This championships week has been an extremely successful one for AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step. On Sunday, the team crowned two more champions. Marthe Goossens was second in the Belgian elite championships and won the U23 title. In Estonia U23-rider Laura Lizette Sander became the national elite champion. Julia Borgström raced to the U23 title in Sweden on Saturday night.
“I didn’t expect this,” said Marthe after the finish in Izegem. “I had done one Belgian national championship before and I knew it’s a special race. There are always attacks and that was also our strategy. We really wanted a hard race. At a certain moment I was alone and no one would join me. I was afraid that attack would cost me my legs but on the last laps I could recover.
In the final sprint I was boxed in at a kilometre to go. Luckily, I did see a gap and followed Kopecky’s wheel. Lotte is so strong and I knew I couldn’t beat her but I was happy no one passed me. I always had this explosive sprint but I learned so much more tactically. Having Jolien behind me makes such a difference. She gives me confidence and peace of mind.”
In Estonia, the three Baltic Countries Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia raced together. In Lithuania Laura Lizette took home the elite title for Estonia, like she did in the time trial too.
“It was a 106-kilometre-long race,” she said. “There were some small climbs and cobblestones. I knew I had it in me to win this race. On the local laps there were only a few riders left and I won that sprint. Last year I had two junior titles and now as a first-year elite I have two elite titles. I am really happy with those.”
In Sweden, the championships were moved from Uppsala to a former race track because of permit problems. That meant the race was pan flat. Not really the terrain for Julia Borgström but she did really well. She finished third in the elite race and won the U23 title.
“I had COVID before so I wasn’t even sure I could start this race. Until quite late it was also even not certain we would actually race. Swedish Cycling had a quick solution and we raced on the track. I am happy with this result, but sad we missed out on racing through Uppsala.”
AG Insurance-Soudal Quick Step also won a bronze medal with Romy Kasper. She was elated that ,exactly ten years after her last medal at the German national championships, she could step onto the podium again, especially after having some bad luck in the time trial.
Gaia Masetti was on the attack all day in a really hilly Italian national championships in Trentino. She was caught, but fought on and wins the bronze medal for U23 riders. Nora Linton became the fourth rider of the junior team to win a national time trial. After Luca in Belgium, Nela in the Czech Republic, Fee in the Netherlands, Nora won gold in Canada. Fee Knaven won silver in the road race in the Netherlands while Mireia Benito finished off a strong weekend in Spain with a bronze medal.
Nela Kaňkovská of the junior team won her title in the Czech Republic. Febe Jooris and Marthe Goossens stepped onto the podium in Belgium with a silver and a bronze medal in the elite category.
“The national championship was held in Slovakia, in Timčice,” says Nela. “We had a course of 11,55 kilometres long. Winning this title means a lot to me. I didn’t feel super good because of the extremely high temperatures so I am happy I managed to win after all. It was a great day because my dad followed me in the car and he supported me all the way.”
In Belgium, the temperatures were high as well but it was the rain that really made it a rough day on the bike. Justine Ghekiere sadly crashed but the other four AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step riders stayed upright and all finished their 20,8-kilometre-long race. Jade Linthoudt was 15th.
Britt Knaven raced to a fifth place while Marthe Goossens and Febe Jooris ended up on the podium. After her U23-title Jooris continued her form with a silver medal in the elite category, only 18 years old.
“I am really happy I didn’t crash,” says Febe relieved. “Technically I am not the best rider so for me that was something to be proud of. We were all supported perfectly by the team here in Herzele. I didn’t feel super strong in the race but I knew I needed to push on, especially when I heard some riders had crashed. I had hoped for a podium place today and maybe also expected it from myself. For me this is a nice confirmation I can not only do this in the U23 category but also in the elite.”
Nora Linton raced in Edmonton, British Colombia. The Canadian rider faced difficult competition from the Holmgren sisters, who were first and second at the most recent cyclocross world championships. However, she succeeded in overcoming all the competition with an average speed of almost 43 kilometres per hour.
“I knew I was going up against strong athletes today, but I still felt confident for the win,” said Nora. “I’ve worked hard the last few months in my training so I’m happy to see the results I wanted. It couldn’t have been a better day for a time trial: no wind and a cooler morning made for nice conditions. It was a little hilly but after the fast downhills it didn’t take too much energy.”The road championships continued in the Netherlands today. Ilse Pluimers and Maud Rijnbeek really did a strong race but there is no U23 title in the Netherlands. If there were Ilse would have taken silver. She was now tenth overall.
Fee Knaven did win a medal. After her gold in the time trial, the 16-year-old was second in the road race.
“It was a really hard race with a thousand meters of elevation in just 60 kilometres,” Fee explained. “The course with all these punchy climbs was not really my thing but I managed to stay with the first group of five riders. I didn’t time my sprint well and finished second. That is a disappointment but the title last Wednesday does make up for that.”
In Spain, Mireia Benito surprised everyone in the time trial just north of Madrid. Mireia took home her very first professional win by beating defending champion Mavi García by one second at the national time trial championships. It was a huge surprise, not in the least for Mireia herself.
“It was a big surprise for myself too,” she smiles. “I was not feeling good after Tour des Pyrenees and even felt a bit sick. I had no idea how it would go today. It did mean I had no pressure at all. I just wanted to do my best time trial ever. That was my only goal and not to look at others, just at myself and my performance.
It was a pretty long time trial of 32 kilometres. The first part was all about keeping control because it was slightly downhill. In the second part I went all in.
I am just so grateful for the AG Insurance-Soudal Quick-Step team. We show with the best equipment and the best support what we can do. I am also grateful to my coach Carlos Fernandez. He was there for me before the race making sure my position was good. He was there throughout the race giving good cues. I didn’t want to hear any other times. I just wanted to focus on my performance alone. When I heard I won by a second and that it all worked out, it was really emotional for me.”
Mireia recovered well and still had good legs for the road race. She attacked with defending champion Mavi García and the Movistar-duo of Gutíerrez and Martín. García attacked at 27 kilometres for the line for her fifth title, but Mireia rode to bronze.
“We made a small selection already on the first climb after 15 kilometres. Mavi and I worked together as a little team and we let a break go. When they were caught Mavi attacked and I followed with the two Movistar riders. I knew that when Mavi launched her final attack I would not be able to follow. In the final sprint I was waiting and waiting but I knew it was hard to beat Martín in the sprint but I did my best. I did everything I could being alone and I am happy with the performance and the shape I have. I can’t wait for the next races.”