On Sunday, the 2019 European Cyclocross Championships left the Motherland and headed south across the Alps to Silvelle, Italy. Located near Venice, the course in Silvelle was relatively flat, with canals, mud and sand creating a tight, turny course with relatively few places for riders to really open up and put the power down.
The Italians came out to watch Europe's best cyclocrossers on Sunday, and riders got to show off their stylish helmet numbers during the race.
Although Sanne Cant (IKO - Beobank) wore the rainbow stripes to the line in the Elite Women's race, the first part of the cyclocross season suggested it would be a Dutch woman winning the Elite Women's Euro jersey. Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Corendon - Circus) was busy winning the U23 Women's title, but defending champion Annemarie Worst (777) and 2019's breakout star Yara Kastelijn (777) were still there to fight for the win.
Also on the start line was home country hero Eva Lechner (Creafin - Fristads). Lechner's presence would not normally be a story given her career-long success, but last year, the Italian Federation left her off the country's Euro Champs roster. Racing at home, you can bet Lechner had something to prove on Sunday.
As has been common this season, one of the young Dutch riders took control of the race early on and did not look back. This time it was the hottest rider in Europe Kastelijn who dropped the field. Kastelijn won Superprestige Gavere and then followed up that triumph with a win at the Koppenbergcross.
Sunday, she added a European Championship to her growing list of accomplishments in her first year as an Elite.
Lechner battled against Worst for second before securing the silver medal and showing her Federation that maybe it was kinda sorta a mistake to leave her off the team last year.
Last year, Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon - Circus) won his second-straight European Championships title. This year, a third-straight win did not come easy.
As the first half of the season suggested, Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal) proved to be the World Champ's toughest competition on Sunday, but at times, he found himself swarmed by a gaggle of Belgians looking to some way, somehow score the upset.
Early in the race, Van der Poel tried to find spots to accelerate away from his competition, but still only in his second race back for the 2019/20 season, he was unable to escape Iserbyt, and with two laps to go, he crossed the finish joined by Iserbyt, Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal) and Quinten Hermans (Telenet Baloise Lions) with Laurens Sweeck (Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal) and Toon Aerts (Telenet Fidea Lions) lurking right behind.
Shortly before the bell lap, Van der Poel dragged Iserbyt out of the group, and the battle between the two was on. Van der Poel outlasted Iserbyt in the last lap to take the win and earn the Euro Champ's jersey for another year. The win, however, was anything but easy.
For a closer look at the 2019 European Championships, see the full photo gallery from Bart Hazen below.