Team SD Worx-Protime celebrate the victory of Chantal van den Broek-Blaak in the Dutch national road championships.

A weird and wonderful National Championships weekend

It’s more than just: who’s going to be wearing the distinctive national jerseys for the next twelve months?

SD Worx-Protime lifts up Chantal van den Broek-Blaak in celebration of her victory in the 2024 Dutch national road championships. Photo: © Cor Vos

Kit Nicholson
by Kit Nicholson 23.06.2024 Photography by
Cor Vos
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It’s the same every year, i.e. a bit weird. The weekend before the Tour de France sees most of the professional cycling cohort disperse to their respective homelands for what often resembles an elaborate school sports day – the special anniversary kind when all the high-achieving alumni return to show off medals and career highlights – and line up, grinning, among their compatriots for a jolly jaunt on ‘home roads’.

The prize? A distinctive jersey showing off your nation’s flag that you get to wear for the coming year.

In some of the bigger more cycling-oriented nations it’s mandatory for professional riders to race the National Championships (and it’s not uncommon for minor health complaints to crop up among riders aiming for the Tour), so with some teams, you see an amusing number of riders attempting to fit on the stage for sign-on, like Lotto Dstny and Alpecin-Deceuninck in Belgium, SD Worx in the Netherlands, and top men’s French teams Decathlon-AG2R, Arkéa Samsic and Groupama-FDJ, maybe the only team to do national champs jerseys properly.

At the other end of the spectrum there are the nomads, the enigmas, the lone rangers who sit sheepishly on the top tubes of their bikes surrounded by identical jerseys, alone again, even at the one bike race of the year at which absolutely everyone shares the same mother tongue.

There’s also a wide sliding scale of significance across the competing nations. In France, Belgium and the Netherlands, for instance, it’s practically a national holiday, or it seems so on a weekend like this one amid the heatwave – okay, summer – that has finally hit this pocket of Europe, while in others, it’s impossible to find out any information until the winner’s name pops up on the online stats website of your choice.

Maybe the biggest quirk of National Championships weekend is that almost nobody seems to care outside of the nation in question. Before everyone jumps on my back, let me point out that I am in the minority who actually does care, I do quite enjoy this festive weekend pre-Tour. With no UCI races to follow, everyone’s in the garden, the park, the beach or mountains, ignoring cycling before it kicks off in Tuscany next week; the supermarkets have run out of cold beer and ice-cream, the parks are too busy to risk letting the dog off the lead, and workplace Slack is a desert wasteland. But there is more to this weekend than answering the question, “Who’s going to be in the distinctive national jerseys for the next twelve months?”

That said, it is quite hard to find out what happened in the races if they’re not from the big cycling nations, live coverage or not. And there have been some bloody great (okay: good) races this weekend – honest – so here are some storylines worth noting before this article becomes obsolete as the riders pull on their bag-fresh jerseys.

Sprinters to the fore in the Benelux countries

There was something of a form check for the impending Tour’s top sprinters in Belgium and the Netherlands. In Belgium, last year’s green jersey winner Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) was a headliner alongside Wout van Aert (Visma-Lease a Bike) in his second race back post-crash, but with Arnaud De Lie supported by possibly the most literal representation of ‘strength in numbers’ for Lotto Dstny – though Alpecin-Deceuninck also turned up with plenty of matches to burn – it was the young bull who capitalised on the advantage with a spectacular victory in such company.

Arnaud De Lie celebrates victory in the Belgian national road championships 2024.
It could be argued that this is one of the most significant wins of De Lie’s career so far given where we are in the season – his debut Tour de France just around the corner.

After seeing teammates Victor Campanaerts and Florian Vermeersch – his first race in four months after suffering a fractured femur at Ciclista de Murcia in February – into the breakaway, the race came down to a bunch sprint resulting in victory for the 22-year-old over Philipsen and last year’s Champs-Élysées winner Jordi Meeus (Bora-Hansgrohe), also chalking up his team’s first Belgian national road title in ten years. Van Aert finished fifth between Thibau Nys (Lidl-Trek) and Tim Merlier (Soudal-QuickStep).

