Michael Vanthourenhout new European Cyclocross Champion
Riding errors on the tough and muddy Namur circuit prevented the reigning champion, Lars Van der Haar, from retaining his title in a race played in true survival mode and in which the season's dominator, Eli Iserbyt, ended up having to abandon the race.
The mud determines the new European Cyclocross Champion
After a start of the season marked by some very fast races, it was time to enjoy a real cyclocross race.
We had to wait until the European Championship, on what is usually one of the most selective tracks on the calendar, for the mud to make its appearance and give us a real race of natural selection.
The race started with Eli Iserbyt trying to give continuity to the dominance he has been showing throughout the season, but not even one lap had passed when, facing the most technical part of the circuit, in a section of half a slope, he was forced to stop and also his chain got stuck, dropping to 7th place with more than 20 seconds lost from the lead. From there, he would only lose positions until finally opting for the abandonment.
It looked like it was going to be the reigning champion Lars Van der Haar's day again and he took advantage of the situation to open a gap with only Michael Vanthourenhout being able to react and follow him.
The Dutchman then began to show his problems to face the most complicated sections of the Walloon course. A first crash caused Vanthourenhout to connect. On the next lap it would be the Belgian who would make a mistake which gave a second chance to Van der Haar but his small advantage was neutralized after a bike change in which Vanthourenhout opened a gap of more than 15 seconds, halfway through the race in a gap that would end up being definitive after Van der Haar continued accumulating riding errors on the mud.
Behind, in no man's land, Laurens Sweeck had got rid of his companions, over whom he opened up a gap but without ever threatening the race leader.
In the end, the championship went to a solid Vanthourenhout who was tremendously efficient on the complicated Namur course while Van der Haar had to settle for a silver in a race that surely did not leave a good taste in his mouth.
Elite Men's Classification
- Michael Vanthourenhout (Belgium) 1h06’47’’
- Lars Van der Haar (Netherlands) +40’’
- Laurens Sweeck (Belgium) +2’17’’
- Joris Nieuwenhuis (Netherlands) +2’48’’
- Kevin Kuhn (Switzerland) +2’51’’
- Felipe Orts (Spain) +2’54’’
- Michael Boros (Czech Republic) +3’03’’
- Toon Vandebosch (Belgium) +3’13’’
- Mees Hendrikx (Netherlands) +3’16’
- Timon Rüegg (Switzerland) +3’22’’
Van Empel is her own rival
The women's race was disputed with the previous doubt of knowing the true state of form of Pauline Ferrand-Prevot after her accident-plagued debut several days earlier at the Koppenbergcross in which a mechanical problem on her Pinarello prevented her from finishing the race in a higher position.
The Namur course, after the rains of the previous days and having dried out quite a bit on the day of the race, added to the hardness of the ramps that surround the citadel of the Walloon town a completely destroyed terrain after the dispute, a few hours earlier, of the U23 race that led to a tremendously selective race from the first meters.
After the start, no surprises, the strongest of the season so far: Fem Van Empel, Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, Denise Betsema, plus a Marianne Vos who tried to be in the front positions at the beginning, quickly took the first positions opening significant gaps from the first lap.
Pauline Ferrand-Prevot was not among them and she started behind without managing to get back beyond the 7th place she would occupy at the end of the race, although almost 2 minutes and a half behind the winner.
A victory that went, once again, to the great dominator of the season, the very young Fem Van Empel who won the European Cyclocross Championship with little opposition. Not even a mechanical breakdown, just as she was passing by the pit lane, which forced her to put her bike back on her shoulder to be able to enter and change bikes, put some excitement in the race.
She was followed on the podium by her compatriot Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado and the Hungarian Kata Blanka Vas, another of the protagonists of this start of the season.
Elite Women's Classification
- Fem Van Empel (Netherlands) 50’25’’
- Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Netherlands) +22’’
- Kata Blanka Vas (Hungary) +36’’
- Denise Betsema (Netherlands) +46’’
- Sara Casasola (Italy) +1’53’’
- Inge Van der Heijden (Netherlands) +2’06’’
- Pauline Ferrand-Prevod (France) +2’26’’
- Aniek Van Alphen (Netherlands) +2’56’’
- Marianne Vos (Netherlands) +3’07’’
- Anna Kay (United Kingdom) +3’15’’