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CX Week of December 23, 2019

By: Zach Nehr

Waaslandcross

Few big-name riders showed up to Waaslandcross in Sint-Niklaas, Belgium. But among those big names were the World Champions, Sanne Cant and Mathieu Van Der Poel, who both won their respective categories on Saturday. The Elite Women’s race all came down to a last-lap battle between Cant and young Dutch rider Aniek Van Alphen. Cant had led early in the race, but Van Alphen continually fought back. The Dutchwoman showed off her skills by bunny-hopping the barriers and another obstacle on the course, while Cant dismounted and lost ground each time. But when Van Alphen slid out in the final laps, Cant clawed her way back. Cant gained a decisive gap, but then she too slid out in the Belgian mud. The two women came into the final sand pit together, but it was the Cant who came out on top in the sprint to the line. Van Alphen finished second – yet another young Dutch talent rising to the top of cyclocross – while Hungarian rider Kata Blanka Vas rounded out the podium in third.

After last weekend’s slip-up, perhaps some were doubtful of Mathieu Van Der Poel’s form. The Dutchman had gone 36 races without losing, but Toon Aerts put an end to that at Hotondcross. Van Der Poel recovered to win the next day, and this weekend he looked to continue that winning form. When the Dutchman took the lead midway through Saturday’s Waaslandcross, he never looked back. The Dutchman won solo ahead of Quinten Hermans, who has been on top form in recent weeks. Hermans and Pidcock switched podium places from last weekend’s Druivencross, with the Belgian taking second and the Brit placing third this past Saturday. Early aggressor and former World Champion, Zdenek Stybar, finished an impressive sixth.

Namur World Cup

Epic. Biblical. Horrendous. Use whatever synonym you’d like – the conditions in Namur were absolutely brutal. Pouring rain and plummeting temperatures hit on Sunday morning, just in time for the sixth round of the 2019-2020 Telenet UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup. The course quickly turned into a treacherous mud bath that made the most skilled cyclocross riders in the world look like Bambi on ice. Already known for its unique and technical features, the Namur course is one of the most demanding in cyclocross, but the 2019 edition brought it up a notch (or ten).

Lucinda Brand won for the second year in a row in Namur, ahead of Ceylin Carmen del Alvarado and Annemarie Worst. Alvarado and Worst took off from the gun, with Brand forced to close the gap as riders tumbled around her into the cold Belgian mud. Kaitlin Keough and Sanne Cant were early victims, the former pulling out of the race after just over a lap, and the latter finishing outside the Top 10, a disappointing result considering her previous day’s victory in Sint-Niklaas. Brand and Alvarado dueled at the pointy end of the race after a crash by Worst left her dragging behind. In the final laps, both leaders continued to slip and slide, but in the end, it was Brand who came out on top of the all-Dutch podium.

Katarina Nash finished 5th on the day and maintained her lead in the World Cup Overall ahead of Alvarado. The North American contingent enjoyed a stellar day in the Belgian mud – new National Champion Clara Honsinger backed last week’s win by finishing in 6th, Katie Compton out-sprinted compatriot Rebecca Fahringer to take 7th, and Canadian National Champion Maghalie Rochette finished just behind Marianne Vos to round out the Top 10.

Mathieu Van Der Poel won the Elite men’s World Cup in Namur after a long battle with Belgian National Champion, Toon Aerts.

On the opening lap, Van Der Poel accelerated away from the field with only Aerts able to follow. The duo quickly carved out a 20-second lead over the riders behind: Corné van Kessel, Tom Pidcock, and Tim Merlier. World Cup Overall leader, Eli Iserbyt, succumbed to the cold midway through the race and subsequently abandoned. Van Der Poel and Aerts continued to build their advantage, but two punctures for the World Champion meant he was 18 seconds behind Aerts on the penultimate lap. But like he has so many times before, the Dutchman clawed his way back and re-took the lead – helped much in part by a crash that saw Aerts tumbling into a pool of cold water. On the final lap, Van Der Poel was leading down one of the courses muddiest and most treacherous descents, when Aerts suddenly lost control and fell onto his left side in the mud (It was later revealed that Aerts broke a rib in the crash). Clearly stunned, it took Aerts more than a few moments to remount his bike, and by then Van Der Poel was long gone. The World Champion cruised to victory nearly a minute ahead of Aerts, with Van Kessel earning the final podium spot in third.

Toon Aerts now leads the World Cup Overall ahead of Eli Iserbyt, but it is yet to be announced whether the Belgian Champion will be able to line up on Boxing Day for the seventh round of the World Cup in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium.

American Highlights

In addition to the Elite women’s highlights above, more of America’s best made their way to Belgium this past weekend for a European racing block.

Magnus Sheffield was the top American in the men’s Junior race in Namur – won by Belgian, Thibau Nys – finishing 16th. US National Champion in the same category, Andrew Strohmeyer, finished 21st. Rounding out the results for the Junior men: Nick Carter (26th), Jared Scott (35th), Lucas Stierwalt (41st), and Ivan Gallego (47th).

The new men’s US Elite National Champion, Gage Hecht, showed off his stars and stripes in the U23 category in Namur, finishing 15th in a race won by Swiss rider, Kevin Kuhn. Americans Alex Morton and Lane Maher finished 22nd and 30th, respectively, just ahead of US U23 Champion, Eric Brunner, who finished 31st. Sam Noel wasn’t far behind in 42nd, to round out the U23 Americans.

Curtis White was the top American finisher in the men’s Elite race in Namur, finishing 27th in the horrific conditions. Other Americans who braved the apocalyptic conditions were: Kerry Werner (36th), Max Judelson (51st), Andrew Giniat (53rd), and Andrew Juliano (55th).

Upcoming CX Schedule

The seventh round of the 2019-2020 Telenet UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup will take place on Boxing Day, December 26th, in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium.

The next round of the DVV Trofee Series in Azencross in Loenhout takes place on Friday, December 27th, followed by the Telenet Superprestige Diegem on Sunday, December 29th.

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