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CX Week of January 27, 2020

UCI Cyclocross World Championships 

Ceylin Carmen del Alvarado claimed the 2020 Elite women’s World title after a thrilling battle with longtime rival, Annemarie Worst, in Dubendorf, Switzerland. From the first lap, the Dutchwomen were on the front foot, with Alvarado, Worst, Lucinda Brand, and Yara Kastelijn separating themselves from the rest of the field. Kastelijn was soon distanced, and Brand yo-yoed in and out of the front group all race. But in the end, it was Alvarado who came around Brand with a stunning move on a steep run-up to take the race to Worst. The Dutch pair came onto the paved finishing straight with Worst in the lead, but Alvarado had enough to come around Worst in the final hundred meters to take the world title.

Katie Compton was the best-placed American, finishing in fourth. Kastelijn rounded out the Top 5, while defending World Champion, Sanne Cant, had a disappointing race and finished 12th

Ryan Kamp, won the U23 men’s title after a clever tactical battle with his rivals and a strong team effort from the Dutch espoirs. Antoine Benoist led the field through the holeshot into the first turn, while Kamp and Swiss favorite, Kevin Kuhn, slotted in behind. After riding at and about the front for the first few laps, Kamp made his decisive effort on Lap 4. Benoist and Kuhn jumped to close the gap, but never made complete contact, and by the race’s midpoint, Kamp had a six-second lead over Kuhn in second. Kamp was able to extend his advantage all the way to the finish line, ultimately finishing 36 seconds ahead of Kuhn, while Kamp’s Dutch compatriot, Mees Hendrixx, overcome Benoist to finish third. 

The top U23 Americans finished just outside the top ten: Eric Brunner (13th) and US National Champion, Gage Hecht (16th). Collegiate Varsity National Champion, Caleb Swartz (21st) had a great ride, as did Alex Morton (37th), Sam Noel (42nd), and Lane Maher (46th).

Shirin van Anrooij of the Netherlands won the first-ever Junior women’s Cyclocross World Championship ahead of countrywoman, Puck Pieterse, and American rider Madigan Mundro, who is only in her second year of cyclocross racing. After Lizzy Gunsalus of the United States took the holeshot, Van Anrooij quickly moved to the front and opened up an immediate gap. Peiterse and Munro chased, but Van Anrooij’s gap only increased as she rode to her – the – first-ever Junior women’s CX World Championship. 

After a Saturday of Dutch dominance, the Belgians hit back hard early on Sunday morning as Thibau Nys spear-headed a Belgian podium sweep in the Junior men’s race. Lennert Belmens and Emiel Verstrynge rounded out the Top 3, while Junior US and Pan-Am Champion, Andrew Strohmeyer, had a great ride to finish 10th

Marion Norbert Riberolle won the U23 women’s World Championship with an impressive solo ride in torrid conditions. Ever-deepening ruts wreaked havoc on the field, led by American rider Katie Clouse in the race’s early goings. Clouse would ultimately finish fourth, while Kata Blanka Vas of Hungary and Anna Kay of Great Britain took second and third, respectively. Rare is a cyclocross podium lacking of Belgium and the Netherlands. 

Mathieu van der Poel utterly dominated the Elite men’s race in Dubendorf, finishing nearly two minutes ahead of second place, Tom Pidcock of Great Britain. Van der Poel had time to switch bikes for his sponsor, Canyon, and come to a stop before the line and walk across as World Champion. “I think I rode a perfect race,” said Van der Poel after the finish. “I felt really strong and when I managed to get away on the first lap, that gave me wings.”

Taking the lead from the gun, Van der Poel immediately opened up his advantage on the rest of the field. By the end of Lap 1, he was 15 seconds clear of the chase group, and the gap only kept growing from there. In a tight, all-Belgian battle for the final spot on the podium, Toon Aerts came out on top, while Wout van Aert finished an impressive fourth after only recently returning from serious injury and racing a few weeks ago. 

Vuelta a San Juan

Big names descended upon Argentina for the 2020 Vuelta a San Juan – Julian Alaphilippe, Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates), and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) were among those making their season debuts in the seven-stage race. 

Alaphilippe was on lead-out duties for Stage 1, but in the end it was Rudy Barbier (Israel Start-Up Nation) who shot around the final bend first to take the stage win. This is the first win of the season for Israel Start-Up Nation, a team which is making their WorldTour in 2020. Manuel Belletti (Androni Giocattoli – Sidermec) finished second, while Argentine rider Tomas Connte (Equipo Continental Municipalidad de Pocito) finished in third. A massive crash caused by a spectator took down half the peloton at 3.3 km to go, although the race jury decided to extend the “3 km rule,” giving every rider involved the same time in the general classification. 

A pan-flat stage in Pocito provided another opportunity to the sprinters on Stage 2. The WorldTour leadout trains battled their way into the last few hundred meters, but when Fernando Gaviria jumped, no one could hardly grab the Colombian’s wheel. Gaviria won the stage ahead of Nicolás Javier Naranjo (Agrupacion Virgen De Fatima) and Marco Benfatto (Bardiani-CSF-Faizanè). 

Stage 3 was a 15.2 km, Merckx-style individual time trial finishing in Punta Negra. Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-QuickStep) absolutely destroyed the field, winning by 32 seconds over individual pursuit world record holder, Filippo Ganna (Italy), and 1:08 clear of Óscar Sevilla (Team Medellin). The Americans enjoyed a good day out, with Brandon McNulty (UAE-Team Emirates) finishing sixth on the stage, Colin Joyce (Rally Cycling) finishing eighth, and Gavin Mannion (Rally Cycling) in tenth. 

