The stunning setting, which during wintertime is a well-known ski resort in the Appennini Mountains, saw Payet – at 30 the oldest rider to finish in the top ten of this year’s championship – get his second continental senior crown nine years after his first in 2008.
After leading the previous day’s qualifiers in 2:32.762 – a time which in itself would have got him a medal – Payet stepped up a gear and flew down the testing and twisting course, with 440m drop, for a time of 2:32.022 in the final.
In a thrilling finish, less than a second seperated the three men on the podium, with Poland’s Slawomir Lukasik taking his second successive silver medal just 0.643 in arrears of the Frenchman; with Italy’s 19-year-old Loris Revelli – the junior winner at the last edition of these championships two years ago – third another 0.006 further back.
However, the host nation had plenty to cheer in the women’s race when 2015 bronze medallist Eleonora Farina prevailed in 2:47.340 to emphatically beat her Italian compatriot Alia Marcellini by almost five seconds.
It was a dominating performance by the in-form Farina, who qualified in 2:48.666 to advertise that she was the clear favourite barring a spill, posting a time fastest than any other women was to manage at the championships.
France’s Marine Cabirou took third place while France’s Sylvain Cougoureux and Italy’s Beatrice Migliorini took the junior titles at the three day event which saw 252 riders from 19 nations take part.