There were 12 podium places available at the Cyclocross World Championships in Oostende, Belgium this past weekend. By Sunday afternoon, eight of those 12 spots had been taken by Dutch riders, including the top step in all four races.
Nowhere was the Dutch dominance more pronounced than in the elite women’s race. The Netherlands swept the podium and put five riders in the top 10. In the U23 men’s and U23 women’s races, Dutch riders stood on two of the three podium steps. Only one Dutch rider made it to the podium in the elite men’s race, but it was the most important step of all.
As you’ll see below, the seaside course in Oostende proved to be a striking backdrop for the weekend’s racing, with riders churning through the sand as waves crashed onto and around them. As ever, Kristof Ramon has done a stellar job of capturing all the action.
Riders fly off the bridge at 50 km/h and into the sand. Pim Ronhaar slogs through the sand in the U23 men’s race. Last year’s champion Ryan Kamp was in search of another rainbow jersey. Ronhaar on his way to a rainbow jersey in the U23 men’s race. Ronhaar celebrates victory … … ahead of his compatriot and last year’s winner, Ryan Kamp. Denise Betsema got off to a strong start in the elite women’s race. Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado started the race with hopes of repeating her victory from last year. By lap 3 Betsema led the race by 11 seconds over Lucinda Brand and Annemarie Worst. Brand, one of the pre-race favourites, would soon made contact. US champ Clara Honsinger rode strongly to fourth place – the first non-Dutch rider across the line. Worst crashes as Betsema and Brand power on. Brand catches and then overtakes Betsema. Worst and Betsema led the race while Brand went into the pits for a new bike. Brand led Worst and Betsema into the final lap. The Dutch trio would end up on the podium in that order. Alvarado had to settle for sixth on the day. All told, the Netherlands had five riders in the top 10. Great Britain’s Evie Richards rode to seventh. It’s been a dominant season for Lucinda Brand. Of the 24 races she’s done, she’s won 12 with a worst result of fourth. On Saturday she finished eight seconds clear of Worst and 19 seconds ahead of Betsema. Former world champ Sanne Cant finished eighth. An all-Dutch podium wasn’t a huge surprise. There was more Dutch dominance on Sunday with first-year U23 Fem van Empel riding to a rainbow jersey. Van Empel’s just 18 years old and only took up cyclocross seriously last year. A few weeks ago Van Empel said to CyclingTips’ Jose Been “I dream of a jersey and maybe it could be a beautiful day in Oostende.” It was. It didn’t take long for the cream to rise to the top in the elite men’s race. Wout van Aert (pictured) and Mathieu van der Poel gapped the field on the first lap … … and so began the battle everyone had been waiting for. Tom Pidcock rode strongly but couldn’t contend with the two leaders. Both Van der Poel and Van Aert had difficulties throughout the race. Van der Poel crashed giving Van Aert a lead, but the pendulum swung back the other way when Van Aert punctured … … allowing Van der Poel to come past and take the lead. Van der Poel slowly built an advantage. Meanwhile Mathieu’s brother David battled for balance on the beach. Roadie Heinrich Haussler flew the flag for Australia, without gloves as usual. Van der Poel runs off the beach with Van Aert in close pursuit. It’s been seven years now since Zdenek Stybar won the last of his three CX world titles. Van der Poel’s superior skill through the deep sand helped him extend his lead over Van Aert. That’s four CX world titles for Mathieu van der Poel, edging him ahead of Van Aert’s three. Van Aert finished second at 0:37. Since September, Van Aert has taken silver in three world championships: the time trial, road race, and cyclocross. Third place on the day went to Toon Aerts.