Defending champion Sanne Cant (Belgium) extended her run as European cyclo-cross champion in Huijbergen, Netherlands on Saturday afternoon, riding away from her rivals mid-race on a technical section in the forest.
Compatriot Jolien Verschueren (Belgium) lacked the bike-handling ability to keep up with Cant but gave her all in the running sections to stay in the race. Together with Nikki Harris (Great-Britain) and Pavla Havlikova (Czech Republic) there was a fierce battle for the places podium places. Cant went on to win alone, finishing ahead of Verschueren and Harris. The Briton has managed to get on the podium for the fourth year in a row.
“I’m well aware that my start of the season wasn’t great but that was the goal,” Cant told Telenet Play Sports after her victory. “I was aiming towards this race but I can confirm it was hard. Last year my title was a surprise victory but this year the expectations were higher. It’s a nice jersey and I didn’t want to wave goodbye to it.”
Verschueren wasn’t expected to finish as runner-up in the European championships at the start of the season but after her win at the Koppenbergcross last weekend she was clearly aiming for the European title in Huijbergen.
“I’m very pleased with second place as I didn’t expect to get on the podium before the race. In hindsight you hope to be one step higher when you come so close. I just lost it in the technical sections and that’s sad. Hopefully I can keep making progression,” Verschueren said.
Early on in the race, Cant kept fast starter Helen Wyman (Great-Britain) in check. Behind her Harris took a tumble and lost some ground, while Verschueren had a bad start and was outside the top-ten.
“My start wasn’t great, I was too far back. That way you waste a lot of energy which I lacked later in the race,” Verschueren admitted.
The lead group formed and included Wyman, Cant, Pavla Havlikova, Ellen Van Loy and later Harris. Once Wyman faded Van Loy took over the command. Meanwhile Verschueren moved up, getting the lead group in sight during the second lap. During the third of five laps Verschueren finally featured up front, swiftly moving into second position behind Cant in the lead group of five riders with Havlikova, Harris, with Van Loy still present.
Cant moved into the lead during this third lap.
“My tactic was to be patient. I thought the race would be six laps long. Suddenly I saw there were three laps to go so I had to take action. I quickly had a good gap. Our plan worked out well,” Cant said.
Verschueren was unable to keep up with Cant on a technical section. Cant manoeuvred swiftly through the sand in between the trees on the dune in Huijbergen.
Havlikova was struggling to keep up with Verschueren, while Harris and Van Loy lost even more ground. For a while Havlikova was yo-yoing between Verschueren and Harris. The in-form Czech rider eventually slipped back into fourth place behind Harris, who gained ground at a steep descent, referred to as the chicken run. Harris was probably the only rider in the race to take on steep drop, riding away from Havlikova and towards the bronze medal.
“The last two times I did it when I had the space I could do it. It brought back maybe ten more seconds every time,” Harris said. “I’m a little bit sad because I crashed in the first lap. It immediately put a gap between me and the girls in front. I had to chase. The last two laps I was really feeling good. I was coming back fast but Sanne was already gone. There was no chance to catch her. Maybe I needed two more laps”.
In front Cant cruised to a well-deserved victory. On the technical sections she extended her lead over Verschueren. The latter was faster on the running sections but that wasn’t enough to threaten Cant or her second European title.
The Belgian and European champion explained that she plans to peak later in the season.
“I’d like to take the other two jerseys at stake this season. I’ll have to wait until January to find out. My coach clearly knows what he’s up to. We’re working towards these goals as a team. We’re a super duo,” Cant said.
Havlikova finished fourth shortly after Harris. Ellen Van Loy was fifth. The home crowd didn’t have Marianne Vos and Sanne van Paassen to cheer on. In their absence young Talitha de Jong (Netherlands) was the best home rider ahead of British champion Helen Wyman and Sophie de Boer (Netherlands) who returned from illness.
Femke Van den Driessche (Belgium) won the Women U23 race on Saturday morning with a 36-second bonus over Maud Kaptheijns (Netherlands) and Alice Maria Arzuffi (Italy).
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Sanne Cant (Belgium)||0:42:12|
|2||Jolien Verschueren (Belgium)||0:00:08|
|3||Nikki Harris (Great Britain)||0:00:14|
|4||Pavla Havlikova (Czech Republic)||0:00:26|
|5||Ellen Van Loy (Belgium)||0:01:07|
|6||Thalita De Jong (Netherlands)||0:01:41|
|7||Helen Wyman (Great Britain)||0:01:48|
|8||Sofie De Boer (Netherlands)||0:02:07|
|9||Loes Sels (Belgium)||0:02:37|
|10||Martina Mikulaskova (Czech Republic)||0:03:14|
|11||Bianca Van Den Hoek (Netherlands)||0:03:17|
|12||Lucia Gonzales Blanco (Spain)||0:03:19|
|13||Karen Verhestraeten (Belgium)||0:03:33|
|14||Lise-Marie Henzelin (Switzerland)||0:03:45|
|15||Linda Ter Beek (Netherlands)||0:04:06|
|16||Janka Keseg Stevkova (Slovakia)||0:04:45|
|17||Margriet Kloppenburg (Denmark)||0:04:52|
|18||Olga Wasiuk (Poland)|
|19||Marlene Petit (France)||0:05:22|
|20||Lisa Heckmann (Germany)||0:05:52|
|21||Katrina Jaunslaviete (Latvia)||-1 lap|
|22||Paula Gorycka (Poland)|