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5 Things to Know from Week 17/18: Part 1

As we wind down from the holidays, we are getting back into the swing of things. We missed our 5 Things to Know last week, so we are going to do a two part combo. Week 17 kicked off the Kerstperiode with Waaslandcross followed up by the World Cup in Namur. Kirtsperiode will see riders compete in nine races in 16 days. Most riders will skip a race or two, but it’s still an action packed two weeks. For part one, we are going to circle back and catch up with the US and Romanian National Championships. Then we will discuss Waaslandcross and we will look back at the lesser known UCI races that took place in Europe that are not part of the Kerstperiode.

In part two, we will discuss the World Cup, Superprestige and DVV Trofee series and races.

To be clear, we are covering races from December 21st through December 29th in this two part article.

Streaks are broken at the 2019 US National Championships. 

There are very few countries who crown as many National Champions as the United States. They offer nearly six days of racing, crowning 30+ champions in categories including masters, juniors, single speed, collegiate, and, of course, elite. For full coverage of the event, check out Cyclocross Magazine, CX Hairs, and USA Cycling. As with our predictions, we are going to focus on Sunday’s elite races.

Junior Men and Women

17 year old Madigan Munro made quick work of the 26 rider field en route to another national title. The Pan-American Champion was the heavy favorite coming into the race. She has raced with the Elite Women all season and was often found in the top ten. She even finished 14th at the Iowa City World Cup. Munro beat Michaela Thompsion by 3:17. Lizzy Gunsalus rolled across the line in third place, another 22 seconds behind.

In one of the closest UCI races, Andrew Strohmeyer slowly pulled away from a strong field to take his first National Championship. Strohmeyer has raced virtually every UCI Junior Men’s race on North American soil and only finished off the podium twice. Behind him, Jared Scott picked up second place and Magnus Sheffield rounded out the podium in third.

U23 Men and Women

Like Munro, pre-race favorite Katie Clouse took control of the U23 Women’s race and never looked back. The first year U23 rider raced a sensible schedule and came into the race very fresh. She beat Hannah Arensman by 2:30 and Shannon Mallory by 4:06.

After two years of close calls, Eric Brunner finally reach the top step taking home the stars and stripes after a great battle with Calen Swartz. Scott Funston, in his first year as a U23, finished in third place.

Elite Men and Women

Coming into Sunday’s women’s race, all eyes were on 15-time defending champion, Katie Compton. Compton streak of 15 straight titles will most likely never be matched by any man or woman in any Nation. It wasn’t a matter of if she would lose, but when. Compton herself seemed to be waiting for that day, and after the race, almost seemed relieved that it was finally over as Clara Honsiger pulled off the “upset”. Honsiger and Rebecca Fahringer pushed the pace early and were able to get a gap over the rest of the field, including Compton. A slight bobble by Fahringer gave Honsigner the gap she needed to ride to victory.

Gage Hecht went nearly wire-to-wire to win his first Elite National Championship. Like Compton, three-time defending champion Stephen Hyde was attempting to be the first rider in 40 years to win four straight titles. Hecht and Kerry Werner stormed out to an early lead over the Cannondale duo of Hyde and Curtis White. After a bobble by Hecht and a resulting crash by Werner (that’s all we will say on this topic), Hecht got a gap and never looked back. White would eventually ride away from Hyde where they would finish second and third respectively.

Romanian National Championships (December 8th)

As you know, we try to cover the lesser known National Championships as best we can. We couldn’t find a race report for the Romanian championships which took place in Micăsasa, jud. Sibiu. Micăsasa, jud. Sibiu is almost directly in the center of the country. While the fields were small, the day was full of fast racing on a slightly muddy, mostly grass track.

Elite Men and Women

With three starters in the Elite Men’s race and two started in the Women’s, all riders were guaranteed a spot on the podium. In the men’s race, 23 year old Ede-Karoly Molnar won his first title, beating George-Bogdan Duca by 28 seconds. George-Cristian Stan crossed the line in third place, 3:34 down.

