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With a powerful sprint on the Cote de Cadoudal, Sagan easily beat Alaphilippe and Moreno to become the first European road race champion

Photo: Tinkoff / BettiniPhoto

DANIEL MORENO

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JULIAN ALAPHILIPPE

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PETER SAGAN

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18.09.2016 @ 16:55 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Less than 12 months after taking the rainbow jersey, Peter Sagan (Slovakia) took his next major international championship win when he took a dominant victory at the European Championships. Despite limited team support, he turned out to be in a class of his own in the uphill sprint on the Cote de Cadoudal where he easily beat Julian Alaphilippe (France) and Daniel Moreno (Spain) into the minor podium positions.

 

One year ago Peter Sagan rode the perfect World Championships road race and left Richmond with his first rainbow jersey as a just reward. The Slovakian hid in the peloton all day before he made a lethal attack on a small climb in the finale.

 

When it was announced that the 2016 season would off the first chance for professional rider to go for a European title, Sagan didn’t hesitate to make the race one of his big goals for the autumn. Initially, the mountainous course in Nice seemed to be a bit too hard for him but when the terrible terrorist attack in the city forced the European Federation to move the event to Plumelec, everything fell into place for Sagan as the finish on the famous Cote de Cadoudal in the Breton city was tailor-made for his characteristics.

 

That turned out to be a true prediction as Sagan was in a class of his own when the inaugural edition of the race was held today. Again he had limited support from his Slovakian teammates and so had to gamble on other countries to close down the dangerous breaks. Luck was on his side and when Belgium finally dug deep to bring back late attacks from Italians Moreno Moser and Davide Villella, the outcome was never in doubt. With a dominant sprint on the 1.8km climb, Sagan easily distanced Julian Alaphilippe and Daniel Moreno to add the star jersey to the rainbow tunic that he has proudly worn all year.

 

It had been an aggressive race with several dangerous breaks escaping in the final laps but every time one of the major nations was dissatisfied and so things were back together at the start of the final lap on th 13.7km circuit. Mathias Frank and Fabio Aru attacked as they crossed the lie but it was Moser who surged clear on the descent. The Italian managed to get an advantage of 20 seconds before Spain and Belgium started to chase with Carlos Barbero and Ben Hermans. Jan Bakelants then took over from the latter but they didn’t get any closer to the lone Italian.

 

Redi Halilaj made a small attack before Bakelants went back to work. Barbero also came to the fore but nonetheless the gap had gone out to 30 seconds as they hit the final 5km.

 

The chasers started to blow up and things were looking a bit desperate when Sagan even had to take a turn himself. Cyril Gautier then started to pull for France but it was the Polish team that made the difference. As they lined up Maciej Paterski, Lukasz Wisniowski and Michal Golas on the front, Moser started to lose ground.

 

Wisniowski led the peloton onto the final climb 10 seconds behind Moser and as the Pole started to fade, Frank attacked again. Davide Villella sprinted straight past the Swiss and with a big acceleration, he also passed his teammate Moser.

 

A bit of hesitation allowed Villella to get a big advantage before David De La Cruz started to chase for Spain. However, when he swung off under the flamme rouge, the peloton came to a standstill.

 

Things were looking promising for Villella until Ben Hermans came from far back to increase the space significantly. Gianni Meersman took over to set Philippe Gilbert up for the sprint and his great lead-out brought Villella back with 300m to go.

 

Daniel Moreno launched the sprint but Sagan was in the perfect position on the Spaniard’s wheel. When the Slovakian made his effort, he immediately created a big gap and he had plenty of time to celebrate his next big win. Alaphilippe just managed to come around Moreno to take second while Samuel Dumoulin and Petr Vakoc completed the top 5.

 

With the European Championships done and dusted, the attention turns to the Eneco Tour which starts tomorrow and which will have Sagan back in action.

 

A lumpy circuit

The inaugural edition of the European Championships was held over 17 laps of a 13.7km circuit for an overall distance of 232km. The circuit travelled through the lumpy terrain on the southern outskirts of Plumelec and was far from flat. After one flat kilometre, the riders descended out of the city and then tackled a small climb. After around 6km, they headed west along flat roads and then turned around to head back north towards the city. Passing through the city of Cadoudal, the road gradually descended until the riders got to the bottom of the famous Cote de Cadoudal which averaged 6.2% over 1.8km.

 

It was a pleasant day in France when 141 riders gathered for the start and as expected, they got it off to a fast beginning. The first group to get a significant lead consisted of Bert-Jan Lindeman (Netherlands), Pirmin Lang (Switzerland), Adrii Bratashchuk (Ukraine) and Risto Raid (Estonia), and they quickly got a gap of 15 seconds at the end of the first lap. The peloton slowed down, and after 15 kilometers, the front quartet were already 2.50 ahead of the peloton.

 

A massive gap

The peloton rode very slowly, and so the gap went out to 4.20 before Spain and Slovakia slowly began to increase the speed. Nevertheless, the gap had reached 9.30 at the end of the second lap. Now it was the Frenchmen who had taken control with Alexandre Geniez and Anthony Delaplace.

 

At the end of the third lap, the gap was 10.00, and now it was Italy's turn to lead with Valerio Conti. He was given a little help frm Eliot Lietaer (Belgium) but the gap had still gone out to 11.05 at the end of the fourth lap. Italy, Belgium and France then formed an alliance, and together they finally started to chase. Thus, the gap was 10.45 after six laps. Surprisingly, it was Diego Ulissi (Italy) who set the pace together with Cyril Gautier (France).

