With a tremendous pursuit on the muddy slopes of the Namur citadel, 20-year-old Evie Richards (Trek Factory Racing) surged to a very unexpected first-ever World Cup win. British champion Nikki Brammeier (Boels-Dolmans) joined her compatriot on the podium, finishing as runner-up at 15 seconds. Italian champion Eva Lechner (CLIF Pro Team) finished third in the sixth round of the World Cup in Belgium.
Richards, the 2016 U23 cyclo-cross world champion, is a huge talent but she didn't see this victory coming. "Not at all. I've been off the bike for a bit just doing some other training. I had a bad knee. I've been injured. I didn't race yesterday. I kept making mistakes in the last lap. I knew I was in front. It was so surreal. I hoped to get a top-10 today. I'm so happy and all my family is here. It's a good race for them to come watching," Richards said in the post-race flash interview.
The women rode four laps on the 2,600 metres long, muddy course at the citadel, with its steep climbs and drops. Early on, Eva Lechner and Kaitlin Keough (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) surged away. Brammeier swapped positions with Keough, and also Katie Compton (KFC Racing) moved to the front. Towards the end of the opening lap, the three leaders enjoyed a bonus over 20 seconds of a large group that was led by Katerina Nash (CLIF Pro Team) and also featured Richards.
Halfway the second lap, Richards impressed on the steep climb where most women were obliged to step, whereas Richards kept running. She moved to the front of the chase group with Nash and Keough on her wheel. Lechner accelerated on the final climb towards the finish, leaving Compton and Brammeier behind. Halfway the race, Lechner led with a bonus of five seconds over Compton, and five more over Brammeier. Richards was alone in fourth place at 16 seconds.
During the penultimate lap, Lechner punctured and the three leaders got back together. Early on in that third lap, Richards bridged up with the leaders and kept going full gas. Lechner and Compton swapped bikes and suddenly Richards was alone in front, with a small bonus over Brammeier. Richards hit the final lap with a bonus of ten seconds over Brammeier, and ten more over Compton and Lechner. Young Richards rode in a similar style that saw her winning the U23 2016 UCI Cyclo-cross World championships in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium.
"I started quite far back because I haven't been racing. I got into a couple of crashes. I was just trying to move up like I did in the world championships a few years ago. I just didn't know where I was. When I came through one of the laps I knew I was in fourth. I really couldn't believe it. I was feeling good and I wanted to just keep moving up. When I overtook Katie Compton I was like wow, I just couldn't believe it. Once It got to the front I wanted to keep pushing harder," Richards said.
Pauline Ferrand-Prévot (Canyon Factory Racing XC) made her comeback last weekend. The former world champion was battling with Nash, Keough, Lucinda Brand (Sunweb) and Jolanda Neff (Kross Racing Team) for fifth place.
Richards didn't crack in the final lap although the high rhythm was gone. Brammeier was unable to close the gap back down. The 30-year-old didn't mind being beaten by her young compatriot.
"I can't be disappointed. I'm actually super happy for Evie. It just shows that the sport is growing so much. I just love the fact that she's of the podium today, standing on the top position. British cyclocross is really healthy at the moment and I'm really happy with my ride. I rode for Sharon Laws today, my friend who died of cancer yesterday. I really had her in my thoughts this weekend. And both days I gave everything I could. I'm happy with second. It was super good for the sport. I know everybody back home watches these races. Me, Evie and Helen Wyman and all the British girls that are coming through. Be careful Belgium, we're coming," Brammeier said in the post-race flash interview.
Lechner dropped Compton but came too late to disturb Brammeier for second place. The 32-year-old Italian rider was somewhat disappointed with the outcome of the race. "It was a tough one. Especially since I was suffering from two flat tyres. Especially, since I was leading. I had to fight back. I'm pleased that I could still take third place. I hit some rocks. I was risking something in the downhill.
"My shape is getting better. The big target is Valkenburg," Lechner said.
World champion Sanne Cant (IKO Enertherm-Beobank) won Saturday's race in Antwerp but struggled in Namur and finished 12th. She remains in the overall lead of the World Cup.
"Things went wrong for me in the start. I don't think I lost much more ground from there. I tried my best, it's all I could do. You end up in a pinball game. It's hard to choose your lines in there. Up to the next one, Heusden-Zolder," Cant said.
