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by Neal Rogers
December 18, 2017
Vale Sharon Laws: July 7, 1974 – December 16, 2017; 20-year-old Brit Evie Richards stuns favorites to win World Cup in Namur; Van Aert solos to muddy World Cup while Van der Poel struggles; Martin backtracks on criticizing UCI’s handling of Froome case; Could Murdoch’s sale of Sky TV threaten Team Sky’s future?; Sixth Transcontinental Race to begin July 29 in Geraardsbergen, Belgium; Report: Lobato to be fired by LottoNL-Jumbo over sleeping pill incident; Video: Massive crash at 2017 Austral Wheelrace; Video: Former UCI president Brian Cookson on Team Sky; Video: The Schnetzer Family excels at Cycle-ball and Artistic Cycling; Video: Mehdi Benhamouda (Novo Nordisk) has skills.
Evie Richards, the 20-year-old British rider who won the 2016 U23 world cyclocross championship, took the biggest elite victory of her career Sunday, beating the best women in the world on one of the hardest courses in the sport, in the most difficult conditions possible. The Trek Factory Team rider from Malvern won the cold, muddy sixth round of the Telenet UCI Cyclocross World Cup in Namur, Belgium,on the site of the historic citadel, a fortress that dates back to the Roman empire.
Richards, who started 33rd on the grid, did not factor at the head of the race during the first two laps of the four-lap race. Instead it was Italian champion Eva Lechner (Clif Bar) opened up a big lead with a strong start on the first lap before British champion Nikki Brammeier (Boels Dolmans) caught her and the two battled at the front of the hilly course together. U.S. national champion Katie Compton (KFC Racing-Trek) bridged across at the start of the second lap to form a lead group of three national champions.
Compton took the lead on a heavy, rutted section on the second lap while, behind, world cross-country champion Jolanda Neff (Kross Racing Team) and former world cyclocross champion Pauline-Ferrand Prevot (Canyon-SRAM) tangled up with one another on a heavy rutted section. Lechner caught and passed Compton on one of the course’s tough climbs, with Brammeier trailing in third. After two of four laps, Lechner led Compton by five seconds, with Brammeier another four seconds behind. Richards was running fourth, already having the best cyclocross race of her young career. Midway through the third lap, Richards passed Brammeier and moved into third. The young British rider took the momentum and ran with it, soloing off the front.
On the fourth and final lap Richards rode clear with Brammeier chasing 15 seconds back, while Lechner, in third, became momentarily tangled up in course tape, allowing Compton to gain contact in the battle for the podium. At the finish of the 38-minute race Richards finished 15 seconds ahead of Brammeier, 24 seconds ahead of Lechner, 34 seconds ahead of Compton 34, and 1:06 over Ferrand-Prevot.
“I literally can’t believe it,” Richards said. “I’ve been off the bike for awhile, I had a bad knee. I kept making mistakes on the last lap, I couldn’t believe I was in the lead, it’s so surreal, I didn’t even think I’d be top 10 today. I started quite far back, I got caught up behind a few crashes, and I had to take a bike change on the first lap. I just tried to keep moving up. When I heard I was fourth, I couldn’t believe it. When I overtook Katie Compton, I couldn’t believe it.”
The podium of the 2017 Namur World Cup: Nikki Brammeier (Boels Dolmans), Evie Richards (Trek Factory Racing), and Eva Lechner (Clif Bar).