In the women’s race, no one could touch Lotte Kopecky (SD Worx-Protime) who turned up confident in her all-white skin suit with the rainbow bands glowing in the sun to double up on TT and road titles.

Over the border in the Netherlands, SD Worx-Protime once again dominated the race, almost every one of their riders a favourite for the title, perhaps none more so than defending champion Demi Vollering. However, after a brilliantly aggressive race, Chantal van der Broek-Blaak charged to an emotional win ahead of a group lead home by teammate Mischa Bredewold. It’s the 34-year-old’s third national road title of her career and first since giving birth to her first child a year ago.

Chantal van den Broek-Blaak emotionally celebrates victory at the Dutch national road championships with her one-year-old daughter and partner.
Van den Broek-Blaak was able to celebrate her third national road title with her one-year-old daughter just beyond the finish line.

“A lot has happened in recent years, but this has been the best year of my life. And it is the best victory of my career, with the little one on the finish … I’m completely shaken, I really didn’t expect this at all. F*ck!” Van den Broek-Blaak said at the finish. “I’ve had some very difficult months, but also the most beautiful year with the birth of Noa. It was very tough to come back, but I kept believing and had a really great day.”

The men’s road race was perhaps slightly less well-represented – at least compared to their colleagues over in Belgium – and here it was Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco-AlUla) who won himself a distinctive jersey and a morale boost before the Tour where he’ll face Philipsen and De Lie, whose participation we can surely expect to be confirmed any moment now after months of will-he-won’t-he …

Vive la France

If there’s a marquee event of National Championships weekend, it’s got to be in France. At this point in the season, there’s a real sense of anticipation, not just for the Tour de France and Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, but also for the Olympic Games, and with all three events taking place on French soil, these championships might understandably be an even bigger deal in 2024. Especially for the French. 

Watching both the women’s and men’s races spread out over Saturday and Sunday, you could easily mistake it for the Spring Classics. That is, until you clock the roadside dress code of sun hats and Shirt Sleeve Order, not to mention the sheer saturation of blue, red and … err … galactic green jerseys.

In the men’s race, Decathlon AG2R were widely considered the favourites despite the presence of reigning champion Valentin Madouas in the equally well-represented Groupama-FDJ, but given the fantastic year AG2R have had so far (since getting rid of their brown shorts, *sigh*), all eyes were on their striking blue and green livery.

Despite boasting only two teammates, Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-QuickStep) was also keen to get in on the action, but the aggressive racing ultimately rewarded the attacking spirits of Paul Lapeira (Decathlon AG2R), Thomas Gachignard (TotalEnergies) and lone ranger Julien Bernard, Lidl-Trek’s solitary French rider. The trio were hunted by a determined Groupama-FDJ, but there were Decathlon-AG2R jerseys all over the race, and with the fast-finishing young Lapeira up the road, their job was to make a nuisance of themselves, and they did just that, leaving the soon-to-be Tour debutant to out-power Bernard in the last few-hundred metres.

He joins the terrific Juliette Labous (DSM-firmenich PostNL) who out-sprinted Gladys Verhulst-Wild (FDJ-Suez) for her first ever national road title, as both prepare for a very busy summer in one of the greatest jerseys in the sport.

Distinctive jerseys to look out for at the Tour de France

Along with Tour debutants Paul Lapeira and Arnaud De Lie in their French and Belgian national champs’ jerseys, there will be at least three other road race champions at the start line in Florence on Saturday. Alex Aranburu (Movistar) soloed to a long awaited debut national title, keeping the Spanish flag on the Movistar team bus. Italy also got a first-time winner in Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost) who has made a habit of attacking to surprise victories of late, and who finally pulls on il tricolore five years after coming third in his last attempt to take the title. Groenewegen is the fifth national road champion slated to be at the start, though there may be one or two others who earn/confirm a Tour spot in the coming days.

