As we enter the final month of the 2019/20 season, we take a look at this past weekend’s World Championships. While there were many takeaways over the course of the weekend, we have picked five topics to highlight. We kick things off by discussing the Dutch domination. Then we move into women’s racing where the Junior Women’s race was a major step for equality in cross. Keeping with that theme we discuss how Ceylin Del Carmen Alvarado is leading a new generation of Dutch talent. Getting away from the Dutch theme, we discuss the performance of the Belgians along with a discussion about the track.
All in all, we thought it was a great World Championships, with some races that will be remembered forever.
The Dutch come up just short of pure domination.
In our day one predictions, we had Kevin Kuhn spoiling the Dutch party. Despite Ryan Kamp’s form as of late, we still thought the Swiss rider would get the victory on home soil. You can read our full predictions via that link, but we had the Dutch taking the top-two places in the Junior Women, second place in the U23 Men and a full sweep of the Elite Women’s race.
We weren’t that far off.
In the Junior Women’s race, the Dutch dominated the front end, while the American’s threw their hat in the mix and ended up on the podium. Shirin van Anrooij (NED) and Puck Pieterse (NED) took first and second, with Madigan Munro (USA) finishing third.
Ryan Kamp (NED) spoiled the hometown party in the U23 Men’s race. The Dutch rider got away from a strong lead group leaving Kevin Kuhn (SWI) to settle for second. Mees Hendrikx (NED) finished third.
As expected, the Dutch train left the station right from the start of the Elite Women’s race. Annemarie Worst, Ceylin Del Carmen Alvarado and Lucinda Brand led from start to finish. In an absolute thriller, Alvarado out-sprinted Worst for the win. A fading Brand rounded out the all Dutch podium.
By the end of day one, the Dutch had three World Champions and took seven out of the nine podium spots.
The Belgians started off day two with a podium sweep in the Junior Men’s race. As expected, Thibau Nys took home the title ahead of Lennert Belmans and Emiel Verstrynge. The top Dutch rider was Tibor del Grosso in fifth.
In perhaps the biggest (and only) upset of the weekend, Marion Riberlolle (FRA) picked up the title ahead of Kata Vas (HUN) and Anna Kay (GBR) in the U23 Women’s race. Race favorite Inge van der Heijden (NED) finished sixth. The top Dutch rider was Manon Bakker in fourth.
Mathieu van der Poel (NED) lead from wire to wire en route to his third Elite title. Britain’s Tom Pidcock put in the ride of the weekend to get second place ahead of Toon Aerts (BEL).
On day two, the Dutch “only” took home one title and that rider was the only one to land on the podium.
Still, when you look at it, it was an amazing weekend for the Dutch. They won four out of the six races and put eight riders on the podium.
The Junior Women’s race is a major step for equality in cross.
The debate, which sadly shouldn’t be a debate, about equality for genders in cycling has become a hot topic as of late. While we won’t dive into the issues of pay and race distance, we do think it’s important to point out that adding the Junior Women as an official UCI category is a major step forward for the discipline of cross. Next year, the UCI has mandated Junior Women’s race when there is a Junior Men’s race.
With that said, this is a long time coming. On the road, the women’s road race was added in 1958. The time trial was added in 1994. Compare this to cyclocross which saw the Elite Women’s category added in 2000. The U23 women were added in 2016, which is great considering that category is not offered on the road. When it comes to the junior women, the road race was added in 1987 and the time trial first took place in 1995. On the track, the Junior Women’s category has existed for over 20 years.
Shirin van Anrooij will go down in history as the first ever Junior Women’s World Champion. More importantly, it marks a major step forward for the discipline of cross and the sport as a whole. There were 17 Junior Women races this season. Next season, there are 43. Compare that to the U23 Women who only have five races next season. Progress indeed.
Alvarado leads a new generation of Dutch talent.
As Ceylin Del Carmen Alvarado out sprinted Annemarie Worst on Sunday, it not only was a culmination of an amazing race, but it marked the youngest Elite Women’s World Champion in 14 years. The only other rider who won a title at a younger age was Marianne Vos. The 18 year old out-sprinted Hanka Kupfernagel in Zeddam, Netherlands in 2006. It was the first of Vos’ seven titles.
The narrative all season has been the Dutch women and Saturday’s result was no surprise. Worst, Alvarado and Lucinda Brand took off from the start and never looked back. Worst is only 24 years old, while Brand is the “elder stateswoman” at 30 years old. Needless to say, these women will be around for a long time.
More importantly, the pipeline for the Dutch women is very deep. As we have mentioned, they took the top two spots in the Junior Women’s race and fifth and sixth in the U23 race. In all three races, not a single rider finished outside the top-20. It appears Alvarado is just the start of another generation of Dutch dominance.
Nys was the bright spot for Belgium.
In a country that has become accustomed to World Championships, Belgium only walked away with one title. The last time the Belgians took home zero titles was in 2001 in Sankt Wendel. Thibau Nys spared the country of that dubious stat.
This year, the Dutch have dominated all three women’s categories. While some saw Sanne Cant as an outside shot on Saturday, the fact remains that she just isn’t on her usual form this year. To underscore the issue with the Belgian women; Julie de Wilde (10th) was the top junior, Kiona Crabbie (14th) was the top U23 and Ellen van Loy (9th) was tops in the Elite Women.
On the men’s side, things didn’t fare much better. Outside of the domination of the Junior Men, they only got one other rider, Toon Aerts, on the podium. Niels Vandeputte was the top U23 rider, finishing seventh. As we mentioned, Aerts landed on the podium in the Elite race and the Belgians did have a strong showing taking seven of the top-ten spots.
It appears that it may be a changing of the guard as the Dutch are slowly taking control of the races. If Nys is anything like his father, there is great potential on the men’s side for him to challenge for the top spot. On the women’s side, sadly, there is little hope.
The track was better than expected.
While we weren’t super critical of the track in our preview, we did imply that it was lackluster. In all reality, the flat grass really made the race. Before the rain on Sunday, the grass was still bumpy and heavy. The five flyovers were very steep, making for some tough climbing. Two of the flyovers featured stairs, that actually caused a few slips, bumps and bruises for riders.
When it came to the two hills, they were tougher than originally thought. The first hill wasn’t super technical, but did just enough to cause a log jam after the start. It even had the Elite men running it on the first lap. The second hill was very, very steep. Once again, with the rain aside, the uphills were steep and the downhills were even steeper. There was one tricky off camber, but more importantly, there was little to no room to remount after the uphills.
As we have said, ultimately, the racers make the race. However, weather can play a factor, and as we saw on Sunday when this track in the mud became a slog. The flat sections were like tractor pulls, while the flyovers became even tougher due to a lack of speed. All but one of the hill sections were rideable.
Ultimately however, the track was not a factor in any of the races. The strong riders pushed the pace, while the rest held on. Fatigue did set in during several of the races, but in the end, the strongest rider won. We can sit back and criticize the track all we want, but we walked away with several races that will be etched in our minds forever.
Photo credit: https://cyclephotos.co.uk/