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CX Week of January 20, 2020

UCI C2 Kasteelcross Zonnebeke

Christine Majerus won the women’s Elite race in Zonnebeke after an exciting battle with Denis Betsema. Because of the tight schedule and CX World Championships approaching, many of the top Elite riders – Ceylin Carmen del Alvarado, Annemarie Worst, and Lucinda Brand, to name a few – opted to skip Saturday’s UCI C2 race. Majerus overhauled Betsema in the final sprint, Betsema’s first race back after her highly controversial, six-month ban after testing positive for steroids in 2019. Ellen van Loy finished third, and American rider Rebecca Fahringer had a great ride to finish in sixth.

Mathieu van der Poel continued his domination while Wout van Aert continued his comeback when the two clashed in Zonnebeke. Van der Poel won a comfortable margin over van Aert who was named to the Belgian CX Worlds team earlier this week. Jens Adams impressed by rounding out the podium in third.

Hoogerheide World Cup

Annemarie Worst won the UCI World Cup Elite women’s title after former leader Alvarado crashed with just a few hundred meters to go in the Hoogerheide finale. Lucinda Brand won the race while Worst finished in second, but Alvarado fell dramatically to sixth place on the day after her last-lap crash. World Champion Sanne Cant had one of her best races of the season, and rounded out the podium in third. Katie Compton and Brand had been on the attack early in the race, but it was Alvarado who came to the fore as the race entered its final moments. “My plan was to go full gas at the bottom of the off-camber section but then I bumped out of the rut and then my wheel clipped in the loose sand. It’s sad that I don’t get to go home with the overall World Cup victory. It’ll have to happen next week,” Alvarado said after the race.

Despite her crash and sixth place finish, Alvarado still took home the U23 World Cup title, and remains one of the favorites for next weekend’s CX World Championships. 

Van der Poel won again on Sunday on the course designed by and named for his father: the GP Adrie van der Poel. The Dutchman laid down a testing attack on Lap 1 that dropped everyone except for World Cup leader Toon Aerts. But on the dry and fast course, the duo decided that it was too early, and the lead group swelled to 16 in the first few laps of the race. Nevertheless, Van der Poel didn’t wait long to put in another massive attack. “Mathieu rides away where he wants and how he wants. He’s the big favorite,” said Eli Iserbyt, who finished third on the day. There isn’t much else to say about Van der Poel, who seems to be the favorite in every race he lines up for – whether it’s CX, MTB, or road.

“I felt strong while riding in the group and put all my money on one big move. I think that I found back my ‘cross accelerations just in time,” Van der Poel said in a post-race interview. The Dutchman, who has only lost one CX race in the past 450 days, is the stand-alone favorite for next weekend’s World Championships.

Dutch rider Ryan Kamp continued his stellar season by winning the U23 World Cup finale in Hoogerheide. Antoine Benoist of France finished second, while Belgian rider Niels Vandeputte finished third. Three American riders each put in impressive rides to finish just outside the Top 10: Gage Hecht (13th), Caleb Swartz (14th), and Eric Brunner (15th).

Dario Lillo of Switzerland ended Thibau Nys’ win streak in Hoogerheide by taking the final round of the Junior CX World Cup. Lennert Belmans of Belgium finished second, while Nys finished in third.

Tour Down Under

After a few months of beach vacations, house projects, and *not riding bikes, road cycling returned to Australia for its traditional season opener: the Tour Down Under. Won last year by South African, Daryl Impey, the Tour Down Under offers a mixed bag of stages: plenty of opportunities for the sprinters, a few chances to break away, and a shot at the Overall for the climbers. Bonus seconds have decided the GC podium in recent editions, but 2020 would be a little different.

Sam Bennett utilized his new Deceuninck-QuickStep leadout train to leave his rivals in the dust and win Stage 1 of this year’s Tour Down Under. “The guys did an absolutely fantastic job and kept me in position. Every one of them played a superb role today and I can’t thank them enough,” Bennett said in a post-race interview.

Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates) and Erik Baska (Bora-Hansgrohe) rounded out the Stage 1 podium, while Australian favorite, Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal), finished a disappointing seventh after starting his sprint from poor position.

Ewan hit back on Stage 2, winning the final uphill sprint by several bike lengths in Stirling. Impey finished second on the day, earning a crucial six-second GC time bonus. A crash inside the final kilometers took down a number of riders, including big names Elia Viviani (Cofidis), Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo). Every rider who went down was able to finish the stage, but some left much more skin on the road than others.

