By: Zach Nehr
European Cyclocross Championships
The UEC European Cyclocross Championships were held in Silvelle, Italy over the weekend, with the top riders set to do battle over a mostly flat and bumpy course. In the Men’s Elite race, the final result was no surprise: Mathieu Van Der Poel wins. The surprise was instead how it happened – six riders were still in contention for the win with one lap to go, and Van Der Poel didn’t get his race-winning gap until less than a half lap to go. Nevertheless, it was the Dutchman who came out on top against an especially strong and cagey Belgian team that threw everything but the kitchen sink at Van Der Poel throughout the race.
In the opening laps it was Belgians Eli Iserbyt and Michael Vanthorenhout who went clear of the field along with Van der Poel. They repeatedly attacked and countered the Dutchman, but to no avail. In the second half of the race, Toon Aerts and Laurens Sweeck joined the party, and soon it was 5 Belgians vs 1 Dutchman with less than two laps to go. But it was the daring Van Der Poel who took the initiative, and slowly but surely he rode every single Belgian off his wheel. Iserbyt was the last to stay with him, but he could do nothing to counter the strength, skill, and speed of the flying Dutchman. Van der Poel crossed the line both exhausted and relieved, with Iserbyt finishing a few beats later in second, and Laurens Sweeck in third.
This win is the third consecutive European title for Van Der Poel, who said after the race that he is still far from his best. “I couldn’t drive away where I wanted to go. I did try to speed up sometimes, because I still miss that [acceleration],” Van Der Poel told Wielerflits. Despite his lack of form and confidence, Van Der Poel flew from Italy to Belgium the next morning to line up at Jaarmarktcross. Leading from the opening lap, he cruised to a dominant solo victory over a minute ahead of second place, Laurens Sweeck.
Mickaël Crispin of France won the U23 Men’s race after battling with Timo Kelich of Belgium and fellow countryman Antoine Benoist. The top three riders finished within ten seconds of each other in an exciting finale.
We saw more Dutch domination in the women’s Elite and U23 races, with Yara Kastelijn and Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado taking the respective titles. Kastelijn took the lead on lap one of the Elite race and never looked back. Italian Eva Lechner gave the home crowd much to cheer about, as she battled with Annemarie Worst throughout the race and put in a late charge to close the gap to Kastelijn. But the finish line came too early for Lechner, who crossed the line in second place ahead of Worst who held on for third.
Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado has already won four Elite-level races this seasons, but she returned to the U23 category to race the European Championships, and successfully defended her title from a year ago. It wasn’t a simple Sunday cruise for Alvarado though, as she was pushed hard in the closing laps by British rider Anna Kay, who settled for second behind the Dutchwoman.
Few of the top women from Sunday’s European Championships made the overnight trek to Belgium to race Jaarmarktcross. Instead we saw Lucinda Brand take the win in her first cross race of the season. The Dutchwoman last raced on the road at the World Championships, and said she even surprised herself my taking the win on Monday. In second place was American Katie Compton, who is showing signs of improving form and the ability to compete with the best at 42 years of age. Marion Riberolle finished third after fighting back from a mechanical problem.
Pan American Cyclocross Championships
Curtis White and Kerry Werner have been the two names consistently on the top of men’s Elite podiums throughout the 2019 North American season. White has seven victories to Werner’s five, but it is Werner’s streak of podiums that is perhaps even more impressive: eight dating back to early October. White and Werner arrived in Midland, Ontario this past weekend, set to do battle at the Pan American Championships. In the end it was Werner who came out on top. He was able to distance White on the penultimate lap, and Mr. Consistent held on for the win ahead of White and Jamie Driscoll.
Maghalie Rochette dominated the women’s Elite race, as she has done so many times this season. The Canadian came into the race as the resounding favorite – especially with top Americans Katie Compton and Katie Keough still racing overseas – and she delivered. Rochette finished forty seconds clear of second place, Clara Honsinger, another young rider who impressed this season with 10 podiums in total including the third step at the opening round of the World Cup. Rochette’s victory marks her eighth of the season, which has already been an incredible year highlighted by wins at Jingle Cross World Cup, Canadian National Championship, and now the Pan American Championships.
It was a busy weekend in Ontario, with U23, and Junior Pan American Championships also up for grabs. Gage Hecht dominated the men’s U23 field, crossing the line nearly a minute ahead of second place Lane Maher, with Eric Brunner finishing in third. Andrew Strohmeyer took a similarly dominant win in the men’s Junior race, finishing nearly a minute clear of Nick Carter in second, and Canadian Matthew Leliveld in third.
Ruby West showed the guys what true domination is, winning the women’s U23 race by nearly two minutes ahead of Dana Gilligan and Sidney McGill. In the women’s Junior race, Madigan Mundro took the win ahead of Lizzy Gunsalus and Lauren Zoerner.
American CX Report
Riders from across the US converged on Northampton, Massachusetts this past weekend for the Verge Northampton International Cyclocross presented by Cycle-Smart (NohoCX). Now in its 29th year, NohoCX is the oldest UCI race in the US, and also serves as the opening round of the 2019 Vittoria Northeast Cyclocross Series. On Saturday, Caroline Nolan took a solo win in the women’s Elite race ahead of Regina Legge and Arley Kemmerer. The men’s race, on the other hand, was an incredibly tactical one. Eight riders compromised the lead group all the way up until one lap to go, and in the end it would come down to a four-rider sprint. Tobin Ortenblad took the win ahead of Nick Lando and Ben Frederick, after Frederick took to the front and blew up the lead group on the final lap.
On Sunday we saw the same race winners, but with the race finales somewhat reversed. Nolan won the sprint out of a small group in the women’s Elite race, with Arley Kemmerer improving her previous day’s result to finish second, and Caitlin Bernstein finishing in third. Ortenblad won the elite men’s race in a sprint, but this time he only had to contend with one other rider in the end: Travis Livermon. Ben Frederick repeated his result from Saturday by finishing in third.
Upcoming CX Schedule
The UCI CX World Cup is back in action this weekend in Tabor, Czech Republic. You can catch the races live on Red Bull TV.
The Europeans have two options for racing on Sunday, November 17th: Flandriencross in Hamme, Belgium, and EKZ CrossTour in Hittnau, Switzerland.
UCI racing returns to the Midwest this weekend (Nov 16-17) at the Major Taylor Cross Cup in Indianapolis, Indiana. Riders in the Northeast will head to Supercross in Suffern, New York for more UCI C2 racing.