Baptiste Pierron and Camille Balanche crowned European Downhill Champions

06 may 2019
Baptiste Pierron and Camille Balanche crowned European Downhill Champions
The Pampilhosa da Serra track proved to be demanding and challenging, keeping all the results a surprise until the last second.

The Frenchman Baptiste Pierron (Dorval AM) and Swiss Camille Balanche became European Downhill Champions (DHI). Gonçalo Bandeira (Miranda Factory Team) was the best junior in the competition that took place in Pampilhosa da Serra, in the heart of the Aldeias do Xisto, from 2 to 5 May. The Portuguese athletes won five titles and a total of eight medals in the Master categories, on a track that proved to be demanding and challenging, with all the results kept a surprise until the last second, thus underlining the quality of the tracks and the natural conditions that the village offers for sports practice. A truth reinforced by the public, athletes, and organisations involved, as you can see here.

Watch the competition video here.

The Elite men's final was a very high-level and fierce contest between the top three finishers, separated by less than a second. Baptiste Pierron confirmed his status as the main candidate, covering the 2.090 kilometres in 3'13''501, two and a half seconds faster than the best time the previous day.

"I am very satisfied with my performance on this really demanding track, both in physical and technical terms, it's like the World Cup tracks", considers the new European champion.

Pierron's compatriot and teammate, Benoit Coulanges, who had been fastest in the timed session, also improved his personal best, but his 3'14''313 in the final only earned him the silver medal, 0.812 seconds behind the winner. The bronze medal was won by Austrian David Trummer, 0.825 seconds behind the first place.

Emanuel Pombo (Ciclo Madeira Clube Desportivo) was the best amongst the Portuguese atheletes, finishing eighth position, 5,063s from the first. Portuguese aspirations were disappointed by crashes. Francisco Pardal, European title holder, failed in the timed session and free practice and could not join the final line up.

Gonçalo Bandeira, a first-year junior, was hoping to fight for the Elite podium, but had a fall in the final. Despite this, he won first place among juniors as a consolation prize, a result that, this year, only gave him the right to a medal, as the UCI decided to award titles only in the absolute classification, which selected elite, under-23, and junior racers.

"I wanted to fight for victory in the overall. I think that, without the crash, I could have been among the first elite. But we have to move on, with the World Cup in mind. This is my first year as a junior and I'm still getting used to this level, which is very different from the cadets. We have to work harderand harder to achieve good international results”, said Gonçalo Bandeira, minutes before stepping onto the podium.

The women's elite competition was even more tightly contested than the men's descent. Swiss Camille Balanche won the European title, with a time of 3'41''609, 0.63 seconds better than last year's European champion Monika Hrastnik from Slovenia. Third placed was Italian Veronika Widmann (Insync Racing), 0.189 seconds behind the winner.

"The track was tricky because it gave you the feeling that you weren't going fast enough, leading you to take risks and make mistakes. But, in the end, I was very fast and I am very happy with this victory, which I did not expect when I arrived in Portugal. But in training I gained confidence and realised that I could reach the podium. Today I gave my utmost and won", says Camille Balanche.

Margarida Bandeira (Montanha Clube/Louzan Park), 14th, 25.669 seconds behind the winner, was the best Portuguese athelete. France's Nastasia Gimenez achieved the status of the best female junior.The

Portuguese stand out in the Masters

The Portuguese veterans performed well in this European Championship, winning five gold medals, two silver, and one bronze. Madeiran Daniel Pombo (Ciclo Madeira Clube Desportivo) was the fastest of the Masters 30, finishing in 3'24'746, 0.338 seconds less than the Spaniard Manuel Pellon (BDM Bike Clube). Third, at 4.401 seconds, was the German Benny Strasser (Magura Santa Cruz).

Luís Ribeiro (UD Lorvanense) was the winner in Masters 35, with 3'33''755, 5.182 seconds behind his compatriot Paulo Domingues (MS Racing Portugal/Estrelas da Amadora), and 10.551 seconds behind the Spaniard Borja Comesaña (Tres Lunas Race/Acerbis Ariete). The remaining Portuguese titles went to Master 30 Fátima Vida (Associação 20 Km Almeirim/Restaurante O Forno), Master 60 Rui Portela, and Master 65 Rui d'Almeida, that raced without an opponent in their respective categories.

João Estevão (Wildpack Algarve Racing) was European Master 50 vice-champion, only beaten by the Spanish Ramón Figueras (Molabikes Team). Ana Martins (Casa do Povo de Abrunheira) took the bronze medal in women's Masters 35, a category won by the Spanish Estefania Cabarcos (BDM Bike Clube).

The other Masters’ titles are now in the possession of Italian Master 40 Paolo Alleva (Team, his compatriot Master 45 Oscar Colombo (Team, French Master 55 Bruno Rizzo (Dorval AM), and Dutch Master Manon Bernardet Hooijschuur (BMX Terrassa Club).

You can see the complete classification here.

The European Downhill Championship is on the calendar of Cyclin' Portugal project, that recognises Aldeias do Xisto as the premier destination of excellence in the country for cycling, which combines quality infrastructures, competitive and leisure events, and tourist programmes and services specially designed for this public.

Photography: Licínio Florêncio and Júlio Ornelas

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