The Lithuanian colours will be seen on the next Tour de France. On Sunday, Ignatas Konovalovas indeed took his national road title in a race bringing together all the Baltic countries in Valga (Estonia). At 35 years of age, “Kono” then became Lithuanian champion for the second time in his career in the road race, and for the ninth time overall, including the time trial.
To compete in his national championship this year, Ignatas Konovalovas had to cross Latvia to get to the southern end of Estonia, in Valga, where an event bringing together all the Baltic countries’ championships was taking place. This was already something new for the experienced 35-year-old rider. “Since there were a lot of us at the start, it was a normal race, which we are not used to in the Lithuanian championship,” he joked. “It was also hot, over 30°C. When there were attacks, you could really feel the heat.” On Sunday, the race included 173 kilometres and the riders quickly got into action. “The race started quite early. There were already only 23 riders left in front with 120k to go”, he said. “The course was quite hilly. We also had to cover 4-5 kilometers of gravel road and I had a flat tire at that point. My car was not immediately behind so I did another three kilometres on the flat with the rear wheel punctured before I could change it. Then we had to do six laps of ten kilometres with a cobbled climb of about 500 meters”.
“The biggest motivation was my family”, Ignatas Konovalovas
After a first quiet lap, things got livelier with about 50k to go. “We ended up in small groups all over the road,” Ignatas said. “There were four riders in front and I was in a 3-man group behind. However, the two riders with me were not pulling so I could not get back to the first four. Therefore, we stayed like that, in chase, for more than forty kilometers. I realized pretty quickly that I would be the first Lithuanian on the line, if I didn’t puncture and if I didn’t have any problems. I knew there were three Estonians and a Latvian in front, and I was with an Estonian and a Latvian myself”. While Toms Skujins went on to win the Scratch event – and the Latvian title -, and Mihkel Räim (2nd) won the Estonian title, Ignatas Konovalovas finished the race in fifth place 2’39 down, but more than five minutes ahead of its closest Lithuanian competitor. “I’m very happy to have this jersey and especially to wear it during the Tour de France with the team,” Kono said. “That prospect certainly motivated me today, but the biggest motivation was my family. My wife, my two sons and my mother-in-law were there. I’m a bit disappointed because I wanted to raise my arms. It’s not something I often get to do. It’s a shame, but the important thing still is that I won my championship”.