Week nine was action packed. There were 16 UCI races in 11 different countries on three continents. Russia and Lithuania host their National Championships on Sunday. In Belgium, the Superprestige continued in Gavere. Cincinnati hosted the third and final C1 race in North America. In total, there were seven C1 races this weekend. With all that action, here what you need to know:
Werner and White continue to dominate North American racing.
With their wins this past weekend in Cincinnati, Kerry Werner and Curtis White continue to show that they’re the best two riders in North America. Werner won in very muddy conditions on Saturday, beating Lance Haidet and Curtis White. On Sunday, in considerably dryer conditions, White was able to get the win ahead of Gage Hecht and Werner. Werner had a few mistakes late in the race that most likely cost him the win. Either way, Werner and White are firmly in control of the North American scene.
Ignoring the two World Cups and the three C2 races neither rider attended, the pair have won all but two races in North America this year. To kick off the season at Virginia’s Blue Ridge GO Cross, White won on Saturday and Werner won on Sunday. In Rochester, Vincent Baestaens won the C1 race, but on Sunday White won the C2 race.
At Jingle Cross, neither rider raced the C2 on Friday and Sunday’s C1 race was won by Gianni Vermeersch. The following weekend’s C2 race is another one of the few races White or Werner were in, but didn’t win. Laurens Sweeck lead an all European podium at that race. Since then, it has been the White and Werner show. They split the wins at FayetteCross, Charm City and Cincy (Kings CX). DCCX is the only race missing from this list as Werner won on Saturday, but Stephen Hyde broke things up with a win on Sunday.
If you break it down even further, White and Werner have started 14 races in North America (excluding the two World Cups). They have won 10 out of those 14. That’s a 71 winning percentage. What’s even crazier is that both riders have five of those ten wins. It’s a truly exciting and amazing first half of the season for these two riders.
Beringen was one for the climbers…and the descenders.
If you missed Saturday’s Ethias Cross race in Beringen, then you missed one of the wildest courses we have seen in some time. The course featured a three plus minute climb followed by some serious descents. In between, there were a few rollers and twists and turns, but this course was punctuated with the massive climb and tricky off camber descents. Thomas Pidcock, who would finish third, lost his chance at the win after crashing on one of the downhill turns. That specific turn saw multiple crashes. Another turn, at the bottom of the descent onto the home stretch, also claimed a few riders, including one poor rider who broke his collarbone in the men’s race.
Based on Strava data from Quinten Hermans, he climbed 2,238ft in 10 laps of the approximately 1.4 mile course. That’s roughly 224ft per lap. Strava claims the actual lap is 197ft of elevation, so we are going to go somewhere in the middle and say it was about 210ft of climbing per lap. We have an article coming out in the next few weeks about the hilly races in the World Cup. Based on initial looks, this race has twice as much climbing as Iowa City and almost 30% more than Namur.
Hermans and Pidcock got away early after Toon Aerts got a piece of barbed wire stuck in his rear wheel on the first lap. Pidcock would end up crashing on the second tough decent allowing Aerts to catch back up. At this point Hermans was gone. Aerts attacked towards the end of the race to solidify second place. Pidcock was third.
Annemarie Worst continued her strong string of results with a victory on Saturday. The woman’s race was a much closer affair with Worst edging out fellow countrywoman Geerte Hoeke by 10 seconds. America’s Katie Compton finished third, another six seconds back. Fellow American Katlin Keough finished fifth, making it two American’s in the top-five.
The Belgian men are firmly on top in Europe.
With nine UCI races in six different countries across Europe, this past weekend saw riders spread out. Six of those nine races were C1, meaning there were a lot of options to pick up valuable UCI points. For a country like Belgium this is critical as they max out on riders they can send to the World Cups. Remember, all riders inside the top-50 of the UCI rankings are automatically invited to the World Cups. Any nation that has less than eight riders in the top-50 can bring additional riders to meet that maximum of eight.
