Our December wrap up continues with another 5 Things to Know. This time we tackled the World Cup, DVV Trofee and the Superprestige series. All three series have two rounds remaining and most of them are close battles between a handful of riders. We then touch on all the North American riders who are racing in Europe, including the Junior Women who have picked up a pair of victories in the Helen100 series. Finally, we get the latest updates from some injured riders, who, thankfully, are all set to return to action by the end of the month.
We were going to try and break things up into Week 17/18 and then add Week 19. Because rounds of the DVV Trofee and Superprestige series took place during week 19, we decided it would be easier to include them in our wrap up. Therefore this is also including Week 19, which means we are covering all the races through the GP Sven Nys.
If you missed part one, check it out here.
Mathieu van der Poel continued his World Cup domination with wins in Namur and Zolder. If you have not seen or read about the Namur race, it’s worth watching. The cold, wet conditions were some of the worst we have ever seen. Not to mention the complete erosion of the sandy downhill stairs (we’re staying away from that controversy for now) that greatly impacted the men’s race. On the women’s side, it was another podium sweep for the Dutch, while a bit further back, the American women showed that they are ready to compete for the podium as well.
While Mathieu van der Poel extended his winning streak with another pair of wins, he is not in contention for the overall. As we have previously explained, by missing the first three rounds for him to win the overall. Last year, he skipped the round in France, so we expect that will happen again this year.
Coming into Namur, the race for the overall battle was between Toon Aerts and Eli Iserbyt. Michael Vanthourenhout, Laurens Sweeck and Quinten Hermans were also in the mix, but Iserbyt’s three wins and a second place in the first four rounds had him ahead of Aerts, who rattled off three second places and a third place finish in Tabor. Little did we know that Namur would define the overall and launch things into chaos.
Suffering from hypothermia, Iserbyt was unable to finish the race in Namur. After a spectacular battle and unfortunate crash, Aerts held on to second place. This gave Aerts a massive advantage and put him firmly in first place overall. Aerts led the way with 400 points, Iserbyt slipped to second with 348 points and Vanthourenhout slotted in at third with 332 points.
The big news heading into Zolder was that Aerts sustained injuries to his ribs in his crash in Namur. He was able to survive and finish 14th. Unable to capitalize on this misfortune, Iserbyt only finished one spot ahead in 13th. While Aerts was able to extend his lead, Vanthourenhout moved up to second ahead of Iserbyt.
With two rounds remaining, Aerts is in the driver’s seat with a 45 point lead. However, the battle behind has five riders within 35 points of each other.
With all the drama on the men’s side, it’s easy to forget how close the battle for the overall is for the Elite Women. Katarina Nash held a slim lead coming into Namur by virtue of her consistency throughout the series. Nash and Inge van der Heijden are the only two riders in the top five who have competed in every round of the series.
The Dutch women have simply dominated this year. Therefore it came as no surprise as they swept the podium in Namur. Lucinda Brand continued her progression, picking up the win just a head of Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado. Brand did not compete in the first three rounds of the series, but had a third place in Tabor and a second place finish in Koksijde. Behind Alvarado, the battle for third came down to a group of four. Annemarie Worst was able to get a gap to grab the third spot on the podium. Nash rolled across the line in fifth and was able to maintain her overall lead.
Heading into Zolder, all eyes were on the Dutch as Brand, Alvarado, Worst and van der Heijden were closing in on Nash. The fast, dry course in Zolder meant that group racing would be prevalent. Brand outsprinted Alvarado for the win, picking up her second consecutive victory. The top nine were separated by less than a minute, with Worst coming across the line 13 seconds behind the winner. Marianne Vos and van der Heijden finished fourth and fifth, leading to a Dutch sweep of the top five. They would end up taking seven of the top ten positions.
Nash finished 15th in Zolder and would drop to second place overall. Alvarado’s four second place finishes and one victory, gave her a one point lead over Nash. Worst, who won the third and fourth round of the series cemented her third place overall, another 14 points back. Van der Heijden has been slightly inconsistent, but sits fourth overall. She’s 34 points behind Worst, making it a three woman race. Nash hasn’t been able to produce great results in Europe, which leaves Alvarado in the driver’s seat with Worst having an outside chance of the overall.
|1||Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado||360|
The sixth round of the Superprestige series took place on the infamous Diegem track. The downtown track is the only night race of the series and is made up of a combination of streets, cobblestones, woods and grass. It also includes an almost mandatory (in Belgium) sand pit. As with the World Cup, Mathieu van der Poel is out of the competition for the overall despite picking up his second victory of the season. On the women’s side, the battle for the overall is a Dutch affair, as they took the top five spots in Diegem.
