By: Zach Nehr
Koksijde World Cup
The UCI Telenet Cyclocross World Cup headed to the sandy dunes of Koksijde for its fifth round. In the men’s Elite race, a first-corner crashed marred the start, a cluster of riders bouncing off each other after one rider clipped an inside barrier. Tim Merlier went down hardest, and Mathieu Van Der Poel was heavily held up, already trying to recover from his third row start. Even so, Van Der Poel fought his way through the field, sprinting past his rivals on the sand and the grass, and by the end of Lap 1, he was already at the front of the race. Laurens Sweeck was the only rider capable of staying with Van Der Poel, but even that lasted for less than two laps.
On the steep and challenging, sandpit slopes of Koksijde, the Dutchman seemed to have the advantage on every part of the course. He simply rode away from his rivals, increasing his advantage by 10-20 seconds per lap over his chasers. Those riders, the best cyclocrossers in the world, were left scrambling behind, and could only watch as Van Der Poel continued to pull away. Laurens Sweeck and Toon Aerts finished 2nd and 3rd, respectively, having been permanently gapped by Van Der Poel over forty five minutes before crossing the finish line for the final time.
Van Der Poel commented on his flying start in a post-race interview, saying, “It was definitely one of my best first laps ever. I got stuck behind a crash on the first corner and I wanted to take my time to get back to the front, but I felt immediately that I had really good legs, and before I knew it was in second position.” Almost effortlessly, Van Der Poel has now won 33 consecutive CX races dating back to November 2018. And if his current form is any indication, his streak sees no sign of ending any time soon.
Eli Iserbyt continues to lead the World Cup Overall standings with 348 points, just a sliver ahead of Toon Aerts who sits in second with 330 points. Michael Vanthourenhout is a bit further back in third with 284 points, while Mathieu Van Der Poel is all the way down in 17th with 160 points after skipping the opening three rounds of the World Cup.
Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado avenged her second place at last weekend’s World Cup by taking the win on Sunday in Koksijde, her first win in the Elite category. Riders were on the attack from the gun, making for a thrilling race. Five riders were able to separate themselves in the early goings, with Lucinda Brand leading the charge, and Inge Van der Heijden, Annemarie Worst, Yara Kastelijn (Ned), and Alvarado quickly bridging across. It wasn’t until the final lap when Alvarado threw down the race-winning move. Brand, who had been aggressive all race, went to respond to the younger Alvarado, but crashed and held up Kastelijn in the process. The chasing group blew to pieces during the final lap, and Alvarado cruised to the win just ahead of Brand and Kastelijn, who finished 2nd and 3rd, respectively.
After a string of Top 10s and even a couple of podiums, Katie Compton and Katie Keough struggled on the hilly sand dunes in Koksijde. Compton finished 11th, and Keough in 19th on an off-day for the Americans.
At 21 years of age, Alvarado is the third youngest winner of a women’s Elite World Cup, behind only Evie Richards and Marianne Vos. Alvarado’s win moves her up to fourth place in the World Cup Overall standings with 2020 points, only a handful of points behind Anna Kay in second and Kaitlin Keough in third, respectively. Katarina Nash continues to lead the World Cup Overall with 268 points after a strong start to the season in the US.
European CX Wrap-up
Cyclocross fans were treated to a small appetizer before Sunday’s World Cup in Koksijde. Ambiancecross took place the day before, on a Belgian course not far from the infamous sandy track. Many of the same riders lined up for both races, and it was Mathieu Van Der Poel who took a not-so-surprising win in the men’s Elite race. His relatively small margin of victory – 14 seconds – was a bit of a surprise, but still quite comfortable for the man who hasn’t lost a cyclocross race in more than 12 months. Tim Merlier finished 2nd and Quinten Hermans in 3rd, both adding to a strong podium to their palmarès in a season already filled with Top 10s.
American Gage Hecht rode to one of his best-ever Elite results in Europe, finishing in 13th place at Ambiancecross, sandwiched between Belgian strongmen, Laurens Sweeck and Eli Iserbyt.
In the women’s Elite race, Yara Kastelijn took the win at Ambiancecross ahead of World Champion Sanne Cant and Laura Verdonschot. Kastelijn’s win is her fourth already this season, a stunning run of form marked by eight consecutive Top 5s stretching back to the beginning of the season in October. Behind Kastelijn’s 17-second solo victory, the battle for second was a thrilling one, with second through fourth place (Alice Maria Arzuffi) separated by only a single second.
American CX Report
A light weekend of UCI racing in North America saw just one race taking place: two days of the North Carolina Grand Prix in Hendersonville, North Carolina.
Caroline Nolan took the women’s Elite win on Day 1, with Raylyn Nuss taking second ahead Hannah Arensman in third. However, it was Arensman’s who got her revenge on Day 2, taking the win a full minute clear of Nuss, whose number of consecutive runner-up placings has now reached four after two solid, but surely frustrating weekends of racing in Indianapolis and North Carolina. Samantha Runnels slotted into third place to round out the Day 2 podium.
On Day 1, Kerry Werner cruised to a solo victory in the men’s Elite race, with a minute’s gap over 2nd place Eric Thompson, and Travis Livermon in 3rd. Day 2 saw a repeat win for Werner, with Canadian Tyler Clark overcoming Thompson to take the second spot on the podium. After last week’s domination in New York, the Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld squad – which includes big-name riders such as Curtis White and Stephen Hyde – took the weekend off from racing, perhaps prioritizing rest ahead of next weekend’s UCI C2 Ruts ‘n’ Guts series in Oklahoma.
Upcoming CX Schedule
The UCI Masters Cyclo-cross World Championships will be held in Mol, Belgium on November 29th and 30th. After that it’s a heavy weekend of racing across Europe, the headliners being the GP Hasselt on Saturday, November 30th, and Lampiris Zilvermeercross on Sunday, December 1st. Other races include: the 11° Trofeo Cooperativo Edilizia Brugherio 82 Memorial “Berionni & Perego” in Italy, the Cyclo cross du Mingant Lanarvily in France, Internationaler GGEW Cross Grand Prix in Germany, Flückiger Cross Madiswil in Switzerland, and Slovakian National Championships.
North American riders will head to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma next weekend for Ruts ‘n’ Guts, a two-day UCI C2 race series known for its wild weather.