Europeans battle for road-race crowns

From Great Britain to Italy, this weekend marked the road race national championships of nations across Europe. Amongst the winners: Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Ian Stannard (Sky) and Franco Pellizotti (Androni Giocatolli-Venezuela).

France

FDJ-Big Mat teammates Nacer Bouhanni and Arnaud Démare went one-two in the 256.2km French national road race on Sunday in Saint-Amand-les-Eaux.

Adrien Petit (Cofidis) rounded out the podium in third.

FDJ kept tabs on the field during the rainy stage, which saw defending champion Sylvain Chavanel isolated after a crash took out Omega Pharma-Quick Step teammates Laurent Pichon and Jérémy Roy.

In the finale, Démare launched the sprint but Bouhanni came around for the victory.

“Failing five meters from the line — it’s very hard,” said Démare, adding that nonetheless Bouhanni’s win “was great for the team.”

Bouhanni said he had prepared well for nationals and praised his team for delivering him to the line.

“The team did an incredible job,” he said. “I can’t believe it. This is a really great day.”

Belgium

Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) sprinted to victory out of a five-man break on Sunday in the Belgian national road-race championship in Geel.

Kristof Goddaert (Ag2r La Mondiale) finished second with Sven Vandousselaere (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator) third, both in the same time as Boonen.

Break-mates Jan Bakelandts (RadioShack-Nissan) and Julien Vermote (Omega Pharma) followed seconds later for fourth and fifth.

It was Boonen’s second national road title, his first coming in 2009, and his 10th victory of 2012.

“For me it’s something special to win in front of all my supporters in my region,” Boonen said. “It was a difficult race. Actually I was happy about the rain, because I knew that in these kind of weather conditions the race would have been even harder in the final.

“The team was super strong today and in the final I counted on a great Julien Vermote, who did a great job for me. I’m in good condition — I really worked hard in the last week. As I said, after the classics this was my goal. Now I can look forward to the Olympics. …”

Great Britain

Sky teammates Ian Stannard and Alex Dowsett went one-two on Sunday at the British national road-race championships in North Yorkshire.

The two had been part of an early five-man break that included Raleigh-GAC duo Russell Hampton and Graham Briggs as well as Oli Beckingsale (Endura MTB Racing).

The escapees had a lead of more than six minutes at one point during the 183.4km race. Briggs and Beckingsale couldn’t match the pace and fell back to the bunch.

Then Stannard attacked with 32km to go, taking a lead of just over a minute. It was all he needed — the 25-year-old hung tough for the victory and his teammate followed for silver, just ahead of Hampton.

AA Drink-Leontien.nl did Sky one better in the women’s 107km race. Sharon Laws led a sweep of the podium, with Lizzie Armitstead taking second and Emma Pooley third.

Laws escaped from the bunch with Armitstead and Pooley as well as Nikki Harris (Young Telenet) early in the race, and they quickly established a lead of some four minutes.

Then, with 24km to go, Laws attacked on a climb, quickly taking a minute on her former companions. Armitstead and Pooley began a chase, but the injection of pace proved too much for Harris, who was left behind.

Laws held her lead to the line, while Armitstead took second from Pooley.

Netherlands

Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) likewise rode solo to the title in the Dutch road championship on Sunday in Kerkrade.

Lars Boom (Rabobank) finished second, nearly two minutes behind, with Bert-Jan Lindeman (Vacansoleil-DCM) third at 2:02.

“I’m happy about my performance,” said Terpstra. “I have to say that I surprised myself. We were in a little group and I tried to accelerate to split the group and make it smaller but I remained alone. At that point I took the risk and I did a time trial.

“I like these kind of races with bad weather conditions. It’s my second title, and the first win was great, but this one, with a solo ride. is even better!”

Germany

Fabian Wegmann (Garmin-Barracuda) out-kicked Linus Gerdemann (RadioShack) and Julian Kern (Leopard-Trek Continental) to win the German road title on Sunday in Grimma.

It was Wegmann’s third national crown — he also won the road championships in 2007 and 2008.

Slovakia

Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) beat Peter Velits (Omega Pharma) to the line on Sunday to defend his Slovakian national road championship.

Patrik Tybor (Dukla Trencin Trek) finished third in the 190km race at Puchov.

Luxembourg

Laurent Didier (RadioShack) won the Luxembourg national road race on Sunday in Tétange.

Ben Gastaeur (Ag2r La Mondiale) took second with Fränk Schleck (RadioShack) third.

“Fränk launched the first attack with four laps to go,” Didier said. “He got a small gap, but then Gastauer counterattacked and managed to stay clear for a while. He was riding very strong today. But we closed the gap again and then Fränk and I launched one attack after another, to isolate Gastauer. When I eventually got away with 7 kilometers to go, Fränk was the perfect teammate.”

Gastauer tried to chase but got no help from Schleck, and had to satisfy himself with a silver medal.

“I’m incredibly happy with this result. It’s my first pro victory and pro title, so I’m really happy,” he said. “It’s an honor to wear the colors of your country.” Didier was the national cyclocross champion as a junior (in 2000) and also the U23 time trial champion in 2005.

Italy

Franco Pellizotti (Androni Giocatolli-Venezuela) rode alone to victory on Saturday in the Italian road-race championship.

Danilo Di Luca (Acqua & Sapone) crossed 27 seconds later for the runner-up spot in the 254.7km contest from Pergine Valsugana to Borgo Valsugana. Moreno Moser (Liquigas-Cannondale) took third in the same time.

“Since my return to racing this was my No. 1 goal,” said Pellizotti, who resumed competition in May at the Circuit Lorraine after serving a two-year suspension based on what the UCI deemed “abnormal numbers” in his biological passport.

The Italian cycling federation cleared the climbing specialist, but the UCI appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and prevailed.

Di Luca served his own suspension after testing positive for CERA in 2009.