Cant refers to the seventh World Cup round of the season in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium, on Boxing Day. In the World Cup standings, Cant total 409 points and holds a comfortable lead of 68 points over Kaitlin Keough. De Boer (Breepark.nl) finished thirteenth and is third overall with 323 points. Lechner moves up to fourth place overall with 293 points.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Evie Richards (GBr) Trek Factory Racing||0:38:49|
|2||Nikki Brammeier (GBr) Boels-Dolmans||0:00:15|
|3||Eva Lechner (Ita) Clif Pro Team||0:00:24|
|4||Katherine Compton (USA) Trek Factory Racing||0:00:34|
|5||Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Fra) Canyon-Sram||0:01:06|
|6||Kaitlin Keough (USA)||0:01:08|
|7||Katerina Nash (Cze) Clif Pro Team||0:01:14|
|8||Jolanda Neff (Swi)||0:01:20|
|9||Lucinda Brand (Ned) Team Sunweb||0:01:29|
|10||Alice Maria Arzuffi (Ita) Steylaerts - Betfirst||0:01:34|
|11||Ellen Van Loy (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:01:59|
|12||Sanne Cant (Bel) Crelan - Charles||0:02:04|
|13||Sophie De Boer (Ned)||0:02:09|
|14||Christine Majerus (Lux) Boels-Dolmans||0:02:12|
|15||Helen Wyman (GBr) Kona||0:02:18|
|16||Annemarie Worst (Ned)||0:02:26|
|17||Caroline Mani (Fra)||0:02:33|
|18||Maud Kaptheijns (Ned)||0:02:38|
|19||Kim Van De Steene (Bel)||0:02:41|
|20||Nadja Heigl (Aut)||0:02:46|
|21||Emma White (USA)||0:02:56|
|22||Loes Sels (Bel)||0:03:07|
|23||Inge Van Der Heijden (Ned)||0:03:19|
|24||Marlene Petit (Fra)||0:03:31|
|25||Elle Anderson (USA)||0:03:34|
|26||Christel Ferrier Bruneau (Can)||0:03:43|
|27||Ceylin Del Carmen Alvarado (Ned)||0:03:48|
|28||Fleur Nagengast (Ned)||0:03:52|
|29||Ellen Noble (USA)||0:04:00|
|30||Pavla Havlíková (Cze)||0:04:01|
|31||Ffion James (GBr)||0:04:14|
|32||Maghalie Rochette (Can)||0:04:20|
|33||Karen Verhestraeten (Bel)||0:04:36|
|34||Rebecca Fahringer (USA)||0:04:58|
|35||Jolien Verschueren (Bel)||0:05:09|
|36||Marion Norbert Riberolle (Fra)||0:05:11|
|37||Anais Grimault (Fra)||0:05:17|
|38||Nikola Nosková (Cze)||0:05:25|
|39||Bethany Crumpton (GBr)||0:06:05|
|40||Francesca Baroni (Ita)||0:06:11|
|41||Pauline Delhaye (Fra)||0:06:13|
|42||Jade Wiel (Fra)||0:06:27|
|43||Joyce Vanderbeken (Bel)||0:06:38|
|44||Adéla Šafárová (Cze)||0:06:47|
|45||Lisa Heckmann (Ger)||0:06:49|
|46||Anna Kay (GBr)|
|47||Natalie Redmond (Aus)||0:06:57|
|48||Zina Barhoumi (Swi)|
|49||Fanny Stumpf (Fra)||0:07:19|
|50||Emily Wadsworth (GBr)||0:07:25|
|51||Sophie Thackray (GBr)||0:07:59|
|52||Suzanne Verhoeven (Bel)||0:08:19|
|53||Noemi Rüegg (Swi)||0:08:32|
|54||Jennifer Malik (USA)||0:08:40|
|55||Elizabeth Ungermanová (Cze)||0:08:52|
|56||Giovanna Michieletto (Ita)|
|57||Amaia Lartitegi Ormazabal (Spa)|
|58||Christine Vardaros (USA)|
|DNF||Stacey Riedel (Aus)|
|DNF||Andere Basterra Aspe (Spa)|
|DNF||Yara Kastelijn (Ned)|