It was a day of victories and close calls on Sunday with team members bringing home three national titles to make RADIOSHACK LEOPARD TREK the most successful team in today’s championships. Earning gold medals were Stijn Devolder for Belgium, Robert Kišerlovski for Croatia and Bob Jungels for Luxembourg. The wins make the ninth in eleven days, including four stage wins in the Tour de Suisse and Luxembourg as well as national time trial wins from Cancellara and Jungels earlier in the week.
Devolder returns to a run in his national jersey for the third time with his earlier wins coming in 2007 and 2010. Stijn won after a solo break of 25 kilometers: “I was really focused on this championships – I wanted to win. This is a nice moment for me. I wanted to show that I am really back after some bad years. I promised myself that I would win a big race again and now I want to enjoy this moment with my family. They stuck by me and we deserve this.” Taking the silver and bronze medals were Gianni Meersman, son of RSLT sports director Luc Meersman, and fellow teammate Jan Bakelants, who animated the race throughout the day.
Rider Ben Hermans could not start due to a rib fracture, leaving three riders from RADIOSHACK LEOPARD TREK to go up against the powerhouses of Omega Pharma-QuickStep and Lotto-Belisol, with Maxime Monfort the third team rider of the group. Devolder: “We didn’t have the numbers but I chose the right moment to attack. You need to be strong but also smart. It was the right moment to attack at two laps to go. It absolutely played out the way I had pictured it over the last couple of months. Having Jan in the front with Seeldraeyers and De Gendt was just perfect. I could sit back and wait to see how the race would unfold. I knew I had put out one massive effort instead of playing a game. Thanks to everyone on the team that was here today, both the riders and staff. I can’t believe I won this! I knew how good I was, but I had been hiding my shape a bit because I didn’t want to be named as a favorite. There were so many favorites, and I didn’t want to start the race with pressure.”
Bakelants also did a strong race, attacking with Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Kevin Seeldraeyers of Astana. When the three were caught, Devolder attacked and stayed clear to the finish line. Devolder will not start in the 100th Tour de France next week. Asked about his non-selection, he replied: “No, this is not an answer to my non-selection. I had no time to be disappointed as I was so busy preparing for this championship. Nothing could keep me from concentrating on this goal these past days. After the classics, these championships were my only goal. I bundled all of my energy into this day. I’m very, very happy and proud. It’s an honor to wear this jersey.”
Team director Dirk Demol added: “Stijn attacked just once but it was the perfect attack: strength and timing. Also Jan was very good today. He jumped at everything that moved and performed as the perfect teammate. I’m happy he got third!”
Also leading the way with a gold medal was Bob Jungels in the Luxembourgish championships, making young Bob both the time trial and road champion in his neo-pro year. Jungels: “It was really hard because we said we would go for Andy. Laurent (Didier) and I were there to help him. I was pulling from the first lap to control the race. The break was composed of local riders so we actually caught them a bit too early. With the rain and everything, Andy didn’t feel good enough so we changed tactics. Laurent and I were also tired so we had to see what was possible. He attacked with 20km to go but was brought back after 5km. I counterattacked straight away and rode the last 15km alone. Everyone was looking at us to control the race so that was a lot of pressure.”
The course was 12 laps with two climbs, for a total or 170km. Jungels had a big following on hand with the course close to his home: “I can wear the Lux flag in every single race now, having won both the time trial and the road race. It’s my first year as a pro so these two wins are so awesome and I’m really happy!” Today’s win marks the tenth career title for Bob Jungels having taken the Junior road twice, the U23 roads twice, the time trial six times, along with this week’s wins in the elite time trial and road, all by the age of 20.
Meanwhile in Croatia, Robert Kišerlovski took his first Croatian title and is the new Croatian Road Champion. The RADIOSHACK LEOPARD TREK rider was the best of all Croatian riders in Primošten Burnji. Recent Tour of Slovenia winner Radoslav Rogina (Adria Mobil) finished second with Robert’s brother Emanuel Kišerlovski (Meridiana – Kamen) third.
“I am happy,” said Robert Kišerlovski. “This is my first title as an elite rider so better late than never. For me it is always hard to win a championship as all riders look at me and control my movements. This was the case today, also. The course was not really my favorite type of course either. There were no long climbs, but it was very tough. Constantly up and down and the wind made it very hard.”
Robert Kišerlovski was part of a decisive break of 30 riders. At 5 K from the finish he attacked a first time, then again a second time at 3 K to go, this time with more success, holding five seconds at the finish: “Rogina tried to chase me down, but I need to thank my brother Emanuel for helping me a lot in the final and for disrupting the chase. This is nice.” Kišerlovki’s next race will be the Tour of Austria and his next big objective the Tour of Poland.
Gregory Rast finished fifth at the Nationals in Switzerland. The race was a tie between IAM cycling and BMC, both very eager for the win. RADIOSHACK LEOPARD TREK had ONLY two riders: Fabian Cancellara and Rast. Both Cancellara and Rast tried to anticipate that battle by going in the break, but they were unsuccessful. In the final, Rast found himself in a group with two riders of each big block. When two riders attacked, one each from a big team, the chasers looked to Rast, who was forced to pull. Rast finished fifth.
The French Nationals were a very strategic race with the teams with the big numbers (Europcar, FDJ, AG2R) playing a strategic game and Arthur Vichot (FDJ) as the winner. Vichot was part of the break of the day, but he dropped all of his companions. Sylvain Chavanel jumped across, followed by Tony Gallopin. With the three riders together at the front, Vichot attacked and got clear. Chavanel was second, and a disappointed Gallopin took home the bronze.
Tiago Machado took the silver medal in Portugal behind winner Joni Brandao (Efapel): “I promised everyone I would fight until the end and I did that but finished second. Sorry but I ran out of power! Thanks for the support from everyone.”
When Stijn crossed the finish line he held his hands into the shape of a ‘W’ in honor of his fallen friend Wouter Weylandt who died in a high speed descent on the third stage in the 2011 Giro d’Italia. Devolder: “When I was alone, I didn’t really think of much except of Wouter Weylandt. That’s why I made that sign when I crossed the finish line. I have been wanting to dedicate a victory to him since he died and now I finally had the chance.”