The European Championships began with the time trial events ©Twitter/FFCyclisme

Merel Smulders claimed women’s time trial gold on the opening day of the European Cycling Union (UEC) BMX European Championships.

With several of the big name riders absent from the Championships as they prepare for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the Dutch cyclist took full advantage to claim gold.

Smulders clocked a time of 37.66 seconds in the final to earn the race victory and add to her junior title from the International Cycling Union (UCI) BMX World Championships earlier this year.

Britain’s Bethany Shriever settled for the silver medal after crossing the line in 38.57, with the podium places completed by Russia’s Yaroslava Bondarenko, who finished in 38.58.

The Czech Republic’s Romana Labounkova and the Netherlands’ Ruby Huisman narrowly missed out on medals after finishing in 38.72 and 38.74 respectively.

There was a French one-two in the men’s competition, with Romain Mahieu leading the way by producing a strong run to end in 35.96.

Romain Mahieu earned the men's time trial title in Verona ©Getty Images
Romain Mahieu earned the men's time trial title in Verona ©Getty Images

Damien Godet ended adrift of his compatriot in a time of 36.50, but it proved enough for the Frenchman to secure the silver medal.

Switzerland’s David Graf, a bronze medallist at the 2015 World Championships, claimed the final podium spot by finishing in a time of 36.65.

Tomorrow will see age group competitions held, with Sunday (July 10) seeing both the elite men and women's races contested, as well as the junior men and women.

Action is taking place at Verona’s Olympic Arena BMX track, the first world and Olympic standard facility for BMX racing in Italy.