Seven-time world cyclocross champion Marianne Vos wins the Waterloo World Cup after a battle with young American Ellen Noble.

She planned to focus on cyclocross this season. So far, that’s playing out perfectly for Marianne Vos (WaowDeals), who won the first round of the ‘cross World Cup Sunday in Waterloo, Wisconsin. American Ellen Noble (Trek) had a career-best second-place finish ahead of Katerina Nash (Clif Bar).

From the start, it was clear that Vos and Noble would be protagonists.

After Ellen van Loy and Maud Kaptheijns traded the lead on lap one, Noble went to the front, marked closely by the seven-time world champion Vos.

The duo of the American up-and-comer and the Dutch master had a 10-second lead after the first lap.

“I kind of threw caution to the wind a little bit today,” Noble said. “I tried to play it super conservatively last year, and paid the price because I’d get swarmed at the start. I’ve been feeling so motivated and so hungry to fight. I finally found that ‘kill’ that I needed to be a competitive racer. I kind of unleashed that today. I just wanted to leave it all out there. I had to be willing to lose the race to win it.”

On the third lap, the leaders had a scare as Noble crashed in front of Vos. They lost a bit of time on the three chasers behind: Evie Richards (Trek), Nash, and Katie Compton (KFC Racing-Panache-Knight) but remained 14 seconds ahead.

Compton suffered a mechanical on the penultimate lap, leaving Richards and Nash to race for the final step on the podium.

Noble did all she could to drop Vos, driving the pace on the front into the final lap, but Vos had saved a match. She passed the American and led through an off-camber before making her winning move on a short climb.

“Holy crap. This is a really, really, really exciting result for me,” Noble added.

Nash dispatched Richards on the last lap to finish third behind Noble.

The cyclocross World Cup continues Saturday at Jingle Cross in Iowa City.