Currently, Belgium has 20 riders in the top-50. This means if you’re not in the top-50, you don’t get to go to the World Cups and certainly don’t get to go to Worlds. Therefore, it is no surprise that the Belgians spread out and dominated this weekend. Removing the National Trophy Series race on Sunday, Belgians won five out of the eight UCI races this weekend.
In Beringen, Belgians took the top two spots with Quinten Hermans and Toon Aerts. Diether Sweeck was the top placed Belgain at Ziklokross Laudio in Spain, finishing fourth. Felipe Orts won both races in Spain. On Sunday, Sweeck was able to finish right behind Orts in second.
Jim Aernouts picked up a pair of wins in Slovakia at the GP Podbrezová and GP Topolcianky. Belgians took six of the top-10 spots at both races. The only other race not won by a Belgian was Sunday’s Munich Super Cross. Switzerland’s Loris Rouiller picked up the victory. The top placed Belgian was Jelle Camps, who finished in sixth place.
In Luxembourg, This Aerts and Andreas Goeman bookended the podium for Belgium. At the Superprestige race in Gavere, Eli Iserbyt easily took the win over Lars van der Haar and Toon Aerts. This was yet another race where Belgians took six out of the top ten spots. All in all, it was a great weekend for the Belgians.
Maghalie Rochette is back.
Rochette’s start to the season cooled off a bit after the Waterloo World Cup. She picked up a win on day one of FayetteCross, but was seventh in the mud on Sunday’s race there. She then headed to Switzerland where she finished 11th in Bern. However, she still is second overall in the series, so the trip was worth it. Rochette then traveled back from Europe for the final C1 in North America. That means she made two transatlantic flights in roughly one week.
We thought jet lag may have been an issuer in Bern, but as Rochette proved, that’s not the case. She crushed the field at both days of CincyCX in Kingswood Park. In the mud on Saturday, she beat Caroline Mani by 1:29. Fellow countrywoman Ruby West finished third, another eight seconds back. With this win, Rochette has now won all three North American C1 races. On Sunday, Katie Clouse kept is close, but still lost to Rochette by seven seconds. America’s Clara Honsinger rounded out the podium in third.
Rochette now heads to her native Canada for nationals this weekend and the Pan-American Championships next weekend.
Russian nationals featured a few firsts.
As far as we can tell, Russia hosted their first National Championships this past Sunday in Izhevsk. Izhevsk is the capital city of western Russia’s Udmurt Republic and about 1,200k east of Moscow. While we cannot confirm if it’s truly their first National Championships, it was their first UCI sanctioned one. More importantly, this was the first event to off a UCI Women’s Junior category. Only nine races this year, including the World Championships, offer the first year UCI category.
This part of Russia is cold and wet, and while we missed the live stream, it did appear to be just that. 29 year old Timofei Ivanov took the win in the elite men’s race ahead of Stanislav Antonov and Evgenii Antonov. Ivanov’s only other UCI race came as a U23 in the 2009 World Championships in Hoogerheide, he placed 54th, which was second from last.
In the elite women’s race Elvira Khayrullina lead a podium of more experienced riders, a head of Elena Gogoleva and Oksana Rybakova. The average age of the podium was 35. Neither rider had competed in a UCI race before. Only eight riders started the race, but it is nice to see a country not known for cross to offer this race.
While the elite women’s field was small, there may be something to be said for the depth of the Junior Men’s field. 23 riders took to the start line with Egor Sapegin getting the win a head of Pavel Balobanov and Daniil Aleksandrov. Both Sapegin and Balobanov raced the EKZ CrossTour race in Agile. Balobanov was 30th and Sapegin ws 47th.
Yana Mergasova won the first ever UCI sanctioned Women’s Junior race. The 16 year old beat Valeria Semenova by 11 seconds. Valeria Orlova rounded out the podium coming in 1:15 behind Mergasova.