The Elite Men’s race was not without controversy for the Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal team. In the race, Iserbyt followed the initial acceleration of van der Poel and looked like he had an outside chance of pulling off the upset. However, a chase group of four riders, including Iserbyt’s teammates Sweeck and Michael Vanthourenhout, reeled Iserbyt in. Van der Poel was able to distance Iserbyt and the other four riders just as they made contact. Despite the bizarre tactics, Iserbyt would ride away from the group in the closing laps to finish second. Vanthourenhout finished third, while Sweeck came across the line in sixth.
After the race concluded, the question arose to exactly what the Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal tactics were. The prevailing theory was that they reeled in Iserbyt in an attempt to allow Sweeck to maintain his overall lead. However, many thought that the move actually prevented Iserbyt from contending for the victory.
The day after, team leader Gianni Vermeersch talked to Sporza downplaying any potential rift between the two riders. According to Vermeersch, the goal was in fact to allow Sweeck to contend for victory in Diegem. However, after the capture was made, they realized Sweeck did not have the legs. Meanwhile, Iserbyt had great legs and took off later in the race. As you would expect, Vermeersch then added that there are no issues amongst the team.
In the end, things worked out for the Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal as Sweeck now leads Iserbyt by one point. Behind Iserbyt, Lars van der Haar sits in third, four points back. Quinten Hermans is a point behind van der Haar, with Corne van Kessel another point behind Hermans. With two rounds remaining, everyone has a chance at the overall.
|3||Lars van der Haar||64|
As we have come to expect, the women’s race was dominated by the Dutch. In a near repeat of Zolder, Annemarie Worst out-sprinted Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado for the win. Yara Kastelijn completed the sweep finishing eight seconds behind. 17 year old Puck Pieterse finished fifth, behind Inge van der Heijden. Sanne Cant, who has won six straight overall titles finished a distant eighth, ending her shot at a seventh title.
Despite her victory, Worst was only able to move into third place overall. Alvarado continues to dominate and most likely cemented her first Superprestige title as she leads Kastelijn by five points. The battle for third will continue to be one to watch as Worst, Alice Maria Arzuffi and Cant are only separated by four points.
|1||Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado||81|
Round five of the DVV Trofee took place on Monday in Louenhout with Azencross with round six taking place on New Year’s day in Baal. Because the series is based on time (think of it as a stage race), the overall for both the men and women have been basically decided at this point. Eli Iserbyt and Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado look poised to capture their first ever DVV Trofee titles.
If we sound like a broken record with the Dutch women, the two victories by Mathieu van der Poel will come as no surprise. Van der Poel has gone on record that he has no desire to contend for the overall in any of the major series this year.
Because the DVV Trofee is based on time, there was some speculation that if he won by more than a minute in Baal, he may attempt the final two rounds of the series. However, he sat up on the last lap and beat Eli Iserbyt by 23 seconds. Iserbyt also finished close to van der Poel at Anzencross and cemented his overall lead. He now leads van der Poel by 4:12 and Michael Vanthourenhout by 5:10. Van der Poel is most likely done racing the DVV Trofee, which should allow Vanthourenhout and Corne van Kessel to move up to second and third, respectively.
|2||Mathieu van der Poel||4:12|
Alvarado picked up her second and third consecutive wins in Loenhout and Baal. Annemarie Worst entered fifth and sixth round of the series with a nearly one minute lead on Alvarado. However, Alvarado was able to put nearly two minutes into her in Loenhout and another minute into her in Baal. While we may be premature in declaring Alvarado the overall champion, she now has a 2:06 lead on Worst. She also leads Yara Kasteljin by over five minutes with fourth and fifth place nearly 10 minutes back.
|1||Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado||4:18:40|
North American riders find success in Europe.
With the North American season wrapping up in mid-December, we often see the continents top riders heading over to Europe for a few big blocks of racing ahead of the World Championships. While riders like Katie Compton and Maghalie Rochette (less so) have been racing Europe for most of the season, the Kerstperiode sees a lot of US development and elite riders toeing the starting line in some of the biggest races of the season.
The World Cups
The World Cup rounds in Namur and Zolder saw drastically different conditions and lead to a lot of suffering as only 29 riders in the Elite Men’s race finished on the lead lap in Namur. In Zolder the number of riders was 46. The Elite Women actually fared better with 49 riders finishing on the lead lap in Namur and 57 in Zolder. The North American U23 Men and Elite Women had some great results in Namur.
