By: Zach Nehr
Dutch National Championships
Dutch women have dominated cyclocross the entire 2019/2020 cyclocross season. In fact, over the past few years, Belgian rider Sanne Cant (more on her in a minute) has been the only rider consistently challenging the Dutch for the top step of the podium. Ceylin Carmen del Alvarado, Annemarie Worst, and Yara Kastelijn have won the majority of Elite women’s races this season – More than once, the Dutch have swept the entire podium. Sunday’s battle was no different, with the Top 5 reading like the results of any other race this season: Alvarado, Worst, Lucinda Brand, Kastelijn, and Marianne Vos.
Alvarado’s win is her first National Championship at the Elite level – she is still young enough to compete in the U23 category, but her season’s results indicate that she can win against the outright best. There has been a lot of talk about Alvarado’s decision to race in the U23 category at the World Championships in just a few weeks’ time, but recent reports suggest that she may be lining up against the Elites. We will likely have to wait until ‘World’s week’ to find out. Worst finished second in the highly-anticipated race, which lived up to expectations as the Top 4 finished riders were separated by just 13 seconds.
Shortly after the conclusion of the Championships, Vos announced that she will be undergoing arterial surgery later this week. The scheduled procedure puts an early end to her cyclocross season, but recovery is expected to take at least six weeks in total.
Alvarado and Mathieu van der Poel have not lost since the calendar turned, and Van der Poel held up his end of the deal after Alvarado did hers. Van der Poel has lost just once in the past 14 months, and on Sunday he won his sixth Elite National title. The Dutch World Champion went away on Lap 1, and from there it was a solo effort all the way to the finish. Lars van der Haar and Joris Nieuwenhuis finished second and third, respectively.
Belgian National Championships
Sanne Cant won her 11th consecutive Belgian National Cyclocross title on Saturday in Antwerp – Watch out, Katie Compton. The championships made headlines for a truly original course addition: a floating ‘carpet’ led riders out over the water and onto a pontoon where they do a turn or two, and then head right back to shore. Unique…is one way of putting it. Cant finished a comfortable 28 seconds ahead of second place, Laura Verdonschot, while the timeless Ellen van Loy rounded out the podium in third.
Laurens Sweeck – the burly Belgian of many podiums and countless top 10s – finally got his time to shine on Sunday at the Belgian National Championships. Sweeck won the Elite title for the first time in his career by a healthy margin over second place, Eli Iserbyt. It was an emotional win for Sweeck, who dedicated the race to his grandfather whom he lost last month. Defending champion, Toon Aerts, claimed the final spot on the podium. Wout van Aert continued his comeback from injury by finishing fifth after putting up a valiant fight as defending champion.
Rest of Europe
19 year-old Karriet Harnden took the Elite women’s title in Great Britain ahead of Bethany Crumpton and Anna Kay. Tom Pidcock repeated as British Elite CX Champion ahead of Ben Tulett and Cameron Mason. A closer look at the race results reveals a host of talented young Brits coming to the fore – U23 riders dominated the combined Elite/U23 race, with eighth place 37 year-old Ian Field being the first rider older than 21 years of age on the results sheet.
Marion Norbert Riberolle upset Caroline Mani to win the Elite women’s CX title in France. Clément Venturuni won the Elite men’s title ahead of Joshua Dubau and Fabian Doubey.
Felipe Orts Lloret won the Elite men’s National title in Spain, while Gorka Izagirre Insausti of Astana finished an impressive third. Lucia Gonzalez Blanco won the Elite women’s title ahead of Aida Nuno Palacio.
Not to be outdone by Sanne Cant and others’ impressive streaks, Eva Lechner won the Elite women’s National title in Italy for the 11th time. 22 year-old Jakob Dorigoni won the Italian men’s Elite title.
Zina Barhoumi won the Elite women’s title in Switzerland, although defending CX champion and former Mountain Bike World Champion Yolanda Neff did not compete – Neff was seriously injured in a training crash in late December. Lars Forster won the Swiss men’s CX title.
Post-Nationals Cyclocross Otogem
Few races take place on Monday each season, but Cyclocross Otogem is one of them. The day after Europe’s National Championships, Alicia Franck and Mathieu van der Poel took the win in their respective Elite categories.
Most of the world’s best Elite women chose to skip Monday’s race, while the majority of the top men still lined up in Otogem. With the World Championships approaching, the balance between work and rest is a tricky one for the world’s best cyclocross riders.
Upcoming CX Schedule
The 2019-2020 Telenet UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup returns this weekend in Nommay, France for the Nommay Pays de Montbeliard.
The Grand Prix Möbel Alvisse in Luxembourg is the only other European race taking place on this light weekend of mid-January cyclocross. Many riders have already indicated their absence from the coming weekend of racing, opting to rest or train in preparation for the UCI Cyclocross World Championships in Switzerland on February 1st and 2nd.