Two Etixx – Quick-Step riders came in the top 5 at the first edition open to the professional riders.
The European Championships in Plumelec took the riders over a 13.7-km long course which the bunch had to cover 17 times, for more than 230 kilometers. The main difficulty of the route was Côte de Cadoudal, a 1800m climb averaging 7.8% used in the past at the French Nationals and in the Tour de France, which featured at the end of each lap and was expected to be decisive.
First part of the race was a quiet one, just four riders going into the break and opening a maximum advantage of 11 minutes, which was reduced by the peloton without too many difficulties. Five laps before the finish, the move of the quartet was nullified and a new group formed, Vuelta a España stage winner David De La Cruz booking a place at the front together with six other man.
Behind, the race came to life as Belgium got organized and took over the reins, keeping the gap in control before bringing the riders back inside the last 30 kilometers. On the final lap, Italy's Moreno Moser tried to surprise the bunch with an attack, but despite having half a minute at one point, he couldn't go all the way and was reeled in with 1 200 meters left.
In the sprint, a strong Julian Alaphilippe – who played a smart race on home turf – finished second, behind world champion Peter Sagan, third place going to Spain's Daniel Moreno. For 24-year-old Julian, who's in his third season with Etixx – Quick-Step, it was another excellent result which underlined the strong condition he had throughout 2016, following the overall victory at the Tour of California, the runner-up spot he took in Flèche Wallonne, the fourth place at the Olympic Games and the white jersey and top 10 overall in the Critérium du Dauphiné.
Second four days ago at the Grand Prix de Wallonie, Petr Vakoč also got involved in the sprint which concluded the European Championships in Bretagne, finishing fifth, in the same time as the winner; Daniel Martin rolled over the line in 13th position, while another Etixx – Quick-Step rider, Gianni Meersman, completed the race in 17th.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele