Vos smashes World ‘Cross Champs; Brit Helen Wyman wins bronze
Outside Belgium cyclo cross has never had a profile anything like that enjoyed by its sibling road racing, but once a year the entire cycling world stocks up on the Leffe and prepares for dose of good, filthy fun as the riders get down and dirty and fight it out for the biggest prize in ‘cross – the World Championships. This year, fans from around the world flocked to Hoogerheide in the Netherlands, and even those who traveled many thousands of miles to be there will go home glad they made the effort.
In recent years, Marianne Vos’ domination of the sport has been so great that bookies probably kept a drawerful of pre-printed betting slips with her name inserted where there’d usually be a blank space – your chances of getting any cash back had you have bet on anyone else was about as likely as your chances of getting it back if you’d dropped your wallet in the Hoogerheide mud. For the last couple of seasons, however, it’s been increasingly apparent that rather than “killing the sport” – as some people, presumably ones who’ve never heard of Eddy Merckx, who was the last rider that can be compared the Dutch superstar, claimed would happen – the Vos phenomenon has had an enormously positive effect: just as the British rider Helen Wyman said would happen, the rest of the field has had to work hard to improve so as to be in with a chance, and women’s cyclo cross has become a very great deal more competitive and fascinating as a result. This year, that process has really come to a head – Vos has been World ‘Cross Champion seven times, donning the rainbow jersey in all but two of the years since 2006 but for the first time in a long time a large percentage of fans were tipping other riders for victory, with the USA’s Katie Compton and Wyman both being named likely victors.
As was the case at the final round of the World Cup at Nommay in France last week, the widely predicted and much-anticipated battle between Vos and Compton never happened – right at the start of the race the American collided with three-time Czech champion Pavla Havlikova and both riders had difficulty untangled their bikes, losing a lot of time. Compton, though, is a very strong rider indeed; she was still in with a good chance of catching up and Vos would only have had to make a tiny mistake for her rival to take control. The thing is, though, Vos doesn’t make many mistakes, and later in the race Compton’s asthma, which forced her to abandon at Nommay, started to play her up once again. It seems highly likely that, sooner or later, Compton will take the rainbow jersey, but it wasn’t to be this year and in the end she took ninth place.
Vos’ technique is well-known: she simply finds her pace and then keeps going, and if anyone can stay with her for the duration then they might (and it’s a very big might) be able to match her legendary surge of power to the line. In this race she set her pace early having taken the lead from Wyman, suddenly accelerating hard halfway through the first lap to a speed that suited her. Italian Eva Lechner went with her and looked strong, but the speeds that suit Vos are virtually unhuman and she fell behind by the end of the lap. From that point on, it was virtually beyond doubt that Vos would take another title and there will be those who say that deciding the outcome so early makes for a boring race. Most will agree, though, that there is joy to be had in watching an artisan skilled in his or her craft, and Vos is as expert at the technique of cycling as she is as generating vast wattages – time and time again she picked her lines and executed them to absolute perfection, hardly ever putting a tyre more than a centimetre away from where it needed to be to maintain momentum despite the slippery conditions and taking the corners so quickly that the mud hardly had time to stick to her socks. She finished the race in 39’25”, the only rider to better forty minutes – a truly remarkable athlete and entirely deserving of every victory she takes, even if her main rival has been taken out.
Lechner, who had now given up on catching Vos and was concentrating on staying as far ahead of the rest as she possibly could; she worked stupendously hard and her second place finish 1’07” behind Vos was impressive. Meanwhile, there was a full-scale melee going on further back down the parcours for the silver and bronze booty: Wyman, who leads many races for a good part of the initial lap due to her lightning-bolt starts but in this instance wasn’t as fast away from the line as usual, was third for a long time but Compton, still in at this point, and Belgian superstar Sanne Cant were tracking her every move. Had Compton not have experienced difficulties she’s almost certainly have finished top three, perhaps even ahead of Lechner; as it was, Wyman ended up only having to deal with Cant who, for a while, managed to get ahead and looked very much like the probable third. Wyman’s fast reactions serve for more than just fast starts, though, and Cant only needed to make the slightest misjudgement during the final lap for Helen to leap past her and grab the third place on the podium 1’17” behind Vos.
2014 World Cyclo Cross Championships Top Ten
1 Marianne VOS (Netherlands) 39’25”
2 Eva LECHNER (Italy) 40’32”
3 Helen WYMAN (Great Britain) 40’42”
4 Sanne CANT (Belgium) 40’45”
5 Nikki HARRIS (Great Britain) 41’58”
6 Lucie CHAINEL-LEFEVRE (France) 42’09”
7 Loes SELS (Belgium) 42’12”
8 Thalita DE JONG (Netherlands) 42’17”
9 Katie COMPTON (USA) 42’23”
10 Caroline MANI (France) 42’24”
Tour of Qatar
A powerful tailwind gave the peloton a helping hand during the first part of the race leading to Mesaieed and ensured a very fast start that prevented early breakaways. However, shortly after the first passage of the finish line when the parcours turned north-west, it became a crosswind that soon split the bunch into variously-sized groups of riders working together to provide one another with shelter.