Tim Wellens on his way to time trial victory in the Belgian national TT championships.

As for time trial champions, there are currently eight expected to race the TT-heavy Tour. Matej Mohorič (Bahrain-Victorious) won the Slovenian title convincingly for the first time in his career (in the absence of 2023 champ Tadej Pogačar), while Richard Carapaz (EF Education-EasyPost) Rein Taaramäe (Intermarché-Wanty), Søren Wærenskjold (Uno-X Mobility) and Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) bring their respective Ecuadorian, Estonian, Norwegian and Swiss national champ’s jerseys for at least the second time. And representing France – and keeping the tricolore chez Decathlon-AG2R – at the nation’s biggest event of the year will be Bruno Armirail (Decathlon-AG2R) who regained the bleu, blanc et rouge after his first win in 2022.

Finally, UAE Team Emirates had a great week on the TT bikes with wins for Nils Politt (Germany) and Tim Wellens (Belgium) who are both part of the extraordinary Tour squad, along with António Morgado (Portugal) and Felix Großschartner (Austria) – add to that Brandon McNulty‘s US title from a few weeks ago – while Domen Novak scored the Slovenian road title for the second time in his career.

A not-quite comprehensive list of national champions

World champion Lotte Kopecky celebrates victory at the Belgian national road championships.

N.B. To keep the list as clear and concise as possible, we’ve limited inclusion to winners who hold a pro contract and/or most frequently compete at the higher levels of the sport.

Road races

🇦🇺 Australia*Ruby Roseman-Gannon (Liv AlUla Jayco)Luke Plapp (Jayco-AlUla)
🇦🇹 AustriaAnna Kiesenhofer (Roland)Alexander Hajek (Bora-Hansgrohe)
🇧🇪 BelgiumLotte Kopecky (SD Worx-Protime)Arnaud De Lie (Lotto Dstny)
🇨🇦 CanadaOlivia Baril (Movistar) Michael Woods (Israel-Premier Tech)
🇨🇴 Colombia*Paula Patiño (Movistar)Alejandro Osorio (GW Erco Shimano)
🇩🇰 DenmarkRebecca Koerner (Uno-X Mobility)Rasmus Søjberg Pedersen (Decathlon AG2R Devo)
🇪🇨 Ecuador*Miryam Nuñez (Primeau Vélo-Groupe Abadie)Jhonatan Narváez (Ineos Grenadiers)
🇪🇷 EritreaKisanet WeldemichaelNatnael Tesfatsion (Lidl-Trek)
🇫🇷 FranceJuliette Labous (DSM-firmenich PostNL)Paul Lapeira (Decathlon-AG2R)
🇩🇪 GermanyFranziska Koch (DSM-firmenich PostNL)Marco Brenner (Tudor)
🇬🇧 Great BritainPfeiffer Georgi (DSM-firmenich PostNL)Ethan Hayter (Ineos Grenadiers)
🇭🇺 HungaryBlanka Vas (SD Worx-Protime)Attila Valter (Visma-Lease a Bike)
🇮🇪 IrelandFiona Mangan (Cynisca)Darren Rafferty (EF Education-EasyPost)
🇮🇹 ItalyElisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek)Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost)
🇰🇿 KazakhstanDmitriy Gruzdev (Astana Qazaqstan)
🇱🇻 LatviaAnastasia Carbonari (UAE Team ADQ)Emīls Liepiņš (DSM-firmenich PostNL)
🇱🇺 LuxembourgMarie Schreiber (SD Worx-Protime)Kevin Geniets (Groupama-FDJ)
🇳🇱 NetherlandsChantal van den Broek-Blaak (SD Worx-Protime)Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco-AlUla)
🇳🇿 New Zealand*Ella Wyllie (Liv AlUla Jayco)Aaron Gate (Burgos-BH)
🇳🇴 NorwayMie Bjørndal Ottestad (Uno-X Mobility)Markus Hoelgaard (Uno-X Mobility)
🇵🇱 PolandDominika Włodarczyk (UAE Team ADQ)Norbert Banaszek (Mazowsze Serce Polski)
🇵🇹 PortugalDaniela Campos (Eneicat-CMTeam)Rui Costa (EF Education-EasyPost)
🇸🇮 SloveniaUrška Žigart (Liv AlUla Jayco)Domen Novak (UAE Team Emirates)
🇿🇦 South Africa*Carla OberholzerRyan Gibbons (Lidl-Trek)
🇪🇸 SpainUsoa Ostolaza (Laboral Kutxa-Fundacíon Euskadi)Alex Aranburu (Movistar)
🇨🇭 SwitzerlandNoemi Rüegg (EF Education-Cannondale)Mauro Schmid (Jayco-AlUla)
🇺🇸 USA*Kristen Faulkner (EF Education-Cannondale)Sean Quinn (EF Education-EasyPost)
*Contested earlier in the season.