 

The chase gets organized

After seven laps, gap had been reduced to 10.05, and the peloton was now led by Delaplace, Conti and Lietaer. At the end of the next lap, it was only 8.40 after a brisk start with an average speed of 41.2 km / h. Conti, Lietaer and Delaplace shaved another 50 seconds off the lead during the next lap, and now the hard pace started to be felt. Besmir Banushi (Albania), Goran Cerovic (Montenegro) and later Oscar Cabanas (Andorra) were the first riders to get dropped.

 

Maxime Bouet (France) also began to work before Belgium took full control woith Lietaer and Ben Hermans. Surprisingly it was too hard for Kanstantsin Siutsov (Belarus who was the next rider to get dropped. Also Darijus Dzervus (Lithuania) fell behind before Loic Vliegen (Belgium), Delaplace and Lilian Calmejane (France) led the field over the line for the 10th time 6.15 behind the leaders.

 

The attacking starts

As they went up the climb for the 11th time, the front group split up as Bratashchuk and Lindeman dropped Raim and Lang. The latter two sat up and crossed the line more than 2 minutes behind the leaders before Calmejane, Delaplace, Vliegen and Conti led the peloton across the line 4.20 behind the front duo.

 

The two chasers were brought back before the peloton hit the climb for the 12th time with a deficit of 3.10. Here the race entered a new phase when Alexandre Geniez (France) and Enrico Gasparotto (Italy) attacked. The pair were joined by David De La Cruz (Spain) and Jelle Vanendert (Belgium) and later Lukasz Owsian (Poland) also made the junction. The quintet crossed the line with a small advantage and then Emanuel Buchmann (Germany) and Tobias Ludvigsson (Switzerland) also jumped across.

 

A dangerous group

The group worked well together but as the Netherlands had missed the move, the Dutch team reacted and neutralized the move with 60km to go after a few riders had jumped across. Tiago Machado then took over the pace-setting for Portugal and made sure that the peloton didn’t slow down as they headed to the climb again.

 

As soon as they hit the ascent, Lindeman dropped his companion and he crossed the line for the 13th time with an advantage of 1.10. Further back, the attacking started again when Fabien Lienhard (Switzerland) took off. He was joined by Cyril Gautier (France), Vanendert, Omar Fraile (Spain), Davide Villella (Italy), Sergio Paulinho (Portugal) and Ben Hermans (Belgium) and the group crested the summit with a small advantage before including Sergey Lagutin, Jan Polanc, Sam Oomen, Simon Geschke, De La Cruz, Karol Dmagalski, Peeter Pruus, Zydrunas Savickas, Redi Halilaj, Karel Hnik, Nicolas Edet and Fabio Aru, jumped across.

 

Lindeman is caught

The peloton came to a standstill and so the gap soon went out to 45 seconds. Lindeman decided to wait and he was caught by the chasers when they hit the final 48km.

 

There was no great cooperation in the group and so Hermans took off. However, he was soon brought back and instead Lindeman sacrificed himself for his teammate Oomen.

 

Belgium chase hard

The chase finally got organized when Belgium and Slovakia hit the front and they had reduced the gap from 1.10 to 0.45 when they hit the climb again. Lindeman swung off and the group finally started to cooperate as they went up the ascent where Jan Bakelants led the chase for Belgium. The Ag2r rider did a great job to reduce the gap to 20 seconds at the start of the 15th lap.

 

Polanc was the most eager rider in the break and took off as they tackled the descent. However, it wasn’t until Lienhard gave it a go that two riders managed to make a difference. While the Belgian team neutralized the rest of the move, Polanc and Lienhard managed to surge clear.

 

Polanc is caught

The two leaders dug deep to maintain an advantage of 10 seconds while the peloton was a bit disorganized. However, France soon took control with Maxime Bouet. Germany then took over with Rick Zabel and as they hit the climb for the 15th time, Vanendert took over the pace-setting.

 

Polanc dropped Lienhard who was picked up by the peloton which was strung out due to Vanendert’s fast pace. Giovanni Visconti took over for Italy and he brought Polanc back 500m from the top. Bakelants then accelerated again to lead the peloton across the line at the start of the penultimate lap.

 

Another dangerous group

After the passage of the line, Oomen attacked again and this time he was joined by Domagalski, Hermans and Aru. While they desperately tried to increase their advantage, a crash split the field as Gianni Moscon, Ruben Fernandez and Geniez hit the deck.

 

Due to the confusion, a small group with the Benoot, Gilbert, Hermans, Gautier, Aru, Moser, Visconti, Rubio, Oomen, De Kort, Martens, Voss, Frank, Reichenbach, Domagalski, Lagutin and Kvasina gathered in front and when they had an advantage of 15 seconds, Slovakia and France had to react. The two countries stated to chase hard with Juraj Sagan, Calmejane, Bouet and Edet and Machado also came to the fore for Portugal.

 

Portugal catch the break

Benoot and Hermans worked hard for Gilbert and so the gap went out to 30 seconds before they started to lose ground. At the bottom of the climb with 15km to go, the advantage had been halved.

 

Paulinho took a huge turn for Portugal and managed to close the gap before Hermans started to ride hard on the front for Belgium. His brutal pace made the peloton explode as they headed to the penultimate passage of the line. Moments later Moser made his move and so started the exciting finale

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