Stage 3 to Paracombe was slated to be the first GC battle of the race, and it did not disappoint. Porte launched an attack from the bottom of the Torrens Hill Road climb with just 1.5 km left to the finish. No one could match the Australian’s acceleration, and Porte cruised to the win five seconds ahead of Mitchelton-Scott teammates, Rob Power and Simon Yates, who finished second and third, respectively. Porte’s gap was enough to take hold of the GC leader’s ochre jersey heading into Stage 4.

Deceuninck-QuickStep did all they could leading out Sam Bennett, but the Irishman was no match for Caleb Ewan who came clear to win by over Stage 4 by over a bike length. Impey earned several bonus seconds on the day to the close the gap to Porte in the overall standings, the Trek-Segafredo rider kept his ochre jersey heading into Stage 5.

Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT Pro Cycling) took advantage of late-race chaos to sprint to the win on Stage 5 into Victor Harbor. Simone Consonni (Cofidis) came second with Sam Bennett in third, while Impey earned enough time bonuses to take the ochre jersey off of Porte’s shoulders heading into Sunday’s finale.

Richie Porte’s reign on Willunga Hill came to an end on the final stage of this year’s Tour Down Under, but the Australian finished second on the stage and did enough to overhaul Daryl Impey for the Overall title. A strong breakaway threatened to take the stage all day, and British rider Matt Holmes (Lotto Soudal) did just that by beating Porte in the final sprint to the line. The GC turned on its head by the time riders the line at the top of Willunga Hill – Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) and Simon Geschke (CCC Team) jumped onto the second and third spots on the podium, respectively.

Jasper Philipsen (UAE Team Emirates) won the Sprint Classification, American rider Joey Rosskopf (CCC Team) took home the King of the Mountains title, Pavel Sivakov (Team INEOS) won Best Young Rider, and Team INEOS bested the others for the Team Classification.

Women’s Tour Down Under

Chloe Hosking launched an incredible sprint out of the final corner to win Stage 1 of the 2020 Women’s Tour Down Under. Fellow Australian, Brodie Chapman (FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope), had been in the breakaway of the day, and finally went solo with over 20 km to go. Chapman was only caught inside the final kilometer as the sprinters began to launch for the line. Hosking came out on top – her first win with her new team, Rally Cycling – while Lotta Henttala (Trek-Segafredo) and Matilda Raynolds (Specialized Women’s Racing) rounded out the podium.

Amanda Spratt took the win and leader’s ochre jersey on Stage 2 into Birdwood. The Australian National Champion led her team to the front as the riders entered the final 30 kilometers. Soon there were just five riders left at the front: Spratt and two of her Mitchelton-Scott teammates, Ruth Winder (Trek-Segafredo), and Liane Lippert (Team Sunweb). A series of attacks and surges whittled the group down to just three: Spratt, Winder, and Lippert. The trio stayed together until the final sprint, where Spratt overhauled Winder to take the win.

Winder turned silver into gold (and ochre) on Stage 3 by winning the uphill sprint into Stirling. The US National Champion went all-in for the finale to take the win and ten-second time bonus ahead of Lippert and fellow American, Lauren Stephens (Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank). Mitchelton-Scott had done the majority of the work all stage, covering attacks and chasing down breakaways, but were left short-handed in the finale where Spratt finished a disappointing 10th. Winder entered Stage 4 with just a seven-second GC lead over Lippert and Spratt, respectively.

Winder and her Trek-Segafredo controlled the final stage of the Women’s Tour Down Under brilliant, preventing GC rivals from taking any time bonuses, and letting a ten-rider breakaway take the stage without any threat to the overall. Simona Frapporti (BePink) won the stage ahead of Lauren Stephens (Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank) and Rushlee Buchanan (Vantage New Zealand National Team).

Winder’s overall win ends a five-year run for Mitchelton-Scott, who have typically dominated previous editions. The American gave kudos to her rivals following the final stage, saying in a post-race interview, “Sunweb and Mitchelton are really strong teams but we were able to pull it off…Yesterday, after winning the stage, it was such a special feeling and I am really excited to celebrate with my team after this.”

Upcoming Race Schedule

The UCI Cyclocross World Championships head to Switzerland this weekend, where the biggest names in cyclocross will go head-to-head for the coveted rainbow stripes. Mathieu van der Poel will look to defend his title in the men’s Elite race, while Sanne Cant will be looking to make up for a sub-par season by repeating her 2019 title.  

On the road side, the Vuelta a San Juan continues this week in Argentina. Star riders such as Julian Alaphilippe, Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates), and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) line up for the first time in 2020, ready to do battle in the sprints, Stage 3’s time trial, and a summit finish at Alto Colorado.

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