Hello and welcome to the International Cycling Union's 2010 Cyclo-cross World Championships. Isn't that a mouthful! Today we will crown the women's and men's elite champions, and we expect some exciting action. The ladies will be the first to go.
Cyclingnews' Rich Taylor is at the scene, and gives us this report: Yesterday's relatively clear conditions have given way to colder temperatures this morning. On the ground here at the course light snowfall has covered patches that were exposed by the junior and under 23 men's races on Saturday.
The women have taken off their heavy jackets and are waiting for the start. The first row is orange, with seven Dutch women there.
And they're off!
Kate Compton (USA) has taken the startline. She warmed up on the rollers this morning and reported to be feeling clear of the cramps that have kept her out of competition for the past two weeks.
They take off at a fast pace on this snow-covered course, and we have our first riders down at the first hairpin curve.
As might be expected, the Dutch take advantage of their good placing. Daphny van den and Marianne Vos jump into the lead.
It was some Czech riders who went down, but they are all up and going again. Lots of walking and carrying bikes today!
Hanka Kupfernagel (GER) and 19-year-old Sanne Cant of Belgium are up towards the front, being led by pairs of riders from The Netherlands and France.
Van Den Brand and Vos already have a gap over Cristel Ferrier-Bruneau (France), with another gap back to Kupfernagel.
Vos takes the lead now of the 44 riders who were at the start this morning. Local rider Katerina Nash is in about 10th-15th place.
We are in Tabor, Czech Republic, in the Southern Bohemia Region. Shall we all start humming the Bohemian Rhapsody? Ok, forget that. Back to cycling.
Ferrier-Bruneau and Kupfernagel now look to have nearly caught the two leading Dutch women.
Vos is still in the lead, slightly ahead of the others.
The only other riders in sight are two more French women.
The lead group hits the road, at least there is no snow there.
8.59 is what they needed for the first lap. How far back is the field? About 15 seconds or so, it looks like.
Who is our favourite today? Who else but Marianne Vos? She is a woman who can do it all, and has done most of it already, at the tender age of 22. She is defending champion, and also won the title in 2006, when she was just a teenager.
Great Britain's Nikki Harris and Annie Last are riding well. They crossed the finish line close to the top-ten. Things don't look so good for the Americans, though, as they have slipped away from the top 15.
We have a lead group of Marianne Vos, Daphny Van den Brand (Netherlands) Hanka Kupfernagel (Germany), Cristel Ferrier-Bruneau (France), followed by Pauline Ferrand Prevot and Caroline Mani (both France).
Katerina Nash (Czech Republic) is chasing on her own in seventh place. There's daylight to the next riders.
Vos and Kupfernagel seem to be pulling away.
Ferrier Bruneau follows, with Van den Brand leading Prevot and Mani.
Nash has been joined by Italy's Eva Lechner. Sanne Kant (Belgium) and Nikki Harris (Great Britain) are closing on Nash and Lechner.
Vos pulls away dramatically from Kupfernagel, but there is no one to be seen behind the German woman.
Compton has dropped out of the race. She was unable to overcome her physical problems, but at least she gave it a try.
Sorry, the Great British rider was Annie Last, not Nikki Harris. Harris is three places further back on the course.
Vos powers over the finish line with Kupfernagel 9 seconds back. The others are nearly 30 seconds down.
Actually, Vos has not been the dominant rider this year. In fact, she finished only second in the World cup rankings, as she was beaten by fellow Dutchwoman Daphny Van den Brand. Van den Brand is also a favourite here, expectially when you consider that she beat Vos on slippery, snowy course in Kalmhout earlier in the season.
Vos shoulders her bike and runs up the stairs. Kupfernagel still has her in her sights and does the same.
The women have torn much of the snow cover from the opening corners, but it's exposed the frozen ground below. That's making it tricky on the many descents on this course.
The reigning World Champion Marianne Vos is looking comfortable with the outright lead.
Nash has returned to the back wheel of the French riders Prevot and Mani. A strong third lap so far for the Czech.
Katerina Nash, 32, is another multi-talent. She was born in the Czech Republic, and rides for that country, but has lived in the US since 2000. She has been in three Olympics, skiing in two of them and on her mountain bike in Beijing.
Kupfernagel looks to be working much harder than Vos, though the latter may have a better poker face.
Or is the age difference? Vos is 23, and Kupfernagel is 35.
Hanka Kupfernagel (GER) is 35, and has been a dominant force in women's 'cross for years. She is currently German and European 'cross champion, and finished second in the Worlds last year. She has been 'cross World champ in 2000, 2001, 2005 and 2008. But she is also successful on the road, having won the Olympic silver medal in 2008, and the World time trial title that same year.
Here's how it stands at the moment: Vos leads alone. Hanka Kupfernagel is also riding solo. Van Den Brand and Ferrier-Bruneau are trading turns. Nash has assumed fifth place as Prevot and Mani show the effects of the frantic opening laps.
Feet out on a lot of these corners. It's slippery out there!
Ferrier-Bruneau finds out for herself how slippery it is, and how hard the ground is.
Vos really is flying. She looks significantly more comfortable than her rivals. She and Kupfernagel are the only two with a chance here.
Or shall we say that Vos is the only one with a chance? She crosses the finsish line 24 seconds ahead of Kupfernagel and 41 seconds ahead of van den Brand.
Much bigger crowds here than yesterday. The bus loads started arriving early. Many Swiss, Polish and, of course, Belgian and Czech flags being waved.
Christel Ferrier-Bruneau (FRA) is 30, and is the French women's road champion. She won two French 'cross races this season.
Kupfernagel passes a fan waving an Italian and Flandrian flag: interesting combination!
Nash is surging towards van den Brand. She's really hitting her straps now for the home fans. She takes a corner too fast and goes down, but bounces right back up.
That slip broke Nash's rhythm but she is giving chase again. No changes at the front, as Vos continues to pull away from Kupfernagel, with van den Brand somewhere behind.
Van den Brand looks comfortably settled in third place, as Nash's crash has thrown her back.
Daphny van den Brand (NED) is 31 years old, and also has a slew of titles to her credit. She won the world 'cross title in 2003, and the European 'cross title in 2006 and 2007. She is also 10-time national 'cross champion, and even won the national MTB title in 2002.
Vos puts her foot down as goes around a tight curve, but keeps on going.
Vos crosses the finish line for the next-to-last time, with a time of 31.27. Kupfernagel is 33 seconds back, and van den Brand comes in at .52. They now head off on the last lap!
Nash crosses at 1.07. Will she be able to catch van den Brand and claim a spot on the podium?
Vos wends her lonely but winning way around the course, looking to have some difficulty with the snow at the moment.
Nash is not so far behind van den Brand now.
Vos is still pedalling with an intense cadence, she's not leaving anything to chance today.
Vos is up out of the saddle in her intensity.
Kupfernagel laps anothr rider.
Vos makes her careful way around a tight corner .. not worth taking a big risk now.
Nash has given her all but it wasn't enough. She has fallen back to fifth, behind Lechner.
We have snow and ice but no studded tires here today. The UCI said no to that earlier this year, specificially banning them.
Vos crosses the finish line with her arms raised high and a huge smile on her face. Her total time was 42.59.
Kupfernagel hits the finish now, waving happily to the crowds, 45 seonds down. Van den Brand fills the podium at 1.07.
Looks like Nash was able to hold on to fourth after all, as she finished at 1.20, with Lechner at 1:41.
Our winners today:
1 Marianne Vos (Netherlands)
2 Hanka Kupfernagel (Germany)
3 Daphny Van den Brand (Netherlands)
4 Katerina Nash (Czech Republic)
5 Eva Lechner (Italy)
Meredith Miller was the best placed US rider in 12th. She followed Britain's Annie Last across the line.
What a stunning victory for Vos! She led the race start to finish and there was never really a doubt of her winning it.
Congratulations to our podium of Vos, Kupfernagel and van den Brand, and to all of the women out there today!
We will be back in about two hours for the men's race. Will it be as one-sided as this one? Who knows? Join us then!
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