The final week before the World Championships saw a small C2 race in Belgium followed by the final World Cup race of the season in the Netherlands. This week we cover the World Cup, Worlds teams and Wout van Aerts return to the podium. In what we knew would be a thrilling race, the Women’s World Cup overall came down to the last off camber. We continue our discussion of Hoogerheide with Thibau Nys’ attempt for perfection as well as the Dutch nearly completing a true sweep. Finally we touch on the Worlds teams, with a few fun facts and Wout van Aert’s return to the podium.
The Women’s World Cup overall comes down to the last off camber.
If you couldn’t tell by last week’s 5 Things to Know, we were incredibly excited for this weeks Elite Women’s race in Hoogerheide. In that article, we discussed the various scenarios for how either Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado or Annemarie Worst could capture the overall. In our predictions we “boldly” stated that we thought the winner of the overall would be the winner of the race. While Lucinda Brand spoiled that prediction, it did ultimately come down to which rider crossed the line first.
The dry conditions led to fast, pack, racing. A large lead group ebbed and flowed in size, but with two laps remaining it came down to a battle between six riders. All eyes were on the Dutch as Alvarado and Worst jockeyed for position. Coming into the last lap, we were on the edge of our seats. The course itself is not super technical and with the dry conditions, it was even less so. However, the final sector before a long road finishing stretch, is perhaps the toughest part of the course.
After a lengthy stair run, riders remounted on a flat hard packed surface before heading into a very steep off camber. There were only two lines and virtually everyone was taking the high line. There was zero room for error, as any slip of the wheel could spell disaster. In fact, race winner Lucinda Brand, lost her front wheel and slid down the off camber midway through the race.
As the riders crested the stairs, all anyone could talk about was who would win the sprint between Alvarado and Worst. Brand lead into the off camber closely followed by Alvarado and Worst. Suddenly, Alvardo’s front wheel slipped and she went down. To add insult to injury, she dropped her chain. Brand burst up the home stretch to pick up her third World Cup victory of the season. Worst came across the line in second, giving her the overall title. Alvardo ended up finishing sixth and could take some solace in winning the U23 World Cup overall.
Thibau Nys wins the overall, but misses out on perfection.
As we mentioned last week, Thibau Nys had the opportunity in Hoogerheide to do something his infamous father never has: to sweep the World Cup. Nys had the World Cup overall victory locked up heading into Sunday’s race. However, Nys was going for the sweep, attempting to win all seven Men’s Junior races this season.
We always say, there’s a reason we race the races. There’s also a reason that perfection is nearly impossible. After one of the most dominant seasons since the Men Junior category was introduced to the World Cup in the 2004/05 season, a small crash eventually cost Nys his shot at perfection. Nys fought back to third place, but was unable to beat Switzerland’s Dario Lillo and Belgium’s Lennery Belmans. They were part of a four rider group that came to the line, finishing less than three seconds apart.
It should come as no surprise that Nys was “chasing” one Mathieu van der Poel in his quest for perfection. Van der Poel remains the only rider with a perfect record over a (World Cup) season – four victories out of four rounds in 2011-2012, and six out of six in 2012-2013.
The Dutch nearly complete a true sweep in Hoogerheide.
While it comes as no surprise that the Dutch won the Elite Men’s and Women’s races, there was a very good chance that the Dutch could win all four categories on offer at Sunday’s World Cup.
As we have already discussed, Lucinda Brand won the Elite Women’s race a head of Annemarie Worst and Sanne Cant. Fellow Dutch rider, Yara Kastelijn came across the line in fourth as they nearly swept the podium.
Despite taking his time, Mathieu van der Poel put in another dominating performance on Sunday. He beat Toon Aerts by 38 seconds. After a great battle, Eli Iserbyt came across the line in third, another five seconds back.
Earlier in the day, Ryan Kamp took the win in the Men’s U23 race, giving the Dutch another victory. Antoine Benoist and Niels Vandeputte finished second and third respectively. It was Kamp’s second consecutive World Cup victory, however, it was not enough to take the overall from Kevin Kuhn. The young Swiss talent suffered a mechanical incident in the final race of the season but still came out on top of the overall standings.
As we mentioned in the previous section, Thibau Nys was the favorite to win the Men Junior race. His mid-race crash left the door wide open and for a brief while, Tibor del Grosso looked like he could give the Dutch a four-for-four sweep. However, it was not meant to be as del Grosso faded to fifth. With that said, he was a mere eight seconds behind the winner.
We know these races were actually run in (nearly) the reverse order of our discussion, but we went through them in the likelihood of Dutch victory.
No real surprises for Worlds teams.
After this weekend, we had a full list of riders who are going to race in the World Championships this weekend in Switzerland. Every once in a while there is some sort of controversy, but this year the teams were announced without any real uproar. The Dutch federation is not bringing Denise Bestema, which is probably for the best. Wout van Aert was officially confirmed for the Belgian team. Besides those two footnotes, there’s not much to discuss. We will have a full Worlds preview/predictions article going up later this week.
With not much to talk about, we thought we’d throw out a few fun facts.
The Elite Men’s race is the smallest of the men’s fields with 48 riders from thirteen countries. One interesting rider is Goran Cerovic from Montenegro. We can’t find much on him except he races both road and mountain bike. On the road he is a four-time National Champion. We always love when riders from lesser known nations participate in Worlds.
62 riders from 15 countries will take to the start line for the Men’s U23 race. It should be a very good battle in which the Swiss have an outside shot for a medal. One interesting rider to watch is American Gage Hecht. Despite being in the U23 category, Hecht is the reigning Elite Men’s US National Champion.
In what came to us as a bit of a surprise, the Men’s Junior category has the most riders (79) and nations (19) at the World Championships. Of those 19 countries, 16 have more than one rider in the field. Slovakia, Ireland and Austria are the only countries sending just one rider.
Only ten riders smaller than the Elite Men’s field, 38 women will to the start line for the Elite Women. There will be 16 countries represented, including Mari-Liis Mottus from Estonia. The 22 year old has won four straight Elite National Championships and has raced a lot in Europe this year. As with the men, it’s always nice to see riders from non traditional cross nations race.
With 33 riders from 14 nations, the Women’s U23 field is the smallest of the weekend. Perhaps the biggest news is that Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado will not be on the start line. Her decision to race in the Elite Women’s race leaves the door wide open for the U23 race. As we will discuss in our predictions, “wide open” means another Dutch rider will win.
Saturday’s Women Junior category marks the first time the category is raced at the World Championships. Including world’s, there have been 19 races to offer this category this season. All of them have been National and Continental Championships. Next year this category will be offered at more races as the UCI requirements continue to include this field. The best part is that this is the largest women’s field of the weekend with 49 riders from 17 nations toeing the start line. Our rider of note is Georgiana Ileana Turlea from Romania. She has competed in two UCI races this year.
Wout van Aert lands on the podium for the first time this season.
Coming into Saturday’s C2 race in Zonnebeke, it had been 356 days since Wout van Aert last stood on a cross podium. Granted he had only done five races since finishing second at World’s. Van Aert continues to get his cross legs going and it showed with his second place finish at Kasteelcross.
Van Aert finished 35 seconds behind Mathieu van der Poel and 40 seconds ahead of Jens Adams. There seems to be a desire to continue the van der Poel vs. van Aert narrative, but the fact remains that it’s just not there. This is as close as we will get. Van Aert picked up an eighth place finish on Sunday and should be battling for a top-ten on Sunday.
Photo credit: UCI