Marianne Vos (Netherlands) offered the home fans a one-woman show during the first day of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Hoogerheide, the Netherlands. Itâ€™s the sixth consecutive â€˜cross title for Vos in the Women category and the seventh of her impressive career.
A few hours earlier the Belgian riders gave their numerous fans something to cheer about as they managed a 1-2-3 in the Junior Men category. Thijs Aerts (Belgium) surprised the favourites by grabbing the rainbow jersey on Saturday morning.
The much-anticipated duel between Vos and arch rival Katherine Compton (USA) didnâ€™t happen. While Vos enjoyed a good start on the muddy course in the southwest of the Netherlands Compton was struggling at the back. She collided with Czech rider Pavla Havlikova and needed a lot of time to untangle the bikes. Compton and Havlikova only had a handful of riders behind them when they took off again.
Vos surged forward halfway the opening lap and only fast-started Eva Lechner (Italy) was able to hold her wheel. By the end of the lap Vos also left Lechner behind and she was gone for good. Compton tried to bounce back from her disastrous start and got back to tenth place after the first lap. Vos kept the speed high during the second lap and the gap on Lechner grew up to half a minute. Behind the two first riders a battle was unfolding for third place. At first European Champion Helen Wyman (Great Britain) had the best papers in hand. Her usual fast start brought her in third place but this time around she struggled to hold on to it. Belgianâ€™s Sanne Cant bridged across but also Compton was back in contention for a medal halfway the race.
The comeback race from Compton ended there as she started struggling with the same breathing problems that forced her to abandon the final World Cup round in Nommay last week. While Compton faded back Cant and Wyman battled for the bronze medal. Vos added half a minute on Lechner during the third lap and cruised through the mud towards yet another world title. Lechner impressed as she held on for second place. Wyman exploited a last lap bobble from Cant to get on the final podium spot. A disappointed Compton rolled across the line in ninth place.
Earlier on Saturday the Junior Men battled for their rainbow jersey too. Continuous rain showers turned the course into a slippery muddy affair in which the riders struggled to stay upright. Briefly after the start was given a French rider went over the handlebars at full speed, taking a lot of riders with him.
Once the chaos was over there were ten riders leading the race, including pre-race favourites Adam Toupalik (Czech Republic) and Yannick Peeters (Belgium). Due to the efforts from home rider Joris Nieuwenhuis (Netherlands) that group was split apart in the second lap with Toupalik being the biggest victim. The Belgian were enjoying a numerical advantage and that showed halfway the race. Three Belgian riders were able to ride away while Aerts was sitting on Nieuwenhuisâ€™ wheel in order to get him to close the gap.
Aertsâ€™ tactic paid off in gold. Nieuwenhuis worked hard to keep the gap under control. In front Jelle Schuermans (Belgium) crashed and he took Kobe Goossens (Belgium) with him. Peeters was the sole leader ahead of Nieuwenhuis and Aerts, seemingly heading for the win. That was until Aerts left Nieuwenhuis behind and bridged up to Peeters. On an uphill section Aerts made the difference in impressive style. He rode where all other riders were forced to run. Aerts created a gap which he managed to hold until the finish line. Peeters was second at short distance with Schuermans holding off Nieuwenhuis for third place.
On Sunday the Men Under 23 category have their World Championships race at 11am local time, with the Elite Men following at 3pm. You can follow the races on http://www.youtube.com/ucichannel