE
Spanish team is constantly growing: very present in all 3 categories, with a 9th position in juniors, 6th in U-23 and a hard fought race for a medal in elite with Sheyla Gutiérrez, whose generosity did not have a prize this time. But Spanish teams have performed very solidly in Herning, and for the 1st time in many years, with the conviction that a medal is possible. We have a whole generation of brilliant riders, and upcoming championships will tell.
Eurosport Player was the only way to see all the races (local broadcasters aside). I must say watching races with no commentary is thrilling. Best comments come from twitter, as we all know, so who needs amateur commentaries in the end? Little by little we are witnessing that real experts on women’s cycling begin to comment races. But their presence is still scarce. Meanwhile, a nude broadcasting of images seems perfect for me: we have the chance of hearing riders yelling to one another, wheels-hissing, gear-switching, public cheering, wind and rain hitting camera-men … it is meta-racing, a much purer way of watching the sport. As long as we have no expert commentary, this is an interesting way of broadcasting races.
EXCITING RACES ARE DONE BY RIDERS
A dull circuit proved (again) not to be a handicap for aggressive racing. Women’s cycling is, most of the times, unpredictable from the very start. No matter the parcours, women want to make it thrilling. These European Championships have shown great racing, in different modalities: exciting time-trails (spiced by the presence of rain), thrilling races with 3 different outcomes: mass sprint (junior), solo win (U-23), little group sprint (elite).
A GOLDEN ERA
It is unbelievable big sponsors are still reluctant to invest in this sport. An elite race where Marianne Vos and Giorgia Bronzini sprint for the gold? In a year (2017) where we are witnessing so many young riders becoming the new references of the sport? This is a golden era, the level of the field is extraordinary, teams are growing and there is no team or rider who is dominating. We have the privilege to “watch” (well, unfortunately we don’t live-watch many, but still) a broad palette of racing, winners, podiums and racing-styles.
Nevertheless, let’s be optimistic: we are seeing races. Year after year the list of broadcasted events grows, but it is disheartening to see big races like Giro Rosa or Fléche loosing exposure opportunities again. Lucky us, August and September races will be broadcasted by Eurosport, so the end of the season will bring us live- racing!
Will these European Road Championships 2017 become a turning-point for women’s cycling exposure? We know they won’t, but we will look back at them knowing they were simply GREAT.
For further enjoyment, check the 3 category races reviewed here:
Junior race won by Lorena Wiebes:
Junior ITT won by Elena Pirrone:
U-23 ITT won by Pernille Mathiesen:
U-23 race won by Pernille Mathiesen:
Elite race won by Marianne Vos:
Elite ITT won by Ellen van Dijk: