Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) put in a dominant performance to win the junior men's world cyclo-cross championships in Louisville, Kentucky. The Dutch rider led from start to finish and, despite a fall early on was never really challenged by the competition and retains his title from 12 months ago.
Martijn Budding (Netherlands) finished a distant but solid second with Adam Toupalik (Czech Republic) taking third.
"It's really fantastic," van der Poel said after he crossed the line for his second title. "From the beginning, I had a great feeling and the crowd was just screaming the whole time."
"The first world championship is always more special and last year in Koksijde there was a battle for it,” he said of his repeat win. In 2012 he beat silver medalist Wout Van Aert (Belgium) by just eight seconds.
“Now I had the time to celebrate it and I just knew when I entered the last lap that it was for me. Last year I had to give it may all on the last lap to win it, so that's different.”
Thousands of fans lined the snow-covered course to watch as the Dutch pair moved clear on the opening lap. The measure in class between them was clear as van der Poel eased ahead, pulling out almost a minute at the finish.
“I just felt good from the beginning and the snow was definitely good for me because it's more technical, that's good for me,” van der Poel said.
Budding also put in a strong performance to claim the silver medal at 57 seconds – a solid 24 seconds ahead of the next chasers.
“I had a very good start, I was in second at the first turn,” he said. “I didn't follow him (van der Poel) because he's too strong, but I saw the gap behind me got bigger, so I kept going and defended my second place.
“The gold medalist was the strongest all season, so I'm very happy [with second]. My goal for this championship was a podium, so I made it and I'm very happy.”
After dominating the junior class in his undefeated season, van der Poel is ready to test himself further in the espoir class. “I'm still young and next year when I ride with the under 23s I think it will become more clear where I really stand. I think next year I can expect a lot. I've been comparing some lap times and I see I'm should be able to follow them, I guess, but the circumstances are always different. “
Heartbreak in the battle for bronze
The battle for the bronze was far more intense with four riders in the mix at different stages. Yannick Peeters (Belgium) looked to be in the driving seat but on the final lap, Toupalik (Czech Republic) took advantage of a mistake from the Belgian. Logan Owen (United States of America) overcame his own heart-wrenching mechanical issues to fourth.
It was always going to be a tall order for any of the junior men to beat van der Poel at the world championships: the Dutch rider has been undefeated all season, and in World Cups, he was turning lap times on par with the elite men.
Owen was seen as his closest challenger after he came second to the world champion in five races in Europe this season. But the American jumped the gun on the start line, and stopped just as the rest of the field came rocketing off the line. The mistake cost him, and he had to chase back from 19th place at the start through a squadron of Belgian, Dutch, Czech and Swiss riders.
Van der Poel got the hole shot, with Budding close behind. Nicolas Cleppe, Italian Gioele Bertolini, Czech Karel Pokorno and two more Belgians, Quinten Hermans and Ben Boets were the next quickest off the line.
Peeters also had issues at the start, but steadily picked his way through the traffic to move up from 16th to fourth by the end of lap one, chasing together with Cleppe behind the two Dutch riders.
Toupalik, Swiss rider Dominic Grab, Owen and Boets fought to get on terms with the leading group over the next several laps.
By the mid point of the race, van der Poel had 45 seconds on Budding, Peeters was another 20 seconds back with Cleppe and Owen had just tacked on when he began having problems with his drive train, and lost two spots ahead of the final lap.
While Owen fought his way into fourth, Toupalik surged past Peeters in the final lap to claim the final medal, just two seconds ahead of the dejected American. Cleppe trailed in for fifth.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Mathieu Van Der Poel (Netherlands)||0:40:47|
|2||Martijn Budding (Netherlands)||0:00:57|
|3||Adam Toupalik (Czech Republic)||0:01:19|
|4||Logan Owen (United States Of America)||0:01:23|
|5||Nicolas Cleppe (Belgium)||0:01:25|
|6||Dominic Grab (Switzerland)||0:01:33|
|7||Yannick Peeters (Belgium)||0:01:38|
|8||Quinten Hermans (Belgium)||0:01:47|
|9||Ben Boets (Belgium)||0:02:02|
|10||Leo Vincent (France)||0:02:33|
|11||Curtis White (United States Of America)||0:02:43|
|12||Richard Jansen (Netherlands)||0:02:53|
|13||Kobe Goossens (Belgium)|
|14||Clement Russo (France)||0:03:20|
|15||Karel Pokorny (Czech Republic)|
|16||Manuel Todaro (Italy)||0:03:31|
|17||Jake Womersley (Great Britain)||0:03:36|
|18||Jack Ravenscroft (Great Britain)||0:03:46|
|19||Peter Disera (Canada)||0:03:52|
|20||Nadir Colledani (Italy)||0:04:03|
|21||Marco König (Germany)||0:04:14|
|22||Gioele Bertolini (Italy)||0:04:21|
|23||Billy Harding (Great Britain)||0:04:24|
|24||Jan Vastl (Czech Republic)||0:04:38|
|25||Maxx Chance (United States Of America)||0:04:58|
|26||Adam King (Great Britain)||0:05:03|
|27||David Lombardo (United States Of America)||0:05:04|
|28||Trevor Pearson (Canada)||0:05:12|
|29||Elie Gesbert (France)||0:05:13|
|30||Isaac Niles (Canada)||0:05:36|
|-1lap||Stephen Bassett (United States Of America)|
|-2laps||Neil Symington (Canada)|
|-3laps||Yoshiki Yamada (Japan)|