Dutch riders scored well on the first day of the Cyclocross World Championships in Zeddam, The Netherlands, coming away with one gold and one silver medal in the juniors and U23 categories.
In freezing, fast conditions, Boy Van Poppel (son of top Dutch sprinter Jean-Paul Van Poppel), opened the home nation's account when he won the juniors race ahead of Robert Gavenda (Slovakia) and Tom Meeusen (Belgium). A few hours later in the U23 race, Lars Boom finished second in a very tight race of changing fortunes behind defending champion Zdnek Stybar (Czech Republic), with Tom Meeusen scoring another bronze for Belgium.
Van Poppel used his strength on the long stair climb to gap his rivals: "I didn't have any strategy in mind before the race started," he said. "But in other races, I have been faster than other riders up stairs. Because these were so long, I felt like I would have an advantage there."
The U23 race was a very tight affair, with Stybar lucky to hold off Boom and Albert, given that he punctured on the finishing straight. "If it had happened 100 meters sooner, I would not have won," he said.
Stybar, Boom, and Albert had been together for much of the race, with all riders suffering setbacks of one sort or other: Stybar and Albert both crashed; Albert later ran into the elbow of a spectator; and Boom changed bikes at a bad moment. On the last lap, Stybar took the initiative on the dusty farm-road descent leading to the finishing straight, but pinch-flatted his front tyre just before the asphalt. But he had done just enough to secure the gold medal, and now has two U23 world titles to his credit before entering the pro ranks full time next year.
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