On Stage 4, Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) won his second stage of the Vuelta a San Juan with a brilliant sprint that beat the likes of Rudy Barbier (Israel Start-Up Nation), Alvaro Hodeg (Deceuninck-QuickStep), and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe). Evenepoel finished in the bunch and kept the leader’s jersey heading into the rest day. 

Stage 5, the Queen stage of the race, finished on the slopes of the Alto Colorado at 2,565 meters above sea level. But the story of the day was not in large part the final climb – instead, it was the race-splitting echelons that hit with some 40 km to go. Evenepoel, in the race leader’s jersey, missed out on the first split which contained GC challengers, Brandon McNulty and Filippo Ganna, among others. With 20 km remaining, Evenepoel was still over a minute down, but over the next few kilometers, the young Belgian clawed his way back. Evenepoel’s jersey would be untouched, and jumping out of the final group to take the stage win was 23 year-old Miguel Eduardo Florez (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec).

Zdenek Stybar (Deceuninck-QuickStep) surprised the sprinters on Stage 6 by launching an attack inside 600 meters to go on the motor racing circuit in El Villicum. Juan Sebastian Molano Benavides (UAE Team Emirates) and Rudy Barbier (Israel Start-Up Nation) caught the Czech rider’s wheel on the line, but couldn’t come around Stybar in time and had to settle for the second and third spots on the podium, respectively. 

On the final stage held in the outskirts of San Juan, Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) completed a hat trick of stage wins by beating Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Alvaro Hodeg (Deceuninck-QuickStep) in the final bunch kick. 

Remco Evenepoel sealed up the overall by finishing with the main group, although GC times were taken at 15 km to go instead of the finish. “Some teams came to talk with us, and asked what we thought about it,” Evenepoel said after the race. “We were in the front, but it seemed that in the middle of the bunch there were some problems with the crowds on the road. Safety is the priority in a bike race, so for me it was a great decision.”

Completing the top five in the General Classification were: Filippo Ganna (Italy), Oscar Sevilla (Team Medellin), Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates), and Miguel Eduardo Florez Lopez (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec). Daniel Juarez (Agrupacion Virgin de Fatima-Saddledrunk) won the Sprints Classification, Guillaume Martin (Cofidis Solutions Credits) the Mountains, Evenepoel as Best Young Rider, and Movistar took home the Team Classification.  

Race Torquay

The Tour Down Under’s best lined up on Thursday for the inaugural Race Torquay, a one-day prelude to the weekend’s Cade Evans Great Ocean Road Race. Brodie Chapman (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope) bested a four-rider breakaway with a solo attack in the final kilometers. Having gone away on her own midway through the race, Chapman was eventually joined by Lauren Stephens (Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank), and then Emily Herfoss (Roxsolt Attaquer) and Tayler Wiles (Trek-Segafredo). With still half a minute’s lead with a few kilometers to go, Chapman – almost unwillingly – powered away from her breakaway companions to take a solo victory.

“I didn’t plan my attack at the end; I sort of rolled out of a corner a bit ahead and thought, ‘I’ll just hit it now, and who knows?’” Chapman said.

The men’s race was a much tighter affair, with the sprinters’ teams keeping the bunch together, and breakaway attempts on a very tight leash. Australian favorite, Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) was dropped midway through the race, and from there, the teams of NTT, Israel Start-Up Nation, Cofidis, and Deceuninck-QuickStep only increased the pace. Small breakaway attempts were reeled in, and the bunch was altogether with a kilometer to go. Michael Mørkøv gave an excellent leadout for teammate, Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep), who took a clear sprint victory ahead of Italian duo, Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT Pro Cycling Team) and Alberto Dainese (Team Sunweb). 

Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race

Liane Lippert (Team Sunweb) won the Deakin Women’s Race – the women’s edition of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race – with a solo attack solidified on Melville Avenue with just under six kilometers to go. In her first WorldTour race ever, and the first race of the 2020 UCI Women’s WorldTour, Lippert took advantage of heavy rain and wind to drop all of her rivals. Fifteen seconds after Lippert crossed the line, Arlenis Sierra (Astana) beat Australian road race champion Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) in the sprint for second. 

Dries Devenyns (Deceuninck-QuickStep) took somewhat of a surprise victory in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race. A large breakaway group of 17 riders ended up being the winning move of the day, having gone clear over the top of the Challambra Crescent climb with about 25 km to go. Mitchelton-Scott would be bitterly disappointed with their result – Daryl Impey rounded out the podium in third – because they had five of the 17 riders in the leading group: Nick Schultz, Damien Howson and Dion Smith pulled for their team’s leaders, Simon Yates and Impey, but it wasn’t enough. Pavel Sivakov (Team INEOS) got away on the final climb up Melville Avenue, and after Devenyns bridged across, the duo held their slim advantage to the line where the 36 year-old Belgian took home the sprint. “It was aggressive all day,” Devenyns said in a post-race interview. “Mitchelton had five riders in that group at the end, and INEOS had two riders, so I was on my own, but I had good legs, and I played my card.”

Upcoming Race Schedule

Road season is now in full swing, and racing continues this week with the 71st Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana in Spain, men’s and women’s Herald Sun Tours in Australia, Etoile de Bessèges in France, and Le Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia. 

The World Championships may be over, but Cyclocross racing continues all the way through February, with Parkcross Maldegem in Belgium the first race for new and returning World Champions to show off their rainbow stripes. UCI C1 races, Krawatencross in Lille and Hoogstraten, round out a full weekend of Belgian cyclocross racing. 

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