cycling news / Leopard completes Nationals week with a gold and bronze medal
It has been a tradition for many, many years now. One week prior to the start of the Tour de France, the biggest race in cycling, most cycling federations organize the National Championships in their country. Leopard Pro Cycling had riders competing in both the time trials and road races across no less than six countries.
Already last Wednesday and Thursday, the first Leopard riders appeared at the start line of the National Time Trial Championships. In Leopard’s home country Luxembourg, Tom Wirtgen and Pit Leyder competed in the U23 Championship, whilst Gaëtan Pons took part in the Elite variant. Pons rode a solid time trial, but was not able to mix himself amongst the UCI World Tour and Pro Continental Tour riders. As third of the Continental riders, Gaëtan finished the race in seventh place, 2 minutes 22 behind winner Jempy Drucker (BMC). Altough this was a respectable result, all the attention went to his younger teammate Tom Wirtgen who was able to win the U23 Time Trial Championships beating the competition by a margin of over twenty seconds. Pit Leyder finished this races as fifth.
Also in Poland and Belgium one could see Leopard riders in the battle against the clock. In Poland, Szymon Rekita took on some tough opposition and he covered the entire course in a time that was 2’31 slower than this year’s Milan-San Remo winner Michal Kwiatkowski. In Belgium, Laurent Vanden Bak had the 24th time, which is no shame if you look at capabilities of the riders that finished in front of him.
Last Sunday it was time for the National Road Race Championships. Leopard had twelve competitors across Europe, of which the most were active in Luxembourg and Germany (both four). In Luxembourg, Pit Leyder was not able to start the race as he got sick after the time trial a few days earlier. The Leopard team missed him and the result was not as expected. It went already really fast in the second lap and this was the moment that the best riders seperated themselves. Tom Wirtgen was in sixth position and just lost contact on top of the climb. It meant that he and the other Leopard riders – Gaëtan Pons, Pit Schlechter and Luc Wirtgen – had to chase the professionals down, which turned out to be an impossible task. In the battle for the medals in the U23 race, Tom went away with two Differdange riders and just missed out on the silver medal on the line.
Also at the German National Championships, the result of the Leopard riders was a bit disappointing. The race turned out to be really hard right from the start. This pace and the demanding course caused that only 74 riders were able to cross the line in Chemnitz. Jan Brockhoff (33rd) and Alexander Krieger (38th) gave it their all, but simply did not have the legs to finish in the higher ranks.
The same was to be said for Laurent Vanden Bak. The Belgian was able to stay with the main bunch for 200 kilometers during the Belgian National Championships in Antwerp, but then he was – also because of a unlucky spring with lots of injury trouble – not able to continue the race. The Brit Charlie Quarterman was not one of the only twelve riders (!) that finished the race on the Isle of Man (Great Britain). Altough the youngster anticipated and made it into the break of the day, he was forced to leave the race when the professionals took over. In Poland, Szymon Rekita finished in 24th position after a tough championship, whilst Aksel Nõmmela took seventh in Estonia where he was best of the rest. All in all, mixed feeling for Leopard Pro Cycling. The results in the road races were not as expected, but in the end the team can be happy with the two medals of its young prospect Tom Wirtgen.
Tom Wirtgen: “I am really happy that I was able to win the U23 Time Trial Championships. It was a big goal and I had good expectations as the course suited me very well. Altough it was very warm, I was able to complete the race with an average above 50 km/h. In the road race it was really cool to have my brother in the same team. In the second lap I was just five meters short from staying with the first riders, which is a shame. I finished in third place of the U23 race, which is not a bad result. It was a good week with two podium spots, one gold and one bronze medal.”