By: Zach Nehr
DVV Verzekeringen Trofee – Kortrijk Urban Cross
On a unique urban course twisting through the streets and up and over the bridges of Kortrijk, Belgium, Mathieu Van Der Poel took his 34th consecutive win in men’s Elite cyclocross. This new stop on the DVV Trofee calendar saw riders tackle a fast course that included just about everything cyclocross has to offer: steep climbs, sand pits, twisting paths, and even a mud-run. Van Der Poel led out from the gun, but the course conditions lent themselves to pack-racing, with riders sheltering in each other’s’ slipstreams around the urban course. A large group sometimes numbering 20 stayed together until the race’s midpoint, when Van Der Poel put in a surge that shattered the group and left both teammates and rivals scoffing at each other in disbelief. The Dutchman gained 30 seconds in just his first lap off the front, and from there Van Der Poel cruised to a solo victory, casually high-fiving the crowd on his way to the finish despite the DVV Trofee’s time-based classification. Tim Merlier backed up his strong result from last weekend by finishing 2nd again, winning the sprint out of a six-rider group, with Toon Aerts finishing in 3rd. Van Der Poel clawed back 30 seconds on DVV Trofee series leader Eli Iserbyt, but judging from the Dutchman’s early celebration, the overall series win is not high on the Dutchman’s priority list.
Lucinda Brand took a thrilling sprint victory over Ceylin Carmen del Alvarado in the women’s Elite race at Kortrijk. Familiar faces formed at the front in the race’s opening laps – Brand and Alvarado were joined by World Champion Sanne Cant, Annemarie Worst, and Yara Kastelijn. It was Alvarado who put in the first few attacks, but she was unable to distance any of her fast-acting rivals. The group of five stayed together until the closing laps, where it was Kastelijn who was distanced first, then Cant and Worst following the Belgian’s botched bike change. Brand and Alvarado rode together until the final sprint, where it was the U23 European Champion who led out. But Brand simply had too much power, and after coming over the top of Alvarado with relative ease, Brand raised her arms towards the sky and celebrated her second win of the season. With Alvarado coming in 2nd and Worst finishing 3rd, the Dutch swept the podium for the first time ever in a DVV Trofee series race.
European CX Wrap-up
Zilvermeercross was the headline race on Sunday, although many of the star riders from Saturday chose to skip the Belgian C1 race. In the men’s Elite race, Mathieu Van Der Poel added to his win streak, which is now 35 straight. He almost seemed to be toying with his opponents, first riding away from the field, but then waiting to link up with his brother, David Van Der Poel, at the front of the race. The Dutch brothers traded pulls, but it was clearly Mathieu who was the stronger of the two. With rivals coming up behind, Mathieu set off alone in the race’s final laps and soloed to the win. Teammate of the Van Der Poel’s, Tom Meeusen, caught and passed David to take 2nd, with the elder Van Der Poel holding on for 3rd to make it a Corendon-Circus podium sweep.
The women’s Elite race saw a whole new mix of names at the front, with the stars of Saturday choosing rest over racing on this December day. Laura Verdonschot took the win at Zilvermeercross ahead of Junior Dutch rider Shirin van Anrooij, with U23 World Champion Inge van der Heijden coming home in 3rd place.
Wout Van Aert Announces Return
After a horrible crash in this year’s Tour de France which left him unable to walk, former CX World Champion Wout Van Aert has announced his expected return to cyclocross: December 27th at Azencross Loenhout. The Belgian cautions, however, that his expectations are low. In a Saturday interview, Van Aert said [translated] “I don’t expect to be able to do much in the field this season… I come from very far away… I will, of course, give the best I have to give of myself, but we also have to be realistic. The other boys are already running a lot and so getting in so late will not be easy, especially after that injury. I hope to be cyclist again step by step.” The larger goal for Van Aert, and his team, Jumbo-Visma, is to get him back in shape for the Spring Classics and 2020 road season.
American CX Report
North American cyclocrossers headed to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma over the weekend for two days of UCI C2 racing at Ruts ‘n’ Guts. The skies opened up before racing began, and by the time the Elites lined up on Saturday, the course was thick, wet, and muddy – lots of running and tactical bike changes would turn out to be the difference in many race outcomes throughout the weekend.
On Saturday, Canadian Michael van den Ham won the men’s Elite race in a two-up sprint over Lance Haidet, with Drew Dillman finishing 3rd. Ellen Noble took the win in the women’s Elite race, marking her first Elite win of the season. Sunny Gilbert and Crystal Anthony rounded out the podium in 2nd and 3rd, respectively.
Day 2 saw a repeat of Saturday’s duel in the men’s Elite race between van den Ham and Haidet, but this time it was Haidet who came out on top. Eric Brunner topped Dillman to take the third spot on Sunday’s podium. Noble repeated her success in the women’s Elite on Sunday, again finishing nearly a minute clear of second place. This time it was Jennifer Jackson and Raylyn Nuss who took the 2nd and 3rd spots on the podium, with Gilbert and Anthony finishing in 4th and 5th, respectively.
Upcoming CX Schedule
December is perhaps the busiest month in cyclocross, and this coming weekend is no different. Headline races include the IKO Cyclocross – Essen on Saturday, December 7th, and Cyclocross Zonhoven in The Netherlands on Sunday, December 8th, which includes long and heavy sandpits that test both the power and technique of the best CX riders in the world.
A handful of UCI C2 races will also take place in Europe over the weekend, with races in Spain, Austria, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and Italy. The Japanese National Cyclocross Championships are scheduled to take place on Sunday, December 8th.
North American cyclocross racing heads to Garland, Texas this weekend for the Resolution ‘Cross Cup.