Ellen wins her first road title after a solo effort in Trento
An unbelievable feat! No doubt the best words to describe the success of Ellen Van Dijk in the European Continental Championships after she soloed to her first road title in the Elite Women’s road race Saturday.
Since the European Championships began in 2016, Ellen has won four Individual Time Trial titles (2016-2019), a silver medal last year, and a few days ago, added another silver to her collection, finishing 19 seconds short of claiming a 5th title behind the red-hot Marlen Reusser of Switzerland.
But the road race? Always unpredictable. And with Dutch teammates Annemiek van Vleuten and Marianne Vos as leaders, a medal has always eluded Ellen – until now.
“I still can’t quite believe it!” exclaimed Ellen. “I never really focused on this race, it was more, ‘oh yeah, I will do this as a good effort today.’ I have never won a title in a road race actually, so it’s pretty special. It’s nice to have this jersey now for a whole year!”
It was one of her most remarkable wins. She used her time trial prowess to finish 1’18” ahead of a select chasing group that came within seconds of catching her atop the final climb of the race.
How it unfolded
The decisive action began in the last 50 kilometers of the 107-kilometer race (8 laps of a 13.2-kilometer circuit). Van Dijk attacked with Romy Kasper (Germany), Soraya Paladin (Italy) and Aude Biannic (France).
Kilometer after kilometer, the strong pace over the 3-kilometer climb each lap eventually took a toll on Biannic and then eventually Kasper, leaving Ellen and Paladin out front.
Behind them, Belgium and Netherlands led the chase, perhaps a questionable pursuit, but with no guarantee of victory upfront (there is no hiding the fact that Ellen does not possess a fast-finishing sprint), and with the level of star quality in her teammates behind, the Netherlands wanted to keep all options open.
Ellen’s wins are almost always solo. And once again she knew she had to go it alone. Difficult to achieve, especially with the quality of the chasers behind, but a lack of pressure coming into the race played to her advantage. And the knowledge that if she failed, she still had strong Dutch teammates behind.
“This morning my intention was to make this a good, hard day because my focus is in the World Championships time trial. I work a lot with Josu Larrazabal (Trek Segafredo Head of Performance) and I thought about him a lot today because he always told me to go and ride with no pressure. Today I could really ride with no pressure because there really was nothing to lose. I felt good a strong and made the right moves without really overthinking it. I had a good flow,” explained Ellen.
Ellen’s first acceleration to drop Paladin was thwarted by the Italian, but her second attempt proved successful 25-kilometers from the finish. With a chasing group closing in, Ellen set herself into time trial mode. Her gap yo-yoed: 30 seconds, 40, 50, 30 again and, at 7-kilometers from the finish line, a precarious 20 seconds.
From the chasing group, Liane Lippert (Germany) and Kasia Niewiadoma (Poland) tried to close the gap, but Ellen showed why she is four times European Time Trial Champion. Managing her effort perfectly, she increased her lead all the way to the finish.
Ellen arrived with a huge smile. She had plenty of time to celebrate and savor her remarkable feat: European Champion!
“After a year that was a bit difficult, especially at the beginning with Covid and everything, and now I feel in good shape and sometimes it’s hard when you don’t always get a reward for all your hard work. But today was one of those days that makes it all worth it again,” said Ellen.
“I also thought a lot about Trek-Segafredo today – I had quite some time to think about a lot of things in the last 10k and a lot was going through my mind,” she added smiling. “But the Team is always believing in me and that gives a lot of trust, so I also want to thank Trek-Segafredo for this victory, and also my coach Josu Larrazabal who I work very closely with. I am super happy!”