19 year old Eszter Bereczki picked up her third straight title a head of Eniko-Salome Bondor in the Elite Women’s race. Because there is no U23 or Junior women’s category, Bereczki has had no choice but to race for the elite title. This year, Bereczki competed in Romania’s only other UCI race (November Cross), finishing second.

Men U23 and Junior Men

Both the Junior Men and Men U23 races featured larger fields than the elites. Joszef Attila Malnasi won the U23 race in 1:02:43. This race was actually longer than the Elite Men’s race. Based on our observation, these two races may have started at the same time and been the same length with the U23 riders taking a bit longer. Florian-Adrian Tilianu and David-Felix-Heret Cristea rounded out the podium in second and third, respectively.

The eight rider Junior Men’s race was the largest field of the day. Patrick Pescaru rode away from the field enroute to his second straight title. He beat Mattew-Denis Piciu by 2:30. Csongor Fazakas finished third, another 1:14 behind.

A mix of nations land on the podium at Waaslandcross Sint-Niklaas.

The unofficial kickoff of the Kerstperiode took place on Saturday, December 21st in Sint-Niklaas. With the Namur round of the World Cup taking place the next day, many of the top riders opted to skip the race. Both World Champions toed the start line, as did a mix of other riders who have been in the mix for podiums throughout the season.

After bouncing back from the infamous end of “the streak” a week prior at Vlaamse Druivencross Overijse, Mathieu van der Poel continued his new streak with a dominating performance in Sint-Niklaas. Behind him, Quinten Hermans and Tom Pidcock battled it out for second and third. Both riders have found success this season, especially in the somewhat smaller races. Zdenk Stybar also had his best result to date, finishing seventh. For the first time in a long time, the podium featured three riders from different countries.

Like the men, the Elite Women’s race had riders from three different countries on the podium. Without digging too deep, we feel like this is the first podium this season where the Dutch had only one rider on the podium. While we know this is not true, it was almost confusing to only see one rider from the Netherlands at the front. Sanne Cant narrowly beat Aniek van Alphen to pick up her first victory of the season. One of our candidates for breakout rider of the year, Hungary’s Kata vas Blanka finished third.

The “best of the rest” shoot it out in Switzerland.

Taking place the same day as the Zolder World Cup, Switzerland held a C2 race at the Cross-Race GP Luzern/Pfaffnau. The race has been around for a few years now and is always the day after Christmas (as is Zolder). While it is not part of the EKZ CrossTour, it still draws a decent field as most riders who do not make their World Cup team will race. It’s also a popular race for Swiss riders since they can stay close to home on Christmas.

With nearly half of the 23 rider field being Swiss, it is no surprise that they were able to take second and third on the day in the Elite Men’s race. Belgium’s Yannick Peeters escaped from the three rider lead group to take the win by 17 seconds over Lukas Fluckiger. Peeters is currently ranked 59th and therefore does not qualify for the Belgian World Cup team (the top 50 riders auto qualify). Just behind Fluckiger was Andri Frischknecht in third. Frischknecht may be better known as the son of Thomas Frischknecht.

Like the Elite Men, nearly half of the Elite Women’s field was made up of Swiss riders. However, a bevy of international women took the top spots. The top two Swiss riders were only able to take ninth and tenth. Italy’s Rebecca Gariboldia took the win ahead of France’s Marlene Petitgirad. Pavla Havlikova rounded out the podium in third.

The French dominate the Cyclo-cross des Crouchaux.

Held on the same day as the Superprestige race in Diegem, the Cyclo-cross des Crouchaux saw the home nation dominate the top ten. On the men’s side it was a podium sweep for the French. Clement Venturini, who races for the WorldTour AG2R team dominated the race. Lilian Calmejane took second ahead of David Menut. There were only two non French riders in the race. Spain’s Ivan Alberte and Kevin Fernandez took home fifth and sixth, respectively.

On the women’s side, Spain’s Lucia Blanco spoiled the party, beating Olivia Onesti and Anais Morichon. Like the men, the only other nation to compete in this race was Spain. The finished first, fifth, tenth and eleventh.

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