Michael Vanthourenhout (Belgium) won the cyclo-cross World championships race in the Men’s Under 23 category on a sunny Sunday morning in Tábor, Czech Republic. The 21-year-old World Cup winner deployed his technical skills on the slippery course to win alone ahead of Laurens Sweeck (Belgium) and Stan Godrie (Netherlands).
“For me it was a fantastic race. In the two first laps I was in ninth place. It was not so good. Halfway through the race I felt better and I attacked,” Vanthourenhout said in the post-race flash interview.
After Wout Van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel both opted to race in the Elite Men’s category this weekend, new favourites stepped up the plate. The Tábor race was a golden opportunity for World Cup winner Vanthourenhout and especially Sweeck, who has already shown his merit in the Elite category.
The Tábor course is known to have a treacherous, ever-changing topsoil and that showed once again on Sunday morning as the frozen topsoil became muddier as the race wore on. During the first lap home rider Jakub Skala (Czech Republic) excelled on the icy course but as the sun did its work he faded back. 18-year-old Joris Nieuwenhuis (Netherlands) then took over command with compatriot Stan Godrie (Netherlands), Sweeck, Vojtech Nipl (Czech Republic), Toon Aerts (Belgium) and Vanthourenhout a short distance behind. “During the first lap I was too far back but I felt that I was able to move up easily. I switched to a softer tubular on the second lap because the topsoil was melting and becoming very slippery,” Vanthourenhout told Sporza.
As the course got more slippery, several riders were going down. In front Sweeck surged forward with Nieuwenhuis and Godrie marking his wheel. After the barriers only Godrie was able to keep up, helped by his hopping skills. When Sweeck slipped away, Godrie remained alone in front. The 22- year-old Dutchman held off a large chase group for half a lap. It was Clément Venturini (France) who closed the gap together with Vanthourenhout and Sweeck.
Then Vanthourenhout took up the reins. On the long, icy descent towards the finish, Vanthourenhout he took some risks and gapped the others. He was gone for good.
“When I reached the front of the race I knew it was good. I attacked and saw I had a handful of seconds straight away. It as part of the plan not to wait any longer and go flat out,” Vanthourenhout told Sporza.
Behind him, Venturini, Sweeck and Godrie kept struggling with the course, all going down on at least one occasion. Sweeck tried to close the gap on his own but a crash on the long descent threw him backwards.
“Michael attacked and I felt the others struggled. I had something left in my tank. I didn’t have to wait and went flat out. They were suffering behind me. The gap was too big to close in one effort. I was riding in no man’s land. It was man against man. Then I made the mistake that cost me gold,” Sweeck told Sporza.
Vanthourenhout was probably one of the few riders who made no mistakes. He kept the pace high, kept hopping the barriers and brought the win home. Already celebrating before the final passage through the pit area, he put his sunglasses on his helmet and enjoyed his final metres on the course.
“It’s great to stand here as the champion. Hopping the barriers was a bonus but I don’t think it’s a race decider. It’s a very technical course and the rider who makes the fewest mistakes becomes champion. Almost every lap I hopped. Only in the final lap I added a bit more security to make sure I didn’t crash,” Vanthourenhout told Sporza.
Sweeck was briefly caught by Godrie but on the final lap he easily shook off the Dutchman and grabbed the silver medal, ten seconds down on Vanthourenhout. Before the race he had hoped for more. “It’s a bit of a disappointment. I made too many mistakes to be able to win. I crashed three times and the last one hurt a lot. There was a lot of ice,” Sweeck told Sporza.
Godrie stood tall for third place, with Venturini finishing just off the podium. Nieuwenhuis has a bright future ahead of him, finishing fifth. Jakub Skala was the first Czech rider, finishing seventh behind Toon Aerts. Logan Owen (USA) rode his best European race of the season, finishing fifteenth.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Michael Vanthourenhout (Belgium)||0:49:55|
|2||Laurens Sweeck (Belgium)||0:00:10|
|3||Stan Godrie (Netherlands)||0:00:14|
|4||Clement Venturini (France)||0:00:24|
|5||Joris Nieuwenhuis (Netherlands)||0:00:31|
|6||Toon Aerts (Belgium)||0:00:45|
|7||Jakub Skala (Czech Republic)||0:01:06|
|8||Diether Sweeck (Belgium)||0:01:14|
|9||Quinten Hermans (Belgium)|
|10||Gioele Bertolini (Italy)|
|11||Vojtech Nipl (Czech Republic)||0:01:36|
|12||Martijn Budding (Netherlands)||0:01:42|
|13||Fabian Lienhard (Switzerland)||0:01:48|
|14||Fabien Doubey (France)||0:01:49|
|15||Logan Owen (United States Of America)||0:01:51|
|16||Andri Frischknecht (Switzerland)||0:02:03|
|17||Felipe Orts (Spain)||0:02:07|
|18||Kevin Suarez Fernandez (Spain)||0:02:18|
|19||Curtis White (United States Of America)||0:02:23|
|20||Sebastian Carstensen Fini (Denmark)||0:02:24|
|21||Yannick Peeters (Belgium)||0:02:26|
|22||Adam Toupalik (Czech Republic)||0:02:38|
|23||Joshua Dubau (France)||0:03:17|
|24||Nadir Colledani (Italy)||0:03:33|
|25||Andrew Dillman (United States Of America)||0:03:37|
|26||Lucas Dubau (France)|
|27||Felix Drumm (Germany)||0:03:50|
|28||Tobin Ortenblad (United States Of America)||0:03:57|
|29||Timon Ruegg (Switzerland)||0:04:07|
|30||Jack Clarkson (Great Britain)||0:04:13|
|31||Grant Ellwood (United States Of America)||0:04:30|
|32||Clement Russo (France)||0:04:34|
|33||Paul Lindenau (Germany)|
|34||Bartosz Mikler (Poland)||0:04:51|
|35||Stepan Schubert (Czech Republic)||0:05:04|
|36||Nicholas Barnes (Great Britain)||0:05:10|
|37||Dominik Vrana (Czech Republic)||0:05:32|
|38||Ondrej Glajza (Slovakia)||0:05:47|
|39||Christoph Mick (Austria)||0:05:48|
|40||Kohei Maeda (Japan)|
|41||Ben Sumner (Great Britain)||0:05:57|
|42||Patryk Kostecki (Poland)|
|43||Sam O'Keefe (United States Of America)|
|44||David Eriksson (Sweden)||0:06:36|
|45||Jack Hogan (Australia)||0:06:57|
|46||Danick Vandale (Canada)||0:07:12|
|47||Philipp Heigl (Austria)||0:07:19|
|48||Kota Yokoyama (Japan)|
|49||Dominic Grab (Switzerland)|