One, consisting of 21 riders, stayed together through the final 55km and made the most of the tailwind once they’d reached Al Wakra and turned back towards Mesaieed, making sure that it’d be only them in the bunch sprint that had been correctly predicted before the stage. Giant-Shimano sprint specialist and General Classification favourite Kirsten Wild was part of the group and proved fastest to the line, edging out Shelley Olds (Ale-Cipollini) and Chloe Hosking (Hitec). Lizzie Armitstead, the only British rider in the race, equaled Wild’s time in fifth place.
With bonification times awarded, Wild leads Olds by 8″ and Hosking by 11″; Armitstead is fourth overall at +14″. Wild also leads on Points, while Melissa Hoskins (Orica-AIS) is leading rider in the Youth category at +15″, placing her fifth overall.
See also: British hope at the Tour of Qatar
Stage 1 Top Ten
1 Kirsten WILD (Giant-Shimano) 2h09’56”
2 Shelley OLDS (Ale-Cipollini) ST
3 Chloe HOSKING (Hitec Products) ST
4 Jolien D’HOORE (Lotto-Belisol) ST
5 Elizabeth ARMITSTEAD (Boels-Dolmans) ST
6 Pascale JEULAND (France NT) ST
7 Barbara GUARISCHI (Ale-Cipollini) ST
8 Melissa HOSKINS (Orica-AIS) ST
9 Iris SLAPPENDEL (Rabo-Liv/Giant) ST
10 Trixi WORRACK (Specialized-Lululemon) ST
Crosswinds split the peloton once again in another windy day in the desert with a lead group – which, like yesterday, numbered 21 riders – forming with 109km still to go. Giant-Shimano were always going to be a force to be reckoned with due to having four riders, including yesterday’s stage winner Kirsten Wild, in the break and they kept a tight hold, making sure nobody could get away.
During the final circuits Rabo’s new signing Anna van der Breggen attacked and took the lead, riding alone for a short while until she was joined by Wild’s team mate Amy Pieters, Inga Cilvinaite of RusVelo and Charlotte Becker of RusVelo. Wild’s group, which included Chloe Hosking (Hitec) and Wiggle-Honda’s lightning bolt sprinter Giorgia Bronzin, were content to leave them be, with nobody willing to risk giving a rival team’s sprinter an easy ride on their wheel to a position from which they’d be able to dominate the final metres; soon enough, the leading four had a 40″ advantage – but what would happen when the parcours turned north-west into the wind?
The headwind took a heavy toll on all four riders, but it was clear that Pieters suffered least and she was able to gain a slight edge, then dug deep for one final push that enabled her to finish with three seconds on van der Breggen and Becker and six on Cilvinaite, making it two out of two for the Dutch squad. Wild led the second group across the line 27″ later.
Following bonifications, Pieter moved into the overall lead with an advantage of 7″ over Wild while Hosking is third on +17″.
Stage 2 Top Ten
1 Amy PIETERS (Giant-Shimano) 2h53’33”
2 Anna VAN DER BREGGEN (Rabo-Liv/Giant) +3″
3 Charlotte BECKER (Wiggle-Honda) ST
4 Inga CILVINAITE (RusVelo) +6″
5 Kirsten WILD (Giant-Shimano) +27″
6 Chloe HOSKING (Hitec Products) ST
7 Emma JOHANSSON (Orica-AIS) ST
8 Olga ZABELINSKAYA (RusVelo) ST
9 Jolien D’HOORE (Lotto-Belisol) +31″
10 Melissa HOSKINS (Orica-AIS) ST
With Stage 3 staying close to the eastern coastline for much of its 93.5km, teams expected yet more crosswinds today and were entirely correct in doing so: the bunch was split up early on once again as riders battled to make progress – Chloe Hosking (Hitec Products) later described it as “seriously one of the hardest races I have done.” A group of 28, including all those who went into the race with a reasonable chance of winning, got away and led for most of the day.
In the final 25km the lead group had been whittled down to a dozen, and a quartet of riders from Orica-AIS started piling on the pressure in an attempt to seize control – but as the finish drew near it looked as though Lizzie Armitstead (Boels-Dolmans), who is the only British rider in the race, would also be the only rider able to challenge the mighty Kirsten Wild, despite the Dutch rider’s Giant-Shimano squad having kept tight reins on the race all the way. Meanwhile, British-registered team Wiggle-Honda (who are without a British rider in this race) saw their chances at a stage victory dashed when Giorgia Bronzini punctured in the lead group and lost time.
Ultimately, Wild’s famously powerful sprint proved too much for her rivals and she had little difficulty in retaining her lead across the finish line to win a third stage for the team. Armitstead was right behind her, taking second place and an identical time, while Hosking was third.
Following bonification, Wild takes back the overall lead from team mate Amy Pieters (winner of Stage 2) and now has an advantage of 9″ – and seems a safe bet for anyone wanting to predict tomorrow’s results, too.
