GLASGOW (Reuters) - Ellen van Dijk and Victor Campenaerts retained their time trial titles at the European Championships by agonisingly narrow margins after the most dramatic of finishes on Wednesday.
Van Dijk won her third consecutive women’s title over the demanding 32.3 kilometre course around the streets of Glasgow but only by two seconds after the tightest of battles with her Dutch compatriot Anna van der Breggen.
Yet that seemed positively clear-cut in comparison to the winning push in the 45.7km men’s race of Belgian Campenaerts, who sprinted furiously to the line to pip the time of Spain’s Jonathan Castroviejo by a mere 0.63 seconds.
“Last year, I only won by two seconds so that’s two years in a row where we have had a really close finish,” said Campenaerts.
“One day I want to win a time trial with a big advantage! It would be nice to enjoy the kind of scenario where you are four minutes ahead with 10km to go.
“But on the other hand, I think it’s really nice for the spectators and the race. When it’s a close finish the race is a lot more exciting.”
After two long, exhausting solo battles against the clock over undulating terrain, made more treacherous by intermittent rain, it did, though, feel almost cruel that gold could be decided in such a close fashion.
Van Dijk originally thought she had just missed the target time of 41 minutes and 41 seconds earlier set by Olympic road race champion Van der Breggen.
“I thought first that Anna had won by two seconds but then I heard it was me,” said the 31-year-old Van Dijk, whose official winning time was 41:39.
“So it was super, super close especially after such a long time trial and I’m really happy to be on the good side.”
The Dutch pair, making amends for their team’s failure to win the road race title at the weekend, were in a different class to their opponents, with German bronze medallist Trixi Worrack (42:48) well over a minute behind.
Van Dijk, the world time trial champion two years ago and formerly a global champion on the track as well as the road, had looked in control as she led by 17 seconds at the halfway stage as the race had already become a two-rider duel.
“But it was challenging with wet roads and a slippery course rolling up and down and at the end it was very tricky,” said Van Dijk, whose lead was eaten into on the ride back towards the city centre.
For the 28-year-old “Queen of the Ardennes” Van der Breggen, who has enjoyed a superb year, it was, frustratingly, the second successive year that she had finished behind Van Dijk in this race, claiming bronze in the 2017 edition.
In the afternoon, with further rain having made the course even trickier, the men’s title looked set to go to Spain’s Castroviejo who, continuing the form that saw him help Sky team mate Geraint Thomas win the Tour de France, set the target with 53:39.41.
Campenaerts, champion in Herning, Denmark last year, had other ideas, getting out of the saddle to power over the final stretch at Glasgow Green and snatch victory in 53:38.78. Germany’s Maximilian Schachmann took bronze in 54:06.16.
Reporting by Ian Chadband; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Pritha Sarkar