US National Champion Clara Honsinger led the way with a sixth place in Namur. Fellow Americans Katie Comption and Rebecca Fahringer finished right behind in the seventh and eighth. Maghalie Rochette rounded out the top ten in tenth place. The Elite Men’s US National Champion, Gage Hecht participated in the U23 race in Namur, picking up a 15th place finish. It was the best World Cup result for all the aforementioned riders, except Rochette who won the first round in Iowa City.
The group racing in Zolder did not play to the North American’s strengths with the best result coming from Katie Compton, who finished 12th in the Elite Women’s race. Stephen Hyde, Curtis White, Michael van den Ham and Kerry Werner all managed to finish on the lead lap with Hyde the best placed in 30th. In the U23 race, Gage Hecht led the way in 22nd place. Lane Maher, Eric Brunner and Alex Morton all finished behind Hecht in what became a group of American’s.
The DVV Trofee, Superprestige and other races
In Loenhout, Compton finished just off the podium in fourth, with Fahringer having another excellent result in fifth. Meanwhile, Nick Carter has his best international result to date, finishing 10th in the Junior Men’s race. Stephen Hyde got plenty of camera time in Baal, finishing 14th, just ahead of Zdenek Stybar. Compton once again finished inside the top ten as did Gage Hecht in the U23 race. Magnus Sheffield led the way in the Junior Men’s race. His fourth place finish was the best as three American’s finished in the top ten, including National Champion Andrew Strohmeyet and Carter.
Maghalie Rochette was the only North American to crack the top-ten in Diegem, but the North American riders found great success in Bredene. Kerry Werner rolled across the line in 11th place in the Elite Men’s race. His teammate, Renecca Fahringer finished third in the Elite Women’s race. Skipping the race in Baal to race in Luxembourg, Werner once again finished 11th, while Fahringer once again landed on the podium in second.
Helen Wyman’s 100 series continued in Loenhout and Baal. The four race series is a seperate part of the DVV Trofee for Junior Women. You can find all about it here. Like the rest of the DVV Trofee, the race is based on time. Therefore, the American women are at a disadvantage by missing the first round of the series. However, they showed up in force for rounds two and three of the series.
Three American Women finished in the top ten in Loenhout with Lizzy Gunsalus picking up the win. Madigan Munro came across the line in fourth and Lauren Zoerner was eighth. The top ten were separated by less than a minute. In Baal, the results were flipped as Munro picked up the win and Gunslaus was fourth. The final round of the series takes place on Sunday in Brussels.
While it is doubtful the American’s can put enough time into the competition in one race, Munro is fifth overall 1:45 back. Gunsalus sits eighth, 2:21 behind. It should come as no surprise that the series is dominated by the Dutch women. They have the first four places overall and six out of the top ten spots.
Injuries begin to pile up.
While Wout van Aert returned from his horrific crash in the Tour at Anzencross, there are a number of riders who are out of action with injuries. We have a quick breakdown below.
Aerts broke four ribs in a crash at Namur. He finished the Zolder World Cup in 14th place and defended his overall lead. Since then he has been on the mend and while he has begun healing, he is still not racing. He announced this week that he will not be racing in Brussels on Sunday. His first race back will be the Belgian Championships, where he will defend his title against the likes of Eli Iserbyt, Laurens Sweeck and possibly van Aert.
Soete crashed hard in Zolder after a touch of wheels sent him tumbling on the pavement just after the start line. He ended up rolling into the cement barrier and was eventually carried of the course with a broken collarbone. Less than a week after the operation to fix it, Soete is back out training on the road. Our loose translation says Soete is aiming to return to competition after the World Cups. We are not sure if this means an attempt at World’s, or a return to racing in February.
Sels kicked off the New Year in dramatic fashion at the GP Sven Nys. The downhill “dirt jumps” almost claimed Mathieu van der Poel last year and saw a few tumbles this year. It also featured a few tail-whips, which are always fun to watch. With that aside, Sels crashed hard on one of the jumps and possibly knocked herself unconscious. She attempted to remount her bike, but was taken off the course and doesn’t have a good memory of the crash. There’s no official timeline for her return, but we expect she will participate in nationals in two weeks.
Toon Aerts wasn’t the only rider to suffer a setback in Namur. In the Elite Women’s race, American Katie Clouse crashed hard and dislocated her shoulder. She recently announced that while things are better, she’s going to skip the rest of the Kerstperiode and head to SPain a bit early for a big block of training. She will most likely return for the final two rounds of the World Cup before heading to World’s.
As usual, we did some digging on Belgian and Dutch websites, Twitter accounts, etc. If we got any of our information wrong, feel free to let us know in the comments.