Individual time trials

🇦🇺 Australia*Grace Brown (FDJ-Suez)Luke Plapp (Jayco-AlUla)
🇦🇹 AustriaAnna Kiesenhofer (Roland)Felix Großschartner (UAE Team Emirates)
🇧🇪 BelgiumLotte Kopecky (SD Worx-Protime)Tim Wellens (UAE Team Emirates)
🇨🇦 CanadaPaula FindlayPier-André Côté (Israel-Premier Tech)
🇨🇴 Colombia*Diana Peñuela (DNA Pro Cycling)Dani Martínez (Bora-Hansgrohe)
🇩🇰 DenmarkEmma Norsgaard (Movistar)Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek)
🇪🇨 Ecuador*Miryam Nuñez (Primeau Vélo-Groupe Abadie)Richard Carapaz (EF Education-EasyPost)
🇪🇷 EritreaAdiam DawitAmanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Lidl-Trek)
🇫🇷 FranceAudrey Cordon-Ragot (Human Powered Health)Bruno Armirail (Decathlon-AG2R)
🇩🇪 GermanyMieke KrögerNils Politt (UAE Team Emirates)
🇬🇧 Great BritainAnna Henderson (Visma-Lease a Bike)Josh Tarling (Ineos Grenadiers)
🇮🇪 IrelandFiona Mangan (Cynisca)Eddie Dunbar (Jayco-AlUla)
🇮🇹 ItalyVittoria Guazzini (FDJ-Suez)Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers)
🇰🇿 KazakhstanRinata SultanovaDmitriy Gruzdev (Astana Qazaqstan)
🇱🇺 LuxembourgChristine Majerus (SD Worx-Protime)Arthur Kluckers (Tudor)
🇳🇱 NetherlandsRiejanne Markus (Visma-Lease a Bike)Daan Hoole (Lidl-Trek)
🇳🇿 New Zealand*Kim Cadzow (EF Education-Cannondale)Logan Currie (Lotto Dstny)
🇳🇴 NorwayKatrine Aalerud (Uno-X Mobility)Søren Wærenskjold (Uno-X Mobility)
🇵🇱 PolandMarta Jaskulska (Ceratizit-WNT)Filip Maciejuk (Bahrain-Victorious)
🇵🇹 PortugalDaniela Campos (Eneicat-CMTeam)António Morgado (UAE Team Emirates)
🇸🇮 SloveniaUrška Žigart (Liv AlUla Jayco)Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious)
🇿🇦 South Africa*Hayley PreenRyan Gibbons (Lidl-Trek)
🇪🇸 SpainMireia Benito (AG Insurance-Soudal)David De La Cruz (Q36.5 Pro Cycling)
🇨🇭 SwitzerlandElena Hartmann (Roland)Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ)
🇺🇸 USA*Taylor KnibbBrandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates)
*Contested earlier in the season.

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