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Pieterse wins Dutch showdown for U23 women's world cyclo-cross title

Puck Pieterse raised her hands as she hit the line alongside Dutch teammate Shirin van Anrooij and won the U23 women’s contest by half a wheel for rainbow jersey at the Cyclo-cross World Championships. The all-Dutch podium was completed by Fem van Empel, the U23 women’s defending champion from the last contest in 2019, taking the bronze medal.

The Dutch showdown of the pre-race favourites developed as expected. Van Empel and Van Anrooij clipped wheels on a short climb on the final lap and Pieterse did not hesitate in her acceleration to the large staircase for the final time. Van Anrooij then fought to close down a three-second gap in the final turns, but could not overtake Pieterse in the long sprint.

Fourth place was taken by Line Burquier of France, the 2021 women’s Junior cross-country world champion. 

“It was such a weird race really. We kept overtaking each other and no one could get away. I had a plan to go away on the big climb,” Pieterse said in the mix zone at the finish. “I didn’t know I had it at first, it was really close. I am glad we could get on the podium with three girls.”

Pieterse finished on the podium in eight races this season, but her world title on Saturday was her first victory. She said her pedal had clipped the top of the sharp climb on that final lap, which may have created an accordion effect behind to disrupt her teammates. After running into Van Anrooij on that steep berm, Van Empel  dropped her chain, which put her out any chances to catch her teammates.

A field of 23 women charged from the start in one large bunch at Centennial Park, the track of dirt and grass mostly dry from the thaw of overnight frost and tracks from the men’s junior race earlier in the day.

On the opening lap, French rider Amandine Fouquenet set the early pace in front  of a trio of Dutch riders - Shirin van Androoij, Puck Pieterse, Fem van Empel - compatriot Line Burquier and Marie Schreiber of Luxembourg. The chasing group included Americans Katie Clouse and Maddie Munro along with Harriet Harnden (Great Britain) and Kristyna Zemonova (Czech Republic), and 18-year-old Lizzy Gunsalus of the US trailing.

Van Androoij looked smooth and strong as she took over the reins from fifth position to first on the second lap. She upped the pace on the long climb on lap two, her Dutch teammate Pieterse the only rider to match the acceleration. Van Empel, who had to change bikes on the first lap when her electronic shifter went into crash mode, rode with the two Frenchwomen and Schreiber in chase mode.

It was only the start of the second lap, and Van Empel began to create a gap to Burquier for third place. As the four leaders attacked the course, a huge amount of daylight had been created to the rest of the field, the closest 32 seconds back to Schreiber and Forquenet, and another 12 seconds to Munro working with Zemanova.

At the halfway point of the six-lap race, Pieterse held slight margin over Van Androoij, and the Dutch showdown was encapsulated with Van Empel picking off seconds in third place. The reigning U23 world champion made the catch at the top of the large staircase feature. Burquier held a solo position in fourth place, but stalked the Dutch riders looking for any mistake to narrow the 15-second gap.

With the bell ringing, a blur of orange jerseys sped through the start-finish, with Burquier trailing 13 seconds back and running out of trail to make up more time.

Full Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Puck Pieterse (Netherlands) 0:46:27
2Shirin Van Anrooij (Netherlands)
3Fem Van Empel (Netherlands) 0:00:12
4Line Burquier (France) 0:00:39
5Amandine Fouquenet (France) 0:01:26
6Marie Schreiber (Luxembourg) 0:01:49
7Kristýna Zemanová (Czech Republic) 0:02:15
8Madigan Munro (United States Of America) 0:02:16
9Katie Clouse (United States Of America) 0:03:03
10Harriet Harnden (Great Britain) 0:03:34
11Kiona Crabbé (Belgium) 0:03:51
12Lizzy Gunsalus (United States Of America) 0:04:01
13Tereza Kurnická (Slovakia) 0:04:25
14Cassidy Hickey (United States Of America) 0:04:29
15Lauren Zoerner (United States Of America) 0:04:34
16Lucia Bramati (Italy) 0:05:16
17Bridget Tooley (United States Of America) 0:05:33
18Ellie Mitchell (United States Of America) 0:05:47
19Katelyn Walcroft (Canada)
20Christiane Bilodeau (Canada)
21Clea Seidel (Germany)
22Kelly Lawson (Canada)
DSQLydia Pinto Larenjo (Spain)

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Jackie has been involved in professional sports for more than 30 years in news reporting, sports marketing and public relations. She founded Peloton Sports in 1998, a sports marketing and public relations agency, which managed projects for Tour de Georgia, Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and USA Cycling. She also founded Bike Alpharetta Inc, a Georgia non-profit to promote safe cycling. She is proud to have worked in professional baseball for six years - from selling advertising to pulling the tarp. She has climbed l'Alpe d'Huez three times (not fast). Her favorite road rides are around horse farms in north Georgia (USA) and around lavender fields in Provence (France), and some mtb rides in Park City, Utah (USA).

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