During the third round of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup in Koksijde, Belgium there were three young American riders who flew over from the States to chase down glory and UCI points in the dunes close to the North Sea. Logan Owen and Curtis White took part in the junior men's competition while Zach McDonald contested the U23 men's category. Owen successfully defended his third place in the World Cup standings, White captured his first top-10 result in a World Cup round while McDonald had an off-day.
After claiming a great fourth place in Tabór and a thirteenth place in Plzen there was a front-row start position to defend for Zach McDonald in Koksijde. He didn't want to settle for moderate results against the best European riders. "Once isn't good enough," McDonald stated. Still, he returns to the USA with only nine UCI-points in his bag for his 21st place on Saturday morning. Additionally, the top 16 start grid positions at the world championships for U23 men and junior men are solely determined by overall World Cup standings, where McDonald now holds 8th overall.
"The sand wasn't a problem. I had bad legs," said McDonald. "I knew – with the training that I did – that my legs would either be very good or very bad. I missed my start and tried to come back. I played, bluffed, went all in but I couldn't hold it and blew up.
"It's time for a break. I've had about 15 race days and flew so many miles. I like the travel, though, but it's a bit too much. Hopefully I maintain my front row position. Now I go home, recharge and come back in January."
An hour earlier Owen and White raced well in the junior men's category. Both riders started well and rode near the front of the race, behind top gun Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) of course. "I realize that this is his course," said Owen. "He won Worlds on it last year. He's definitely the best in the world right now. I cut my losses and tried to fight for a podium on this course. Getting a fifth place on my worst course that I think I can never do well on - I'm happy with it."
The Seattle-based rider regretted, however, that his bikes weren't up to his own standard as he was unable to use all his gears. "It could've gone a lot better but I couldn't switch bikes; it was too fast. I don't know what's going on with my bikes. I did the best I could with what I have," Owen said.
"I didn't have the legs to beat van der Poel or Hermans today. The sand isn't really a US-thing. We never tend to do that well in it. I'm looking forward to the race in Zolder. I think I can definitely challenge for top-4 and maybe the win; it all depends on how I'm feeling.
"I think I'm still third overall in the World Cup points. I definitely feel I can still move up in the World Cups in Zolder and Rome, riding on the front row, trying to get the ‘W' there. I'll be doing all the World Cups except for Hoogerheide, although I'll do it if I need it in order to secure an overall top-3 World Cup result. That would be really awesome," Owen said.
When asked about the world championships in Louisville, Owen hoped all European riders would have a bad day. "If I were to win the world championships that would make my entire life," Owen stated.
For White the race went pretty well, too. After his good start he battled for seventh in a group of four riders. "I attacked in the first major sand pit and got a bit of a gap. I bobbled on one of the run-ups, slipped and dropped to the back of that group. I changed bikes quickly and was there for the sprint but not quite," White said. "It was a pretty good race nonetheless."
The New Yorker moves up to fifteenth place in the World Cup standings.