This year, the competitions are in the Czech Republic, and the timetable looks like this (times in Central European Summer Time - links to the startlists)
|18th July||11:00 Junior men's ITT||15:30 u23 women's ITT|
|19th July||11:00 Junior women's ITT||15:30 u23 men's ITT|
|20th July||11:00 Junior men's Road Race||13:30 u23 women's RR|
|21st July||11:00 Junior women's RR||13:30 u23 men's RR|
Juniors, in this case, are riders born in 1995-6, and u23s 1991-94 - and the u23 men can't be in a pro team.
The courses are the same for the junior men and u23 women - 22km for the ITT and 126km for the Road Race, while the junior women race an 18km ITT and 75km, and the u23 men have a 34km ITT and 165km RR. The best place to find the course maps and profiles is in the race book.
For the ITTs - the junior men/u23 women has a 156m height difference on the profile - a gentle change, going up, gradually, to the half-way point, and then down to the finish. The u23 men's is bumpier - a 399m difference, with a more jagged profile, but still no real climbs, and the junior women have a 211m difference, with more of a gentle U-shaped profile, starting with a descent and going up to the finish.
The road races have the same route, starting with a run-in to Svatý Kopeček and then a different number of laps - 6 for the junior women, 11 for the junior men & u23 women, and 15 for the u23 men. The lap looks fairly straightforward, with a 199m height change - the hill is at the lap start/finish, so each lap starts with the descent and ends with the climb, although neither look particularly difficult.
So who's racing?
Vlaanderen will be along after the men's races, to tell you what they mean, and I highly recommend his blog, Espoirs Central, which has a huge amount of information about the u23 peloton and stars. But among the women...
A few weeks ago, I would have been tipping Elisa Longo Borghini for the Road Race win, but then she fractured her hip and had a nasty stomach injury in the Italian National Championships, and while she's back on her rollers now, she's nowhere near racing. Forza Elisa! We miss you! But even without her, the Italian team looks really strong on the provisional statlists. Elisa's Hitec team-mate Rossella Ratto is only just out of juniors at 19, but she's been on the podium of the elite 2.1-ranked Giro del Trentino and the Emakumeen Bira this year, and after was 6th in last year's Elite World Champs. She's a former Road and ITT Junior European Champion - and she's surrounded by strong riders.
The Italian squad shows how well they develop young talent - it's probably not hilly enough for the Giro Rosa Best Young Rider, Francesca Cauz, but national champion Dalia Muccioli has been going really well, and if it comes to a bunch sprint, Elena Cecchini is also strong.
The biggest challenge for the victories will be the Dutch. I tend to forget how many of their riders as still u23 - Amy Pieters, from a family full of cycling stars, has won all kinds of Best Young Rider jerseys, and was third in the Tour of ChongMing Island World Cup this year for Argos-Shimano; Sabrina Stultiens, who's been better known as a cyclocross rider, but who's been great on the road; and Stultiens' Rabobank-Liv/giant team-mate Thalita de Jong,who was 4th in the 2011 Junior World ITT Champs, and this year has won a load of crits, came 6th in the Dutch National Championships and second in the GC at the Tour de Bretagne.
The Dutch and the Italians won't have things all their own way - there are all kinds of pro riders on the startlists
Belgium's Evelyn Arys won the road race last year, and this year's team is headed by one of the Von Trapps of the cycling world, Jessy Druyts. There are five or six cycling Druyts siblings, and they'll be all over the podiums of the biggest races in the next decade. Jessy races with her big sister Kelly on the Topsport Vlaanderen development team - while Céline van Severen and Kaat Hannes are Lotto-Belisol riders.
Like the Belgians, there's a lot of young talent in the French ranks - and top of the list is Aude Biannic. Hitec is well-represented - Julie Leth, who wore the Best Young Rider jersey after Stage 1 of the Giro, represents Denmark and Miriam Bjørnsrud, Emilie Moberg and Thea Thorsen ride for Norway.
Then there are all the Eastern Europeans, who aren't so well-known in the peloton, but who always shine. Look out for new names doing really well.
Most controversial rider on the startlist is Ganna Solovey of Ukraine, fresh off her suspension for
EPO doping. (She's variously spelt C/H/Ganna Solovey/i, because of translations from the Russian alphabet). Solovey was the Junior World ITT Champion in 2009 and 2010, and was 4th in the Junior World Road Race in 2010 - but then in 2011, aged just 19, she was discovered to be taking EPO EDIT! Steroids, but it's the same thing, and arguably steroids give more of an effect on women than men - thanks po8crg. (yeah, yeah, I should have read my own link!) There's a worrying series of anecdata about very young women being doped by their trainers, and it looks like that's what happened here. The Euros are Solovey's first race back after her two-year ban - here's hoping she's clean and OK.
The junior women are more difficult to call. There's a super-exciting junior scene in Italy, with races that are shown on Italian tv - here's 20 minutes of the Junior National Championships, won by Ariana Fidanza, for example. This is where I miss Monty., he always was good at following the Italian youngsters - and Cicloweb have regular articles about who to watch.
The other big heartland for junior racing is the Netherlands, where we've had two international junior women's stage races at the Omloop van Borsele and the EnergieWacht Tour. These have tended to be Belgium v Netherlands v Great Britain for the victories. It's surprising not to see young Dutch star and Borsele winner Nicky Zijlaard on the startlist, but there will be Floortje Maackaij, the junior Dutch ITT Champion, who was third overall in the Energiewacht Tour and won stage 3, and Ilse Miltenburg, who was second overall - and Thalita de Jong's little sister, Demi, who was third in the Junior World ITT Champs last year. So much talent!
More little sisters among the Belgians - Demmy Druyts - and my pick of the young Belgians, and Druyt's topsport Vlaanderen team-mate, Lotte Kopecky, who was 3rd in the Junior Euro ITT and 5th in the road race last year, and second overall in the Borsele race.
As for the rest, who knows? But this is one of the fun things about the competition, learning about who to watch!
Startlists and Results
Television and streaming
The annual rants
One big country that's missing on the startlists is Great Britain. It's become an annual disappointment to see that British Cycling don't send any teams to the Euros.... on the women's side. They have seven u23 men in the road race, but none in the women's, and it makes no sense. This is a common theme, and one that's hugely disappointing - especially given that the current Junior World ITT and Road champions are British. There aren't any reasons for this that make sense - and while, yes, British Cycling support four women on the road - Laura Trott, Jo Rowsell, Dani King and Elinor barker - that's because they're the track stars. We know there is tons of junior and u23 talent in the UK - just look at Amy Hill, who won the junior EnergieWacht Tour for example, and there's a huge stack of brilliant riders. If we can send a Welsh team AND a British team to races like EnergieWacht - and if we can send men to the Euros, why can't we send women?
It's a fantastic opportunity for young riders to race in a peloton against the stars of the future, get used to international racing and get spotted by teams who might sign them, and I've never heard a reason that makes sense, apart from "British Cycling aren't that interested in women's road". It's another reason why, when Brian Cookson talks about how he wants to develop women's racing, if he becomes head of the UCI, I get frustrated, and wonder why he hasn't started this in his home organisation...
Follow all the competitions in the comments - and if you see anything you like about the Euros, add it in! Watch out for Vlaanderen's articles about the men, too. I love this competition, and I hope you do too