Markus Pajur
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5 Thing to Know from Week 7

It was another action packed weekend with racing in North America and Europe. There were two pairs of UCI C2 races in Baltimore, MD and Boulder, CO. In Europe there were seven UCI races. The first round of the Superprestige in Gieten was the only C1. 

Here are our conclusions from this week:

Curtis White and Kerry Werner are the men to beat.

Curtis White and Kerry Werner spent another weekend going head to head with each other at Charm City Cross in Baltimore. Werner was first on Saturday, with White coming in second. On Sunday, they flipped flopped with White getting the better of Werner. Both races ended in sprint finishes. White and Werner picked up where they had left off last weekend in Fayetteville. There, the same thing happened; Werner won on Saturday and White on Sunday.

Going even further back, to the first race of the season in Virginia, White won on Saturday and Werner won on Sunday. Clearly, the is the battle of the season.

Last year with Stephen Hyde out for some of the season, we saw Werner and White rise to the front. However, when Hyde returned, he was still the man to beat. This year, White and Werner have won almost every UCI race in North America. The only exceptions are the C1’s, World Cups and the C2 races held before the World Cups. In those six races, European riders won.

Hyde took a brief break after the World Cups and came to Charm City ready to race. He looked good during both races, but wound up falling off the pace and finishing in third. While there is still plenty of racing left in the season, it is safe to say at this point that White and Werner are the top two American cross racers.

With that said, there was a pair of C2 races in Colorado as well this weekend. Lance Haidet took the win on Saturday and Eric Brunner picked up the win on Sunday. Gage Hecht was second both days. These three riders are bonafide podium contenders, but haven’t been able to beat White or Werner this year. When things come back together in Cincinnati in two weeks, it will be interesting to see how they fare.

A big surprise at the Estonian National Championships.

Last week we touched on the Chilean National Championships. This week we turn our attention to Estonia. Estonia has a relatively decent cyclocross scene. There are five races left on their calendar. Unfortunately we couldn’t find any information in terms of an overall, but it was nice to see that there is a cross series in that country.

The elite men’s race saw 14 riders take to the start line. All eyes were on four-time defending champion Martin Loo. Surprisingly, Markus Pajur, who is in his first year in the U-23 age group, won the race by 1:37 over Loo. Pajur took the lead early and was quickly pursued by Loo. The two men were together until mid-race when Pajur attacked and got a small gap. Not too long after Loo suffered a mechanical and was never able to close to Pajur. In third place was Siim Kiskonen.

Unlike the elite men’s race, there was no surprise in the elite women’s race. Mari-Liis Mottus won her fourth-straight national title by nearly three minutes. Mottus lead from start to finish and never looked back. Kätlin Kukk was second and Merli Sirvel was third, finishing over five minutes behind Mottus. One final fun fact, Mottus was the oldest rider in the race…at 22 years-old.

Eli Iserbyt is the man to beat.

Before the start of the season all eyes were on Toon Aerts. With the absence of Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert, Aerts seemed like the logical choice to take over at the head of the race. However, Aerts actually tipped Laurens Sweeck as the man to beat in an interview before the season started. While we tipped Iserbyt as one of our “Riders to Watch” LINK, even we did not expect him to perform as well as he has.

Iserbyt has won four out of the six races he has started this season. One could argue that had he not crashed in Meulebeke, he would have won that race. As a result of his success, Iserbyt leads the World Cup and Superprestige series. He has also moved up five spots in the UCI ranking.

As we mentioned, Aerts tipped Sweeck as the rider to watch this season. Sweeck has a good start to the season. Sweeck won three races, but has struggled in the three other races he’s done. He was 16th at the World Cup in Waterloo, fifth at the World Cup in Iowa City and eighth this past weekend in Gieten. Sweeck is currently ranked seventh overall in the World Cup standings.

We liked Toon Aerts as the man to beat this season. Like Iserbyt, Aerts has had a consistent season, but has yet to find the top step. In the six races he’s done, he’s landed on the podium four times. In the other races, he finished fourth and ninth.

While Aerts and Sweeck are up there in terms of wins and consistent results, Iserbyt is still the man to beat. However, he stated this week that when Mathieu van der Poel is back, he [Iserbyt] will be racing for second place.

The Dutch women continue to dominate.

After last week’s domination, we thought it would be interesting to see how the Dutch women fared this past weekend. To our surprise they picked up right where they left off. Dutch women started three races this weekend. As you would expect they were all in Europe as there are no Dutch riders living in North America.

Their “worst” result came at the Internationales Radquer Steinmaur in Switzerland. The Swiss took six out of the top ten places, including a sweep of the podium. Milou Meeuse was the top (and only) Dutch rider, finishing in seventh place. On Saturday, the Dutch women dominated Polderscross Kruibeke (C2). Annemarie Worst lead the Dutch sweep with a commanding performance ahead of Yara Kastelijn and Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado. On Sunday, we saw much of the same with Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado taking the in in Gieten. Kastelijn was third as the Dutch placed four riders in the top-ten.

There are a lot more features to come.

This week, we didn’t have much for our fifth conclusion of the week. We thought about talking about women’s racing in North America, but realized that could be a broader topic. Then thought about talking about North American cross in general, but again, that’s a topic that deserves its own column. So, we are going to push out those pieces over the coming weeks. We also have a feature on which World Cup is the toughest as well as a preview of the DVV Trofee series. Our goal is to push out our weekly conclusions, a more detailed feature piece, and predictions every week.

If there are any topics of interest to you, let us know in the comments below.

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