While the result is not remarkable in light of Castroviejo’s prowess in the discipline, as European champion and a three-time Spanish champion, it is impressive considering he is still suffering pain in his ribs from a crash on stage 2 of the Tour de Suisse, and had a mechanical that forced him to change bikes during his race.
“I had to withdraw from the Tour de Suisse with that pain in my stomach, which made me difficult to absorb any food I ate, but my condition – as shown on the opening TT – was really good,” Castroviejo said. “I spent three days completely off the bike and got back to it searching for those good sensations, then I started thinking about this championship. It was both a test on how I was doing on the bike before the Tour and also a bid for that third title.”
The 43km route, Castroviejo said, was “incredibly tough” with strong winds, high heat and constant undulations. His race came to a halt briefly when he suffered a mechanical and had to switch bikes, leaving him without the power meter for reference. “I had to use my instinct, but managed myself well over the second half of the race. I think the gaps were really made on that part, with such strong headwinds. It’s a distance which suits me well, I always do great at TTs lasting roughly an hour.”
Castroviejo’s victory was Movistar’s only win in the various national championships that have run so far. Nelson Oliveira was unable to start the championships in Santa Maria da Feira, Portugal because, the team says, his start time was changed without sufficient notice. Daniele Bennati dropped out of the Italian time trial, and Alex Dowsett was defeated by Steven Cummings for the British title on the Isle of Man.
Jasha Sütterlin’s second place to Tony Martin in Germany, just 15 seconds behind the world champion, was the team’s other bright spot on the day.
Zakarin wins Russian time trial title
Ilnur Zakarin came off his post-Giro d’Italia break with surprising form, winning the elite time trial title at the Russian National Championships in Voronezh on Friday.
Zakarin last claimed a national title in 2013, when he won the time trial, and was surprised to take his second victory. He beat teammate Maxim Belkov by 52 seconds, with Gazprom-Rusvelo’s Anton Vorobyev a close third, clocking a 49:38 on the 40.3km course.
“I am really happy and honestly I did not expect to win the gold medal today,” Zakarin said. “After the Giro d’Italia I took ten days rest, and I even gained some kilo’s. When I saw that, after 20 kilometers, I had already 20 seconds to Maxim, I decided to go for my second title. This is nice. Let’s see on Sunday what we can do for our team in the road race.”
Katusha-Alpecin’s team director Dmitry Konyshev was pleased with Zakarin’s result, saying the rest was necessary because he “was really tired and also too skinny”.
“He gained some weight and that may have helped him to secure the title. He started fast and he finished fast. He did a perfect time trial on hilly and windy course.”
Mullen tops Roche to win Irish title
When Mullen last won the national title in 2015, the WorldTour riders skipped the race, and last year he came third behind Roche and Eddie Dunbar (Axeon Hagens Berman) more than a minute off the pace. He rallied over the second half of the season and was fifth place at the world championships.
“It means a lot to me,” Mullen said of his title. “I felt like I was under a bit of pressure to win, especially after Worlds last year. To be honest, I expected to win and would have been disappointed if I didn’t. I’m glad I wasn’t unrealistic or over-confident about my chances.”
Mullen said the course with poorly surfaced country roads favoured his physique. “The lighter guys probably bounced about. There wasn’t much in the way of climbs. It was a fairly straightforward course.
“I had to start a little bit harder than what I could sustain,” Mullen said of the headwind. “I got to the halfway point, and I hadn’t over-paced. I was 15-seconds down. I thought: ‘Well, shit. This hasn’t gone to plan.’ But Roche went out too hard as well, and I pulled back 30, 40 seconds on him going back.”
Mullen will line up on Sunday for the road race knowing that he can wear his national colours in time trials for a year.
“Being a national champion is something I’m very proud of. I will always make an effort to come to Nationals, even if the timing or the location doesn’t make it the easiest race in the world to include in my schedule.”
Bonifazio out with tonsillitis
Bahrain-Merida‘s Niccolo Bonifazio will not be racing at the Italian road race championships this weekend because he has come down with tonsillitis.
The team announced on Friday that the Italian has been suffering from a high fever and has had to start on antibiotics.