Cold weather in the Danish coastal town of Bogense did nothing to deter large crowds from lining the 2.6km course for the first three races of the 2019 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships.
Riders from 23 nations participated in the opening day of the championships, with the winners of all three races taking solo victories. Ben Tulett (Great-Britain) and Sanne Cant (Belgium) prolonged their world titles in the Men Junior and Women Elite categories while Thomas Pidcock (Great-Britain) captured his first world title in the Men Under-23 category.
Men Junior: Tulett sharp from the outset
The Men Junior category race kicked off proceedings in Bogense on Saturday morning. Tulett immediately marked the first accelerations in the starting field of 71 riders, countering moves made by Luke Verburg (the Netherlands), Pim Ronhaar (the Netherlands) and later also Gonzalo Inguanzo Macho (Spain). Verburg crashed at one of the first twisting sections during the opening lap, holding up Tom Lindner (Germany) and UCI World Cup winner Witse Meeussen. The latter recovered quickly and featured among the lead group of ten riders at the end of the opening lap. Belgian Champion Ryan Cortjens charged forward in the second lap and only Meeussen, Ronhaar and Tulett were able to hold his wheel. Halfway through the race, Tulett seized his moment to move to the front. Ronhaar quickly faded away and at the off-camber climb Cortjens and Meeussen also slipped back. Tulett continued to open up the gas and distance the Belgian duo in the closing laps. Meeussen won the battle for second place from Cortjens. Thibau Nys (Belgium) bounced back from an early puncture but finished just off the podium spots.
Men Under-23: Demonstration from Pidcock
Defending UCI World Champion Eli Iserbyt (Belgium) and Telenet UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup winner Thomas Pidcock were the top favourites in the Men Under-23 category race. Iserbyt, the double UCI World Champion (Heusden-Zolder 2016 and Valkenburg 2018), set the pace early on but was unable to cause much damage. Pidcock was riding near the front but struggled with his gears and switched bikes at the beginning of the third lap, tempting Iserbyt to accelerate once again. Iserbyt hit the fourth lap with a bonus of six seconds on the first chase group. A record-breaking third World title in this category suddenly seemed very possible. Iserbyt’s dreams were shattered when Pidcock unleashed his power. At the long crosswinds section along the seafront he blew everybody away from his wheel and blasted by Iserbyt. Pidcock quickly opened up a gap of twenty seconds and he kept that gap under control in the final part of the race, riding to his first World title in this category. The Telenet UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup ranking was repeated with Iserbyt finishing as runner-up ahead of Antoine Benoist (France).
Women Elite: Cant outrides the Dutch
Half an hour before the start of the race in the Women Elite category, at 3pm, rain started to pour down in Bogense. The Dutch riders dominated the first half of the race in more slippery conditions than the two previous races. Seven-fold UCI World Champion Marianne Vos (the Netherlands) took the best start, with fellow Dutch athlete Denise Betsema also getting away well. The latter even opened up a gap but yet another of her Dutch team mates, European Champion Annemarie Worst, closed that back down at the end of the opening lap. Worst, Betsema and Vos continued to take the initiative but defending UCI World Champion Cant and the surprisingly strong mountain bike specialist Jolanda Neff (Switzerland) held their wheels. Dutch Champion Lucinda Brand also featured among the front riders, despite having to fight her way back on several occasions after slipping away on the course. Halfway through the race, Cant took the initiative for the first time, costing Neff her spot in front. The Swiss rider lost momentum on one of the multiple slippery corners. With time running out, Cant was clearly in control of the race and the Dutch riders failed to come up with a plan. Halfway through the penultimate lap Cant completed a smooth passage on a section with power climbs and suddenly found herself with a gap over Betsema, Vos, Worst and Brand. Cant continued her efforts and the Dutch riders failed to bring her back down. Betsema and Worst faded away while Brand blew Vos off her wheel when hitting the final lap. The small gaps remained the same until the finish line with Cant winning ahead of Brand and Vos.
On Sunday, the crowds in Bogense will get to see two more races: Women Under-23 at 11am and Men Elite at 3pm.