Sanne Cant won her second consecutive world title in the elite women's race at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Valkenburg. It was a battle to the end with American Katie Compton, who led the race into the final lap, but Cant muscled her way to the lead in the closing leg and clinched a solo victory.
Compton was forced to settle for the silver medal, with a look of absolute fatigue after such a massive effort, losing 12 seconds at the finish line.
A fast final lap from Lucinda Brand was not enough to see her catch Compton but brought the Netherlands a bronze medal.
Cant, 27, was delighted with her second world title. "I'm really tired. It's the most difficult race I had in my career," she said in the post-race interview.
Cant had nothing left in her tank after a nearly 50-minute long race on an extremely demanding course.
"The course is really hard. It's the hardest course I ever did. One little mistake… There was nothing over [sic]. We had to run a lot. My legs really exploded,” she added.
She did feel a little sorry for 39-year-old Katie Compton, a rider she respects because she rides a similar full cyclo-cross season. "I'm happy that Katie is second. She also deserves the jersey. She rides from September until the end of the season. This was also a course that fits her really well. I'm happy I can keep my jersey.”
Both Cant and Compton enjoyed a good start, behind fast starters Eva Lechner (Italy), Ellen Van Loy (Belgium) and Majerus. Lechner quickly slipped away in the mud and also Van Loy struggled on the tough course. Cant charged forward and before the end of the opening lap she passed Van Loy and Majerus to take the lead. Overall World Cup winner Cant started the second lap with a bonus of nine seconds on Majerus and 12 seconds on Compton. The rest of the field, with Van Loy, Katerina Nash (Czech Republic) and Brand were nearly half a minute down on the leader. Pre-race favourites or outsiders like Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (France), seven-time world champion Marianne Vos (Netherlands) and 2016 world champion Thalita de Jong (Netherlands) rode outside the top 10.
Compton quickly passed Majerus and slowly closed the gap on Cant during the second lap. Halfway through the race it was clear the duo would battle for the rainbow jersey. Majerus was already half a minute down on the two leaders, with Brand closing in on her. Nash was riding in fifth place at nearly a minute from the leaders.
Early on in the penultimate lap, Cant dropped Compton on the extremely technical off-camber descent. Compton recovered and then she put the defending champion in trouble. Cant made a couple of mistakes and slowly Compton was riding away from her. When hitting the final lap Compton was alone in front, with a tired Cant at eight seconds. In the fight for third place, Majerus once again put Brand in trouble.
"When we did the last lap I thought that I would be second. She had a gap of six seconds,” Cant said. Still, she kept fighting and slowly she worked her way back to the American champion.
The decisive moment happened at the pit area just before the technical descent. Cant switched bikes at the start of the pit and managed to find a good line through the rest of the pit area. Meanwhile, Compton was forced to keep running and by the time she reached the end Cant was right on her. The Belgian rider sneaked ahead of the American just before the descent and there she quickly gapped Compton who quickly hopped off the bike but found herself on the wrong side.
"It was really difficult to close the gap. Before the long descent, I went to the front and I had a little gap afterward. It wasn’t more than five, six seconds," Cant said.
In the meadow, at the back-end of the course, Cant extended her lead up to nine seconds. In the remaining part of the course, anything could have happened but Cant kept herself and her bike under control and kept extending her lead up to sixteen seconds.
She was shaking her head in disbelief as she reached the top of the fly-over, just before the finish. Cant shouted and threw her fists in the air, and pounded her chest when crossing the line. A beaten Compton waved to the crowd at the finish line. She has never won the rainbow jersey but adds a fifth podium result at Worlds to her palmares.
Brand improved last year's result by one spot, capturing the final podium spot. A disappointed Majerus was fourth at 55 seconds. Elisabeth Brandau (Germany) was a very surprising fifth. Kaitlin Keough (USA) was sixth ahead of Lechner and Elle Anderson (USA). French women Marlene Petit and Caronline Mani closed out the top-ten.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Sanne Cant (Belgium)||0:49:34|
|2||Katherine Compton (United States Of America)||0:00:12|
|3||Lucinda Brand (Netherlands)||0:00:26|
|4||Christine Majerus (Luxembourg)||0:00:55|
|5||Elisabeth Brandau (Germany)||0:01:26|
|6||Kaitlin Keough (United States Of America)||0:01:45|
|7||Eva Lechner (Italy)||0:01:49|
|8||Elle Anderson (United States Of America)||0:01:57|
|9||Marlène Petit (France)||0:02:10|
|10||Caroline Mani (France)||0:02:38|
|11||Nikki Brammeier (Great Britain)||0:02:49|
|12||Katerina Nash (Czech Republic)||0:02:55|
|13||Helen Wyman (Great Britain)||0:03:04|
|14||Annemarie Worst (Netherlands)||0:03:29|
|15||Loes Sels (Belgium)||0:03:33|
|16||Alice Maria Arzuffi (Italy)||0:03:36|
|17||Jolien Verschueren (Belgium)||0:03:38|
|18||Marianne Vos (Netherlands)||0:03:43|
|19||Ellen Van Loy (Belgium)||0:03:53|
|20||Kim Van De Steene (Belgium)||0:03:54|
|21||Aida Nuño Palacio (Spain)||0:04:15|
|22||Maghalie Rochette (Canada)||0:04:27|
|23||Bethany Crumpton (Great Britain)||0:04:35|
|24||Pauline Ferrand Prevot (France)||0:04:40|
|25||Maud Kaptheijns (Netherlands)||0:04:59|
|26||Courtenay Mcfadden (United States Of America)||0:05:42|
|27||Pavla Havlíková (Czech Republic)||0:06:11|
|28||Rebecca Fahringer (United States Of America)||0:06:31|
|29||Christel Ferrier Bruneau (Canada)||0:06:52|
|30||Lucia Gonzalez Blanco (Spain)||0:07:23|
|31||Mical Dyck (Canada)||0:08:04|
|32||Ellen Noble (United States Of America)||0:08:11|
|33||Thalita De Jong (Netherlands)||0:08:17|
|34||Eri Yonamine (Japan)||0:08:26|
|35||Karen Verhestraeten (Belgium)||0:08:44|
|36||Olatz Odriozola Mugica (Spain)||0:09:10|
|37||Miho Imai (Japan)|
|38||Kristina Thrane (Denmark)|
|39||Maria Larkin (Ireland)|
|40||Stacey Riedel (Australia)|
|41||Marta Turobos (Poland)|