Week 19 kicked off the new year and the last third of the 2019/20 season with a pair of races in Baal and Luxembourg. We previously covered all the races, including those two, so we are using this article to finish out the week. There were four races in total that finished out the week. Our things to know this week include a wrap up of the EKZ CrossTour. A look at Mathieu van der Poel’s incredible two plus week sweep, as well as some of the new teams we saw after the New Year. Finally, we wrap up the Helen100 and touch on the continued domination of the Dutch women.
EXZ CrossTour wraps up in Meilen.
Switzerland’s national series, the EKZ CrossTour, wrapped up this past Thursday with a C1 race in Meilen. Despite freezing temperatures and an overcast day, the racing was action packed from start to finish. Both the Elite Men and Women’s overall titles were extremely close coming into the third and final round of the series. Despite it being the Swiss national series the quality of the courses, combined with the increase in coverage of the Swiss races, lends itself to boasting a large amount of international riders. This past weekend saw riders from 12 nations take to the start line.
Spain’s Felipe Orts and Belgium’s Dieter Vanthourenhout entered the finale tied on points (140). Despite leading the series, neither rider was active at the front of the race during the final half of action. Switzerland’s Lars Forster took control in the later stages of the race and looked poised to take the win. However, he ended up crashing during the closing laps, allowing David van der Poel and Marcel Meissen to take over. Meissen quickly made his way to the front and won the race by 15 seconds.
Meissen took his second consecutive win in the series and despite missing the first round, amassed a total of 200 points. Behind the leaders, the battle between Orts and Vanthourenhout never materialized. The Spanish National Champion rolled across the line in seventh place, while Vanthournhout came across in tenth. The result earned Orts 56 points, leaving him with a total of 196. Had Orts finished in fifth place or higher, or had Meissen not won, he would have been the overall champion.
Unlike the men’s race, the Elite Women’s race was all but wrapped up (or so we thought) heading into the final round. France’s Perrine Clauzel, winner of the first round, led the way with 156 points. Fellow countrywoman, Marlene Petit, sat seconds with 128 points. Switzerland’s Zina Barhoumi was hot on Petit’s heels with 120 points.
Christine Majerus came into the race as one of the favorites after winning round two in Hittnau. She skipped the first round, so like the men’s winner (Meissen), she was a long shot to win the overall. Despite the best efforts of Nicol Koller to pick up the win for the home nation, Majerus was just unstoppable and would win by eight seconds. Caroline Mani rounded out the podium coming in 43 seconds after the leader.
Like the men’s overall, Majerus’ pair of wins would end up spoiling the party for Clauzel and Barhoumi. Clauzel finished a distant 14th. Barhoumi came across the line another minute later, finishing 18th. Had Clauzel finished one spot higher, she would have tied for the overall. However, based on the tie breaker, she still would finish second overall. So, she would have needed to finish a few places higher. Barhoumi ended up sliding down the overall, finishing sixth. France’s Marlene Petit used her top ten finish to jump up to third overall.
Mathieu van der Poel completes the Kerstperiode sweep.
While the debate rages on over exactly what constitutes the Kerstperiode, we were generous in counting nine races in 16 days as the Kerstperiode. In all reality, most define it as the World Cup round in Zolder through the GP Sven Nys on New Year’s day. No matter how many races you think of in the Kerstperiode it doesn’t matter; Mathieu van der Poel won them all.
Beginning with Waaslandcross in Sint-Niklaas and ending with the DVV Trofee round in Brussels, van der Poel won all nine races he entered. He won the aforementioned Waaslandcross, World Cup Namur the next day and World Cup Zolder four days later. He won Azencross the following day, then rolled into Diegem two days later to pick up his fifth win. Completing another double, he won in Bredne the next day and kicked off the New Year with a win in Baal. Before getting a full six days off, van der Poel went in Gullegem three days later and picked up the win followed by victory Brussels the next day.
No other rider has swept the Kerstperiode, let alone win nine races in 16 days. Furthermore, van der Poel was actually behind due to crashes and mistakes for a few of those races, so it was not simply a wire to wire parade.
There were only five other UCI races that van der Poel did not compete in. More importantly, four of those races occurred on the same day as one van der Poel competed it. Which leads us to one glaring omission from his schedule. He could have added one more race to his program in Switzerland. On January 2nd, Meilen hosted a C1 race, which we previously discussed as it was the final round of the EKZ CrossTour.
After winning in Baal, van der Poel could have loaded up the RV and traveled the 680k (approx. 8 hours) to Meilen. After what we would assume would be a win, he then had a full day to travel the 750k (approx. 8:30 hours) to Gullegem. While we clearly propose this scenario in jest, let’s start a campaign to get van der Poel to attempt the impossible next year…ten wins in 16 days.
New teams cause (our) viewer confusion.
In what always seems like a just silly rule/process, the GP Sven Nys saw riders debut with their new teams and colors. While he had the rainbow stripes on, Mathieu van der Poel even had a team name change as they are now called Alpecin-Fenix. Tim Merlier and Gianni Vermeersch also debuted their new team colors for Creafin-Fristads. Even Zdenk Stybar caused some confusion as Deceuninck -Quick-Step changed from an all blue kit to a blue and white mix. Needless to say, it took us a few laps to figure out who was who and what was going on.
We will have more on this in a future feature.
Inaugural Helen100 Wraps up in Brussels.
As we mentioned in our previous “5 Things to Know”, the four race Helen100 concluded on Sunday at the DVV Trofee round in Brussels. To quickly recap, it’s a four race series that is part of the DVV Trofee offering races for Junior Women. While this will become an official UCI category next year, Helen Wymann’s goal is to show that there is a desire and need for this category, while encouraging young women to get out and race. Like the DVV Trofee itself, the overall is based on time.
While the Dutch women dominated the first three rounds, two American riders threw their hats in the mix by winning the second and third round of the series. Despite the wins by Madigan Munro and Lizzy Gunsalas, their absence in the first round left the Dutch firmly in control. The American’s would also skip the final round as they headed back to the US.
It what should come as no surprise, the Dutch ladies took nine out of the top ten spots in Brussels. Fem van Empel lead the way followed by Leonie Bentveld and Isa Nomden. Van Empel’s win cemented her spot as the inaugural winner of the Helen100. She finished sixth in Ronse, third at Azencross and second in Baal. Bentveld took second overall, 1:30 back. She finished fifth in every single race except the finale. Rounding out the Dutch sweep of the overall was Ilse Plumires.
While the Dutch Elite Women often get the headlines, it is clear that there’s a deep talent pool across the board. The Dutch took the first six spots and seven out of the top ten. American’s Madigan Munro and Lizzy Gunsalas took seventh and ninth with Zoe Backstedt finishing eighth overall.
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The Dutch women nearly pull off the sweep across Europe.
Including Thursday’s race in Switzerland, there were four races this past week that we have not covered. While we may continue to sound like a broken record, the Dutch women are simply dominating right now. They nearly completed the four race sweep by winning three of the races.
Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado led a Dutch sweep in Gullegem. She out-sprinted Yara Kastelijn, while Shirin van Anrooij came across the line in third. The following day, Alvarado once again got the win, this time ahead of fellow country women Annemarie Worst.
In France, taking place on the same day as the race in Gullegem, Aniek van Alphen picked up the victory ahead of Luxembourg’s Christine Majerus and France’s Marlene Petit. The only race the Dutch did not win was in Meilen on Thursday. Pauliena Rooijakkers was the best place riding, finishing in fourth place.
Photo: © radsportphoto.net/Steffen Müssiggang