UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup: Van der Poel and Cant dominate French World Cup round
The sixth round of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup round in Lignières-en-Berry, in the heart of France, delivered four great races on a cold but sunny Sunday. The slightly muddy course at the ‘Horse and Donkey Center’ mixed numerous technical obstacles with a few power sections. On this challenging course World champion Mathieu van der Poel (BKCP-Corendon) and European champion Sanne Cant (Belgium) were able to display their excellent form with solo victories in respectively the Elite Men and Women category.
During the first half of the race in the Elite Men category Van der Poel was trying to move up through the field. He lost a lot of ground at the beginning of the race despite a front-row start position. Once up front there were only eight riders left to battle for the victory in the Centre-Val de Loire region. Young Clément Venturini (Cofidis, Solutions Crédits) was the only French rider who featured in this front group but he faded during the second half of the race. When Van der Poel set a fierce pace in front of the group in the fifth lap only his compatriot Lars van der Haar (Team Giant-Alpecin) briefly managed to keep up. World Cup leader Wout Van Aert (Crelan-Vastgoedservice Continental Team) missed the decisive move after losing all speed at a tricky short off-camber climb. In the remaining laps Van der Poel kept riding away from his rivals. He had time to show off his BMX-skills at the fly-over. He added some more spectacle to his one-man-show by completing the finishing straight with a one-handed wheelie. It’s the third World Cup victory in a row for Van der Poel but due to his knee injury at the beginning of the season the 20 year-old is no factor for the overall victory in the World Cup. Van Aert and Van der Haar are the top-ranked riders in the World Cup standings and they battle for second place in Lignières-en-Berry. Van Aert was able to drop Van der Haar in the final lap, extending his World Cup lead ahead of the final World Cup round with five additional points up to 21 points. Kevin Pauwels (Marlux-Napoleon Games Cycling Team) won the battle for fourth place at 45 seconds from winner Van der Poel. He’s third in the World Cup standings at fifty points from Van der Poel. On the podium Van der Poel received a hug from cycling legend Raymond Poulidor, the grandfather of Van der Poel, who lives nearby Lignières.
In the Women Elite category, Sanne Cant didn’t wait until halfway the race to start her solo ride at the natural park in Lignières. By the end of the opening lap the World Cup leader rode way from her rivals and she was only seen back at the finish line. Cant rode away from Ellen Van Loy (Belgium) who took the best start on the fast course. Eva Lechner (Italy) was unable to keep up with the two Belgian riders, battling for third place with Pavla Havlikova (Czech Republic) during the first half of the race. Halfway Cant was more than ten seconds ahead of Van Loy and ten more seconds ahead of Lechner. Van Loy had a difficult fourth of five laps. As a result Cant increased her lead up to half a minute, allowing her to take it relatively easy in the final lap. She captured her third World Cup victory of the season. Lechner came back to a handful seconds of Van Loy during the penultimate lap. The 35 year-old Belgian rider managed to get back into her rhythm during the final lap. At 21 seconds from the winner Van Loy salvaged her second place which is a career-best for her in the World Cup. Lechner was third at three seconds from Van Loy. French champion Caroline Mani won the battle for fourth place at 43 seconds from winner Cant. It’s the third consecutive top-5 result in the World Cup for Mani. Young US-rider Kaitlin Antonneau (Twenty16-Ridebiker) captured fifth place, ahead of Dutch rider Sophie de Boer and Helen Wyman (Great Britain). In the World Cup standings Cant increases her lead over Lechner up to 32 points. Van Loy moves up from fifth to third place. Fourth-placed Nikki Harris (Boels Dolmans Cycling Team) only managed tenth place in Lignières. Previously third-placed Katherine Compton finished outside the World Cup points and drops to fifth place.
In the Men Under 23 category World Cup leader Eli Iserbyt (Belgium) bounced back from a few difficult races. Iserbyt quickly surged away with compatriots Daan Soete and Quinten Hermans. During the penultimate lap chain problems cost Soete his place up front and on a short muddy climb European champion Hermans got dropped too. Iserbyt won with a bonus of eight seconds on Hermans. Joris Nieuwenheis (Netherlands) captured the final podium spot at nineteen seconds. In the World Cup standings Iserbyt leads comfortably with 230 points which is 55 more than Hermans.
In the Junior Men category there was a surprise victory for Mitch Groot (Netherlands). Pre-race favourites Jappe Jaspers (Belgium) and Jens Dekker (Netherlands) had an off-day. Jaspers finished sixteenth and Dekker didn’t even take the start in Lignières. Groot completed a long solo ride with a bonus of ten seconds on Jakob Dorigoni (Italy) who outsprinted Mickael Crispin (France). Five home riders finished inside the top-10 on Sunday morning. Jasper remains leader in the World Cup with 225 points. Groot moves into second place with 188 points. Dekker holds 160 points and shares third place with Tanguy Turgis (France).
Next week the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup finale is held in Hoogherheide, the Netherlands.