Stage 3 Top Ten
1 Kirsten WILD (Giant-Shimano) 2h27’34”
2 Elizabeth ARMITSTEAD (Boels-Dolmans) ST
3 Chloe HOSKING (Hitec Products) ST
4 Shelley OLDS (Ale-Cipollini) ST
5 Emma JOHANSSON (Orica-AIS) ST
6 Barbara GUARISCHI (Ale-Cipollini) ST
7 Trixi WORRACK (Specialized-Lululemon) ST
8 Elena CECCHINI (Italy NT) ST
9 Amy PIETERS (Giant-Shimano) ST
10 Loes GUNNEWIJK (Orica-AIS) ST
Stage 4 – Wild wins stage and fourth GC as team dominates the race
The Dutch sprinter finished first in a bunch sprint against some formidable opponents including devastatingly fast Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle-Honda), who was second, and Melissa Hoskins of Orica-AIS who was third.
Wild’s Giant-Shimano team once again kept tight control on the race and saw to it that the many attacks they knew they’d face were kept strictly in check, with Wild herself ensuring a late attempt by Orica’s Emma Johansson was thwarted. A few riders managed to get away in the last 10km, but Wild was simply too strong and soon put them back in their places. Following bonification, Wild’s victory earned her a 22″ General Classification advantage over the second-placed rider, her team mate Amy Pieters – who won Stage 2 and finishes as leading rider in the Youth category. Orica-AIS won the overall Teams classification.
Wild won the first and second stages, too; her domination of the race is even more impressive due to the fact that she has now won the General Classification four times, having also triumphed in 2009, 2010 and 2013.
Stage 4 Top Ten
1 Kirsten WILD (Giant-Shimano) 2h06’23”
2 Giorgia BRONZINI (Wiggle-Honda) ST
3 Melissa HOSKINS (Orica-AIS) ST
4 Trixi WORRACK (Specialized-Lululemon) ST
5 Jolien D’HOORE (Lotto-Belisol) ST
6 Shelley OLDS (Ale-Cipollini) ST
7 Pascale JEULAND (France NT) ST
8 Roxane FOURNIER (France NT) ST
9 Elizabeth ARMITSTEAD (Boels-Dolmans) ST
10 Xiao Ling LUO (China Chong Ming) ST
General Classification Top Ten
1 Kirsten WILD (Giant-Shimano) 9h37’01”
2 Amy PIETERS (Giant-Shimano) +22″
3 Chloe HOSKING (Hitec Products) +36″
4 Emma JOHANSSON (Orica-AIS) +50″
5 Trixi WORRACK (Specialized-Lululemon) +1’02”
6 Melissa HOSKINS (Orica-AIS) +1’06”
7 Jolien D’HOORE (Lotto-Belisol) +1’44”
8 Elena CECCHINI (Italy NT) +1’55”
9 Tiffany CROMWELL (Specialized-Lululemon) +2’06”
10 Iris SLAPPENDEL (Rabo-Liv/Giant) +2’31”
Full result: stage / GC
Ster Zeeuwsche Eilanden cancelled
For the second year in a row the Ster Zeeuwsche Eilanden has been cancelled, with organiser Stichting Wielercomité Koudekerke stating that this is now likely to be the permanent end of the race which has been in existence since 1998.
“We’ve not been able to fill the hole left by the sponsor we lost, and [Potential new] sponsors remain reluctant so we’re feeling the financial crunch,” Wim Polderman of the Stichting Wielercomité Koudekerke explained. “We made this decision with heavy hearts, because several teams and volunteers had already signed up for 2014. I emphasise that the Committee continues, and our podiumwagen and jurybus remain available.”
The race, first held in 1998, was open to professional and club riders and has been won by some of the most famous names in the sport including Hanka Kupfernagel, Leontien van Moorsel, Mirjam Melchers, Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, Marianne Vos and Kirsten Wild who won a record three times.
Après Winter League needs riders
The Après Women’s Winter League race, due to take place on the oldest cycle track in the world locared at Preston park, Brighton, on the 22nd of this month, reports that it’s yet to have any riders sign up to take part. Entry costs are as little as £5 and it’s open to a range of categories. More details and entry here.
“Brought to you by Après – The Hot Recovery Drink, The Après Winter League promises two style of racing – fast and faster! This inaugural league offers cash prizes & riders the chance to place themselves in racing history amongst illustrious names such as Harris & Van Vliet! Come on down!”
Tour de France to host one-day women’s race on the Champs-Élyseés (Cycling News)
Kathryn Bertine: “New La Course race is a stepping stone towards a women’s Tour de France” (Velonation)
Laura Trott talks about the Women’s Tour (The Tour)
Wiggle-Honda announce 2014 roster (Cycling News)
Van Paasen joins Boels-Dolmans (in Dutch; Cyclingonline.nl)
Qatari National Women’s squad set for Hosking meeting (The Peninsula)
Laura Trott warms up for Track Cycling World Championships with hat-trick of wins in Manchester (Telegraph)
Great Britain names Track Cycling World Championship team (Telegraph)
More news to come – got a story for us? Let us know!