The race always seemed destined to finish in a mass sprint as the 209.4-km course from Murnau am Staffelsee to the Odeonsplatz in Munich featured only two modest climbs, the ascent of the Kesselberg (5.1 km at 4.9%) and a 1-km speed bump with an average slope of 10% 115 km from the finish line. A two-rider escape was hauled in with 28 km to go by a peloton dominated by teams with strong sprinters, including Ireland’s Sam Bennett who finished 5th, and Italy’s Elia Viviani, the 2019 race winner, who came in 7th. The final sprint was a three-rider contest, with Merlier hitting the front early but he was overtaken by both Démare and, finally, Jakobsen, who left his rivals no chance.
The winner was quick to credit his Dutch teammates, especially lead-out Danny van Poppel who was riding so fast that he crossed the line in fourth place. “Danny shows that he is a real lead-out,” Jakobsen told journalists after the race. “He really puts me in the wheel of Tim [Merlier] and I [could] get over it. [My teammates] are all professionals, and motivated. I can win, they know that. So I’m extremely grateful. Now we are going to have a party.”
Jakobsen has a lot to celebrate. In the 2020 Tour of Poland, he crashed into the roadside barriers at full speed after fellow sprinter Dylan Groenewegen deviated from his line. The race doctor initially reported that Jakobsen had suffered several major injuries, including serious brain trauma and damage to the upper respiratory tract, a broken palate, and heavy blood loss, and was in a life-threatening condition. This victory follows a successful 2022 campaign that saw him win three points classification titles in the spring and finish an excellent fifth in the green jersey competition in his first Tour de France.
Merlier, the 2022 Belgian national champion, left the race with regrets, as his Belgian teammates put him in a great position for the sprint. “I think I [started] a little too early,” he said. “It is painful. It was already running through my head that I would win and something like that doesn’t happen to me much. If there’s a fast rider [on] your wheel and you have to start a little too early, it’s usually fatal. And it was Jakobsen too, hey.”
Past winners of the Elite Men’s European Road Race Championships include Slovakia’s Peter Sagan in 2016, Italy’s Matteo Trentin in 2018 and, another Italian last year, Sonny Colbrelli.