Belgium had plenty to celebrate this weekend, as Sanne Cant and Wout Van Aert claimed titles in the elite women and men's UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships. Their home team Quick-Step Floors dominated in the Vuelta a San Juan, winning all but two stages including the final two heat-shortened days, and Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) won back-to-back days in Mallorca. Cyclingnews looks back on the busy early-season weekend of January 28-29.
High heat led to the shortening of the final two stages of the Vuelta a San Juan, with Quick-Step Floors veteran Tom Boonen leading a go-slow protest on stage 6 that led the race jury to lop 17.6km off the planned 185.7km stage.
Quick-Step's Max Richeze won the stage from a breakaway, and then turned around to win the final stage, which was also shortened by 15.9km, from a late attack.
Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) won the overall classification thanks to a strong time trial, and a tenacious ride to the mountain top finish at Alto Colorado.
He said his next aim is to win a WorldTour stage race
"Personally, my next goal is to win a WorldTour stage race in Europe, like Tirreno. I've been second and third a lot in those kind of races so it's time to win one of them," Mollema said.
"I'm still making steps – I can see that in the results but also physically – and that gives me a lot of confidence to kick on from here and work even harder in the build-up to the Giro," he said.
His teammate Greg Daniel, the US champion, came into the race shaky after a severe illness over the winter, but rallied to help his captain defend his race lead.
Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) followed up a fine solo victory on Friday at the Mallorca Challenge's Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana with a well-timed attack on the Mirador des Colomer to beat none other than Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) to win the penultimate day of racing.
Dan McLay took out the sprint victory in the Trofeo Palma, his first win against top sprinters such as Nacer Bouhanni and André Greipel. His victory celebration was quite short-lived, however, as he crashed into a photographer after the line and had to be taken away to the hospital.
His Fortunéo-Vital Concept teammates received his trophy, with Kévin Ledanois stepping in for the podium with Matteo Pelucchi (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Bouhanni. There was concern that McLay might have fractured his jaw, but he was cleared of serious injury. He lost or damaged several teeth, and had surgery to repair his lips and teeth.
Nairo Quintana raced the first time in Mallorca, and gave a long interview with Gazzetta dello Sport in which he compared his style to Marco Pantani and explained why he is choosing to try to win the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France in the same year.
Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race
Annemiek van Vleuten (Orica-Scott) and Nikias Arndt (Team Sunweb) won the women's and men's editions of the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, respectively.
Arndt out-sprinted Simon Gerrans (Orica-Scott), with Cameron Meyer in third. Meyer attacked with 800m to go and looked set to win only to be passed just before the line.
Van Vleuten was part of a group that chased down Emma Pooley and then she out-sprinted them to win over Ruth Winder (UnitedHeatlhcare) and Mayuko Hagiwara (Wiggle High 5).
Before the racing began, it was announced that the 2017-2018 UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup would start again in the US, but this time in Iowa for the Jingle Cross. The series will miss CrossVegas, but promoter Brook Watts was pulled in to promote the newest World Cup in Waterloo, Wisconsin, previously home to the Trek CXC Cup.
When the racing began on Saturday, it was an unprecedented British clean sweep in junior men's race, led by new world champion Tom Pidcock. Daniel Tulett and Ben Turner rounded out the podium while wearing arm bands in memory of Charlie Craig, the under-16 son of former national champion Nick Craig, who died in his sleep last week.
In the U23 women's race, Annemarie Worst (Netherlands) topped the podium in a hard-fought battle with American Ellen Noble. Last year's winner, Evie Richards, gave Great Britain another medal with bronze.
On Sunday, the elite women's race looked set to end in a record eighth rainbow jersey for Marianne Vos, as the Dutch woman stormed away from the field and held almost a 10 second lead at the start of the final lap. But she was stopped by a dropped chain in the final lap, and Belgian Sanne Cant caught and passed her.
Vos quickly got going again and the pair traded blows, but Cant late-braked in a tricky descent to pass Vos, then found the perfect gear over a short rise to prevent Vos from being able to out-sprint her at the line. The win was an enormous victory for the year-long 'cross racer who has previously been third and second at Worlds.
On Sunday, Joris Nieuwenhuis dominated in the U23 men's race, before the elite men took the stage.
Dutch rider Mathieu van der Poel hit out hard on the first lap, and opened up a 15 second lead, but was hit by multiple punctures. His lead was wiped out on the third lap, when he was joined by defending champion Wout Van Aert. Van der Poel's race was effectively ended on lap 6 by a rear puncture, and Van Aert rode away to a second consecutive victory.