The UCI Cyclocross world championships again delivered plenty of mud, mechanical calamities, and drama. After the weekend, we’re left with a few important questions (several dumb ones too). So yes, let’s roundtable!
Did Marianne Vos lose the world title, or did Sanne Cant win it?
Chris Case @chrisjustincase: Well, the simple answer is that Cant won only because Vos lost gobs of time when she dropped her chain. But, as they say, that’s racing. Cant didn’t quit when the gap started to balloon on the last lap. And she took the initiative to go to the front when she caught Vos. She rode perfectly in the last few turns to take full advantage of her positioning and the short finishing straight. In Cant’s mind, she won. In Vos’s mind, she lost.
Fred Dreier @freddreier: Vos lost it. Remove that bobble and she’s in the rainbow. I wanted her to win and am still miffed. Was there a sniper in the bushes aiming for her chain?
Kristen Legan @KPlegan: Cant won the race. Unlike Van der Poel, when Cant found herself riding in second with a sizable gap to first, she didn’t just give up. She battled back with calm confidence. This put her in the position to strike. Cant capitalized on the situation and then played a wicked game of tactics to finish Vos off on the final punch up to the finish line. It was an exceptional game of tactics and Cant came out on top this time.
Spencer Powlison @spino_powerlegs: When Vos dropped her chain, it opened the door for Cant, but really, that gutsy ride down the icy off-camber descent, catapulting Cant into her final attack, is what won the race. If she had scrubbed her speed a little too much, or slipped out at the bottom, she would have lost the momentum to make the move on Vos.
Did Mathieu Van der Poel lose the world title, or did Wout Van Aert win it?
Chris: Van Aert won. On a day when punctures played a crucial role in deciding the outcome of the race, Van Aert seems to have had better luck too. Then again, the number of punctures one gets is sometimes direct correlated to how smooth you ride. Van Aert was impeccable in taking care of his equipment. He didn’t have untimely flats. And he never stopped charging.
Fred: Van der Poel looked to be the stronger rider, so I think he lost this one. And after that final puncture, he seemed to give up.
Kristen: Van Aert won it. All of the riders have equal opportunity to use the best equipment for the course, choose their ideal tire pressure, and pick their lines in the race. Then it all just comes down to luck. I think Van der Poel was unlucky but Van Aert deserved the win at the end of the day.
Spencer: Van der Poel lost it. He was riding loose and ragged (as usual), which is going to make a flat tire more likely. Van Aert’s style was more controlled and careful. Yeah, maybe those green tires helped, but I say he was just being more conservative.
When Vos dropped her chain, my reaction was to _______.
Chris: Cringe. This same thing happened to me at the masters world championship in Louisville, Kentucky, when I had a 15-second lead coming out of the last corner of the last lap. Chain dropped, panic ensued, I got caught and passed. It brought back horrid memories.
Fred: I was like no big deal, Vos is a roadie and will win it in the sprint. Oops!
Kristen: Scream at her to calm down and fix it without flailing and fighting the bike (easier said than done, I realize). I still thought she was going to win once she got the chain back on and fought her way back up to Cant.
Spencer: I think I yelled something at my computer. It was such a twist, especially to have it happen in the final lap, when her win looked to be in the bag.
When Van Der Poel flatted, my reaction was to ________.
Chris: Get mad. I figured it would lead to a boring second half of the race since he was so far from the pits and Van Aert’s lead would grow so large. It did, and fans were the losers in that scenario. It would have been much more thrilling to watch those two battle to the end like Vos and Cant did.
Fred: Chuck my imaginary remote control at the livestream. We were robbed of the mano-y-mano duel we wanted to see.
Kristen: Say “game over” because Van der Poel’s whole body position and body language changed after that. You could tell he wasn’t going to fight for it – or maybe he was too gassed to fight for it.
Spencer: I was confused. Did he crack? Did Van Aert find another gear he didn’t have for the first 20 minutes? Then the close-up showed his tire, and I was disappointed. I knew that was it for the race, with how consistent Van Aert was riding.
The Belgian website Cyclingnieus called the course “a joke” on twitter because of the mechanicals. What was your impression?
Chris: It looked like a muddy, slippery, challenging cyclocross course to me.
Fred: It was like Tough Mudder only not lame.
Kristen: It was an impressively technical course, especially with the icy conditions on Saturday and muddy course on Sunday. It certainly had some problems if so many riders were flatting but I thought it was a course worthy of the World Championship.
Spencer: Oh, I’m sorry, I thought cyclocross was supposed to be raced on all sorts of terrain and conditions. Did that change? Was that something Cookson implemented? No rough courses? No slippery descents? No heavy mud? Hey, here’s an idea: We could just run these races on paved tracks. Hmm… wait a minute…
Other than the victors, who had the ride of the day?
Chris: Maghalie Rochette finishing fifth was an outstanding performance. Katerina Nash capturing yet another worlds medal cannot be overlooked either.
Fred: ELLEN EFFING NOBLE (U23 race, I know).
Kristen: Katerina Nash was phenomenal, fighting her way back up to the lead group on multiple occasions. She probably put in some of the fastest lap times but also made some big mistakes that cost her the chance at the win. Also, Caroline Mani rode spectacularly after getting caught in the early pileup on lap number one. She fought back from second to last to 12th. Oh, and don’t forget Maghalie Rochette! Where the heck did that come from?!
Spencer: I liked how Amanda Miller hung in there to finish 13th after a really hard crash on the first lap. Maghalie Rochette’s fifth place was a total breakthrough. In the elite men’s race, Gianni Vermeersch crossed the line with a broken bike and still finished eighth. If that isn’t the spirit of ‘cross, I don’t know what is.
Tabloid-style headline for Sanne Cant’s win.
Chris: You Cant Be Serious!
Fred: After Cross Loss is Vos still Boss?
Kristen: Redemption! Cant wins Belgium’s first women’s ‘cross World Championship
Spencer: Cant Can!
Tabloid-style headline for Wout Van Aert’s win.
Chris: With Wind at His Back and Van Aert in His Tires, Another Belgian Take the World Title
Fred: Wout in the World!
Kristen: Double Rainbows for Wout Van Aert
Spencer: Van Aert’s green tires good as gold