Home victories in UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup finale
The Dutch riders managed to dominate the muddy finale of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup in Hoogerheide, Netherlands. The spectators witnessed two home wins after impressive solo rides from World champion Mathieu van der Poel (BKCP-Corendon) in the Elite Men category and Sophie de Boer in the Women category. Their victories in the seventh and final World Cup round were not enough to reach out to the overall victory in the World Cup. Two Belgian riders did more than enough to hold on to their top position. Wout Van Aert (Crelan-Vastgoedservice Continental Team) won the overall World Cup in the Elite Men category and Sanne Cant in the Women category.
The conditions of the course in Hoogerheide changed almost every day. A few days before the race it was still a fast frozen course but in the end it turned out to be slow and muddy. Those conditions were the complete opposite of what most riders were training for ahead of next week’s 2016 UCI Cyclo-cross World championships at a fast course in Heusden-Zolder.
Despite the above build-up to the race the usual suspects moved to the front in the Elite Men category. Two laps into the race the two top favourites for the World championships were way ahead of the rest of the field, with Van der Poel having the upper hand in his duel with Van Aert. For the fourth time in a row Van der Poel crushed all his rivals at the World Cup. Every lap the 21 year-old Dutch rider kept extending his lead over Van Aert and the others. At the finish Van der Poel had a bonus of 48 seconds over Van Aert who had to work hard to hold off a strong finishing Kevin Pauwels (Marlux-Napoleon Games Cycling Team) in the final laps. Laurens Sweeck (ERA-Murprotec) rode a strong race, finishing fourth ahead of the Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team duo Tom Meeusen and Toon Aerts.
European champion Lars van der Haar (Team Giant-Alpecin) was the last rider with a chance to overtake the World Cup lead from Van Aert. His hopes for World Cup glory were in vain as he didn’t find a course that suited his abilities. Van der Haar was never able to threaten Van Aert and probably worried more about Pauwels or Sven Nys (Belgium) who might take over his second place. In the end there was a status quo in the World Cup standings. Van der Haar held off Pauwels by finishing in seventh. Veteran Nys battled for seventh place until halfway the race. Shortly after an acceleration he went over the handlebars and then faded to thirteenth place at 3:20 from winner Van der Poel.
The overall World Cup victory from Sanne Cant in the Women category was never in danger. Her final rival was Eva Lechner (Italy). Lechner started off strong but she struggled in the Hoogerheide mud, losing contact with Cant halfway the race. Cant finished fifth and Lechner eighth. Meanwhile Sophie de Boer was showing off great mud-riding skills in front. During the first of four long laps she was still in the company of Thalita de Jong (RaboLiv Womencyclingteam) and Nikki Harris (Boels Dolmans Cyclingteam). De Jong is the 22 year-old Dutch champion and Harris is the 29 year-old British champion. Cant also featured in front during the opening lap but she lost contact in the deep mud at the back-end of the course. During the second lap De Boer opened up the gas in the mud and she powered away from her two last rivals. Halfway the race De Boer had a bonus of fourteen seconds on Harris who was trying to shake off De Jong. The latter worked her way back to the British champion and the duo kept fighting for second place until the finish line. A delighted De Boer completed her long solo ride and grabbed her first ever World Cup victory. De Jong managed to create a small gap over Harris shortly before hitting the uphill finishing straight. It was a gap she held on to with a long strong sprint, managing her best-ever World Cup result. Harris clearly gave all she had to take second place but she probably didn’t know yet that her third place was just enough to overtake Ellen Van Loy (Belgium) in the World Cup standings and finish third overall. Van Loy got held up in the first muddy sections of the course and she was never able to fight her way back to the front. Van Loy finished eleventh in Hoogerheide, just ahead of Katherine Compton (USA) who did just enough to hold on to her fifth place overall. Sophie de Boer moved up from tenth to sixth place overall thanks to her victory in the seventh and final World Cup round.
Earlier on Sunday there were two races for the Junior Men and the Men Under 23 category.
In the Men U23 category European champion Quinten Hermans (Belgium) impressed with a race-long solo ride. Runner-up Eli Iserbyt (Belgium) was already certain of the overall World Cup victory. Hermans finished in second place overall. Three riders were tied for third place with 170 points in the World Cup standings. Joris Nieuwenhuis (Netherlands) received the final podium spot in the overall World Cup thanks to his win in the fourth World Cup round in Heusden-Zolder last month. Daan Hoeyberghs (Belgium) and Clément Russo (France) are respectively fourth and fifth.
A thrilling scenario unfolded in the Junior Men category. Jens Dekker (Netherlands) clinched the overall World Cup victory after taking yet another solo victory. Thomas Pidcock (Great-Britain) was a surprising runner-up to Dekker. Overnight leader Jappe Jaspers (Belgium) only managed fourteenth place on Sunday morning. Thanks to his victory Dekker came level in points with Jaspers as only the best four results out of six World Cup rounds are taken into account for the World cup standings in this category. Both riders captured two World Cup wins and two second places. Dekker takes the overall victory as the points scored in the most recent event is used to separate riders who are tied in points.
Next week there’s the climax of the cyclo-cross season with the 2016 UCI Cyclo-cross World championships which are being held in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium.