LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (VN) — Mike Teunissen gave the Netherlands the hat trick on Saturday at the UCI Elite Cyclocross World Championships, escaping Wietse Bosmans (Belgium) going into the final lap and hanging on for the victory.
“After the first half of the race I didn’t give myself too much of a chance,” said Teunissen. “On the final lap it finally worked out.”
The Dutch got off to a fast start once again, putting three men on the front with a half-dozen Belgians massed just behind on the rolling, 2.8km circuit in Eva Bandman Park, which was showing more ground and less snow after the juniors and women had had their day.
Going into the barriers the rival cyclocross powers had the entire top 10, with Zach McDonald (USA) inside the top 20.
At the end of the first lap Teunissen and Bosmans were off the front, a handful of seconds ahead of the others. Vojtech Nipl (Czech Republic) slid out in a muddy patch during the lap, showing that while the course was showing more dirt, it remained treacherous.
The two leaders clung to a handful of seconds during this go-round, with Bosmans on the point, riding the barriers while Teunissen ran them.
Then Teunissen slid out, leaving Bosmans to race alone through the start-finish and into the third lap, five seconds ahead, with five laps remaining.
A four-man chase began forming up, two Dutch and two Belgians, but they were 12 seconds down at the barriers.
With four laps to go, Bosmans had 10 seconds on a group containing teammates Wout Van Aert, Michael Vanthourenhout and Laurens Sweeck, plus Tijmen Eising (Netherlands).
The snow was quickly giving way to dirt and mud as the Belgian powered along at the front, skipping the pits.
Then Bosmans bobbled a bit, sliding out on a slick spot just before hitting the line for three to go. Teunissen had moved into second, six seconds down, with Van Aert third at nine seconds down.
Next time through the pits Bosmans took a fresh bike, as did Teunissen, while Van Aert kept riding.
But the Belgian appeared to be fading, while Teunissen decidedly was not — he closed to within a few bike lengths of the leader as they hit the barriers, with Van Aert just behind.
At the sketchy 180, the two were together, and Teunissen sprinted into the lead as they hit the line for two to go. Van Aert was chasing at four seconds down. Barring catastrophe this would be the podium — but in which order?
Teunissen pitted for a clean machine and Bosmans took the point. Van Aert, meanwhile, seemed at his limit, unable to latch onto the leaders but in firm possession of third.
Bosmans gave it some stick, taking a few bike lengths on Teunissen, and once again riding the barriers while the Dutchman ran. Yet Teunissen remained in contention, staying within striking distance.
The bell lap would change everything. Once again Teunissen sprinted into the lead as the two riders crossed the line, opening a slight gap over the Belgian. A bike length turned into two, then seconds, as the Dutch rider pushed the pace.
At the smaller staircase Teunissen had five seconds on Bosmans, who appeared to have finally cracked. The gap held at the flyover and past the pit, and it didn’t matter that Teunissen couldn’t ride a slight climb that had confounded him earlier — this time around, neither could Bosmans, who was now nine seconds down.
At the barriers the gap was 10 seconds, perhaps more, and the Dutchman kept driving. This time, he would not be caught — Teunissen gave the Netherlands its third win at worlds. Bosmans hung on for second, while Van Aert rounded out the podium in third.
Editor’s note: Stay tuned for more from Louisville.