Lorena Wiebes sprints to European road race championships gold in photo finish

Dutch fast woman times her effort to perfection to beat Elisa Balsamo

Lorena Wiebes
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Lorena Wiebes of the Netherlands timed her bike throw to perfection to take European Championship gold narrowly ahead of Elisa Balsamo of Italy on Sunday.

The Dutch sprinter was forced to wait for confirmation of her victory, as the women's road race in Munich went to a photo finish after 130km of hard riding.

It looked like the Italian leadout train had just edged out the Dutch equivalent, with Balsamo expertly lead out by Rachele Barbieri into the finish. With Wiebes forced to go alone, she launched her sprint with just over 200 metres to go, and clung on to beat Balsamo on the line by a tyre's width.

Barbieri finished in third behind the pair, with Lisa Brennauer of Germany narrowly missing out on a podium place in her last professional road race.

Balsamo against Wiebes was what was expected ahead of the race, and this is how it ended, with the two pre-eminent sprinters in the peloton showing why they are thought of in that way. 

The result means that the Netherlands have both of the European road race titles in their grasp, after Fabio Jakobsen won the men's race last weekend.

In the six editions of the European Championships road race, the Dutch have won five of them, proof if it was ever needed that they are the dominant force in women's cycling.

It was a fairly controlled race, with the Netherlands firmly taking hold of the peloton from far out, ensuring it would finish in a sprint. Defending champion Ellen van Dijk, in particular, was on the front for multiple kilometres heading into the day's denouement, bringing the three riders who were out in front back.

It was then Italy who took control, and for a moment it looked like the Dutch had mistimed their effort, as the women in white and orange faded from the front as those in blue surged forwards.

Wiebes was forced to freelance in the final kilometre, and was dropped off onto the wheel of Balsamo, her main competitor. She then launched her sprint first, going from rather far out, but managed to hold on to power to victory, holding off Balsamo by centimetres. 

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