By: Zach Nehr
Mathieu Van Der Poel Returns to Racing
After a heart-breaking finish to the UCI Road World Championships, which saw Van Der Poel completely crack while in the winning move at 15km to go, the Dutchman returned to racing last weekend at the Superprestige Ruddervoorde. Eli Iserbyt (more on him in a minute) took the holeshot, with Van Der Poel glued to his wheel behind. The two battled for the race lead throughout Lap 1, each rider searching for the perfect lines through the muddy and treacherous course. Their fierce battle say them gain a small advantage over the rest of the field heading into Lap 3, but then the lead group swelled to almost ten midway through the lap. The letup in pace was brief, and it wasn’t long before Laurens Sweeck took off on his own. It wasn’t long before Van Der Poel bridged across, and almost immediately he went past Sweeck. From there the race followed the usual script: Van Der Poel sails toward a comfortable, solo win, with plenty of time to celebrate victory in his first CX race since February. The win itself wasn’t enough to cheer up the Dutchman, however, who described his disappointment in a post-race interview. “I was constantly looking for the ‘cross sensation and I didn’t really find it. I didn’t have the impression that it was fast.” A scary prospect for his CX rivals – Van Der Poel seems far from his best, yet he is already winning.
In the women’s race, it was Van Der Poel’s Corendon-Circus teammate, Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, who took the win. She attacked on the opening lap, and was never seen again. Ruddervoorde is Alvarado’s fourth victory of the season, which has turned into a breakout year for the 21 year-old who had yet to win in the Elite ranks until this year. Alvarado now leads the Superprestige series overall as well, ahead of Yara Kastelijn, and World Champion Sanne Cant. American fans had plenty to cheer about over the weekend, with cyclocross legend Katie Compton, and Katie Keough putting in impressive rides to finish 3rd and 4th in Ruddervoorde, respectively.
European Cyclocross Round-Up
For the last couple of years, Wout Van Aert and Mathieu Van Der Poel have dominated men’s cyclocross. But in 2019, a different name has been belted through every podium announcer’s lips: Eli Iserbyt. The 22 year-old Belgian has won six races already this season, including all three World Cups thus far. Iserbyt has shown the world that he is the man to beat in cyclocross – but that was before Mathieu Van Der Poel came along. Before their much-anticipated meeting at Ruddervoorde, Iserbyt lined up at Koppenbergcross the Friday before.
Koppenbergcross is a course notorious for humbling some of the best riders in the world. In fact, it is one of only two races last season that Van Der Poel didn’t win. But the Dutchman chose to skip the 2019 edition, and it was Iserbyt who was on the attack from Lap 1. He soon drew clear of the field, with British talent Tom Pidcock not far behind. After cruising solo for most of the race, Iserbyt had built up a 20-second advantage. But with two laps to go, Iserbyt suffered a mechanical, and his comfortable advantage completely vanished. Nevertheless, Iserbyt was undisturbed, and he dropped Pidcock for the final time with less than a lap to go, and cruised to another impressive victory on one of the toughest courses in cyclocross.
After Ruddervoorde, Toon Aerts leads the men’s Superprestige standings with 45 points, tied on points with Laurens Sweeck. The series should be an exciting battle for the rest of this season, as the Top 6 men are separated by just four points.
In Women’s cyclocross, there has been a trio of Dutchwomen stacking the top of the results sheet for a while now. Annemarie Worst, Yara Kastelijn, and Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado won seven races altogether in the month of October, and both Kastelijn and Alvarado have shown no signs of slowing down – the former taking a dominant solo win at Koppenbergcross, and the latter doing the same at Ruddervoorde. Annemarie Worst wasn’t too far behind at Koppenbergcross, taking 2nd ahead of Alice Maria Arzuffi – Kastelijn, Worst, and Arzuffi made it a podium sweep at Koppenbergcross for the 777 team.
North American CX Report
Curtis White has found a purple patch of form in the past few weeks of US racing. Following up wins at FayetteCross, Charm City CX, and Kings CX, White took back-to-back wins at the Really Rad Festival of Cyclocross (great name, by the way) this past weekend. He’ll be looking to carry his fine form through next weekend where he is set to defend his Pan American Championship win in 2018. Kerry Werner is another rider to watch next weekend – the 29 year-old has also been on an incredible run of form this season, earning eight consecutive podiums since the beginning of October. Also, keep an eye on Stephen Hyde, who has also been a recurring figure on the podium.
Maghalie Rochette – who recently defended her Canadian National Champion – has been on a tear this season, taking her first-ever World Cup win back in Iowa at the beginning of the season, and following that up with an additional seven wins by the time the calendar ticked over to November. Rochette comes into Pan Am’s as the favorite in the women’s race, with many of the other top North Americans – Katie Compton and Katie Keough, for example – still stationed in Europe.
Two young riders to watch: Katie Clouse and Clara Honsinger. Clouse is just 19 years old, but has already earned multiple UCI wins, including Day 1 of the Really Rad Festival of Cyclocross this past weekend. And to say that Honsinger has impressed in her first year as an Elite would be a giant understatement. She has already earned eight podiums in total including 3rd in the opening round of the World Cup.
Upcoming CX Schedule
The Pan-American Championships return to Canada for the second year, taking place in Midland, Ontario on November 9-10. Curtis White is the defending champion in the Elite Men’s category, and Maghalie Rochette is the defending Elite Women’s champ. Before the elite races kick off on Sunday, there are also championships up for grabs in the Masters, U23, and Junior categories.
Across the pond will be the UEC Cyclocross European Championships, held in Silvelle, Italy November 9-10.
After a four-week break, World Cup racing returns on November 16th in Tabor, and will be streamed live on Red Bull TV.