Don’t miss out on the latest CyclingTips updates.
Hello again, CyclingTips readers,
We’ve got big cross news and even a bit of road racing for you today.
It was a weekend of Dutch domination in Belgium. Fem van Empel and Mathieu van der Poel took wins three and four for the Netherlands at the cyclocross world championships, winning the U23 women’s race and elite men’s race respectively.
In France, there was road racing! The GP Marseillaise was the first 1.1-ranked race to go forward in Europe, and it was won out of a reduced bunch sprint by … a climber? Seems so.
Read on for all the weekend’s cycling news.
Van der Poel wins men’s elite cyclocross world championship
Cyclocross’ greatest rivalry swung back and forth through crashes and flats and ended with a victory for Mathieu van der Poel at the cyclocross world championships ahead of Wout van Aert. It was the fourth world title for the Netherlands this weekend and the fourth elite world title for Van der Poel.
The duo separated themselves from the rest within the first lap, ahead of a four-Belgian chase group. It only took one more lap for Van Aert to seize the first key moment: a crash from Van der Poel through a twisting grass section gave the Belgian a 10-second gap.
The race swung back the other direction just a lap later, when Van Aert suffered a front flat and was quickly caught and passed by Van der Poel. By the time Van Aert was able to pit the gap to his rival was up to 8 seconds.
“The flat tire was a little bit of luck from my side to come back, but at that moment I didn’t feel the race was over yet,” Van der Poel said. “The course was changing, it became a bit faster at the beach, and I felt a bit better. I improved every lap, I think, riding through the sand. The feeling was growing lap by lap and I think that made the difference today.”
Behind, Tom Pidcock slowly recovered from a first-lap bobble, joining a Belgian group ride in 3rd through 8th and fighting Toon Aerts for the final step of the podium.
With four laps to go, a slow and sandy tractor pull between Van Aert and Van der Poel left just a few seconds between the two. Van der Poel held onto a slim lead. Small mistakes began to pile up, and it became clear that the rider able to clean more of the beach would likely take the rainbow stripes.
Lap five was a good one for Van der Poel. He extended his gap out to 14 seconds by the start/finish line. His skill through the heavy sand sections let him pull a few more seconds out on lap 6, and again on lap 7.
Inexplicably, the race’s commissars changed their usual lap math and Van der Poel entered the 8th and final lap just 51 minutes into the race. His gap over Van Aert was 30 seconds. Barring catastrophe, the win was his.
A tight battle for 3rd edged toward Aerts, with Pidock just over 10 seconds back with a lap to go.
Van der Poel took no chances in the final half lap and crossed the line with time to celebrate.
1. Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) in 0:58:57
2. Wout van Aert (Belgium) at 0:00:37
3. Toon Aerts (Belgium) at 0:01:24
4. Tom Pidcock (Great Britain) at 0:01:37
5. Laurens Sweeck (Belgium) at 0:02:05
6. Michael Vanthourenhout (Belgium) at 0:02:14
7. Eli Iserbyt (Belgium) at 0:02:18
8. Quinten Hermans (Belgium) at 0:02:23
9. Lars van der Haar (Netherlands) at 0:02:41
10. Joris Nieuwenhuis (Netherlands) at 0:03:15
Van Empel wins U23 women’s race
Fem van Empel, an 18-year-old former professional soccer (ok, football) player, powered away from countrywoman Aniek van Alphen to take a narrow victory and her first world championship.
A slightly drier course was still slick with frost when the race kicked off, and the difficult conditions led to numerous crashes and blunders that helped define the race.
The finale of the four-lap race was kicked off by Kata Blanka Vas of Hungary with a lap to go, but the pair of Dutch riders never let her get far. Van Alphen was the next to go, just ahead of the final sand section, but it was Van Empel’s skill through the slick grass near the end of the lap that gave her the 3 second gap she held to the line.
1. Fem van Empel (Netherlands) in 0:36:59
2. Aniek van Alphen (Netherlands) at 0:00:03
3. Kata Blanka Vas (Hungary) at 0:00:09
4. Inge van der Heijden (Netherlands) at 0:00:27
5. Francesca Baroni (Italy) at 0:00:54
GP Marseillaise kicks off with a surprise winner
Aurélien Paret-Peintre (AG2R Citroën) was thought to be a GC rider. The 24-year-old finished 16th at last year’s Giro d’Italia and was pegged as a potential contender in some of the smaller one-week stage races.
On Sunday, he outsprinted grand tour stage winner Bryan Coquard and Thomas Boudat to take a surprising first pro stage win at the opening stage of the Grand Prix Marseillaise, bursting out of a group of 26 with perfect timing.
Paret-Peintre certainly benefited from the slight uphill finish, and even more so from the stiff headwind, as he patiently waited for Coquard and Boudat to fade before striking out for the line.
With a kick like that in addition to his GC chops, the young Frenchman could be one to keep an eye on as we head into the Ardennes, or really any race with a difficult finish.
In case you missed it
Brand wins women’s elite cross worlds
After years of fighting for the cyclocross world title, Lucinda Brand won the rainbow jersey on a sandy and wet course in Oostende. Dutch riders swept the podium with Annemarie Worst taking silver and Denise Betsema bronze.
Tan wall Continental tires
Carbon spokes for a comfy ride
Carbon fiber spokes have a long history in bicycle wheels, though with decidedly mixed results. One of the latest entrants is Gulo Composites, with a range of wheels all built around a uniquely “tri-axially braided” composite spoke design that’s not only barely half the weight of even premium stainless steel spokes, but also claimed to be stronger and more comfortable.