Belgian Eli Iserbyt emphatically took back the rainbow bands on Sunday in Valkenburg, the Netherlands. He had triumphed in the under-23 men’s race at the UCI Cyclocross World Championships in Zolder in 2016, but a horrible race a year later in Biel, Luxembourg saw him finish outside of the top 15.
However, in Valkenburg Iserbyt was untouchable. He took the lead early on second lap and rode nearly the entire race alone. He overcame stumbles and crashes, though nearly every rider a couple of those, and gave Belgium its second world champion of the weekend after Sanne Cant successfully defended her title in the elite women’s race on Saturday.
Defending champion and Dutchman Joris Nieuwenhuis fought valiantly for the host nation. He was forced to change his shoe in the pits on the second lap after a crash and thus, Iserbyt slipped away. He fought off a late charge by France’s Yan Gras to secure the silver medal. Gras took home the Bronze medal.
Heavy pre-race favorite Tom Pidcock (Great Britain) did not have a good day. He had a horrible start and struggled to find his rhythm throughout the race. He finished in 16th. Though, he is a first-year under-23 rider, meaning he still has many years to grow and mature.
American Gage Hecht had a solid ride to finish ninth.
- 1. Eli Iserbyt, (Belgium) , in 50:54:00
- 2. Joris Nieuwenhuis, (Netherlands), at 0:28
- 3. Yan Gras, (France), at 0:35
- 4. Adam Toupalik, (Czech Republic), at 1:25
- 5. Thijs Aerts, (Belgium), at 1:46
- 6. Antoine Benoist, (France), at 1:55
- 7. Sieben Wouters, (Netherlands), at 2:25
- 8. Jakob Dorigoni, (Italy), at 2:56
- 9. Gage Hecht, (United States of America), at 3:04
- 10. Timo Kielich, (Belgium), at 3:11
Temperatures hovered just about the freezing mark when the under-23 men took to the starting grid at the world cyclocross championships in Valkenburg, the Netherlands. The course was still incredibly muddy and after a full slate of races on Saturday, the ruts were even deeper.
Defending champion Nieuwenhuis took the holeshot, looking to make his mark on the race in the early going. He not only carried the pressure of defending champion, but also that of competing on home soil. Antoine Benoist of France slotted into second, as the riders plummeted down the first descent.
Pidcock was nowhere near the front of the race. He had a horrible start and it appeared he might have slipped out of his pedal. He was already riding outside the top 10 mere moments into the race.
American Eric Brunner got his world championships off on the right foot and was riding among the front-runners in the opening minutes. However, he would not keep pace with them for long. He would break his derailleur on the opening circuit and DNF the race.
Four riders showed they had come to compete in the early going, separating themselves from the rest. The leaders were Iserbyt, Nieuwenhuis, Benoist, and Sieben Wouters (Netherlands).
Although, the defending champion wasn’t comfortable with this and kept pushing hard until he was alone in the lead. Iserbyt set off in pursuit.
Nieuwenhuis put down a blistering opening lap of 9:37. It was the first sub-10 minute lap of the entire world championships. It would also be the only one, as course conditions worsened throughout the 50-minute race and the fatigue of the powering through the heavy muck also set in.
Iserbyt was nearly on Nieuwenhuis’ wheel at the end of the opening circuit and would make the junction after the Dutchman crashed on an off-camber curve. Crashing and bobbling was part of the race on Sunday and it merely came down to who did the least of it.
After his bad start, Pidcock was making headway and had joined the French duo Benoist and Gras in chasing. The trio was just off the final podium place, as Wouters and Belgian Thijs Aerts were battling for the bronze medal just ahead.
That’s as high as Pidcock would go, as the under-23 men’s World Cup overall winner would only lose places the rest of the race. He paid dearly for digging too deep early in the race, as he tried to quickly make-up the ground he lost due to his bad start.
Nieuwenhuis’ crash early on the second lap must have damaged his shoe, as the Dutchman entered the pit and changed his right shoe. This allowed Iserbyt to slip away. He would never make contact again with the Belgian leader.
The top three at the end of the second of five laps were Iserbyt, Nieuwenhuis, and Gras. This would end up being the final podium and there was little drama during the final three laps.
Gras made contact with Nieuwenhuis on the fourth lap, but the Frenchman was unable to make a real push to steal the silver medal.
As the riders completed the final lap in Valkenburg, snow began to fall. Iserbyt crossed the finish line surrounded by snowflakes as cyclocross champion of the world for the second time in three years. Nieuwenhuis captured second for the host country and Gras rounded out the podium.
Adam Toupalik (Czech Republic) entered the race a favorite for the rainbow bands and he made a charge toward the podium in the second half of the race after a slow start. He ultimately finished fourth with Aerts rounding out the top five.
- 1. Eli Iserbyt, (BEL), 50:54
- 2. Joris Nieuwenhuis, (NED), 51:22
- 3. Yan Gras, (FRA), 51:29
- 4. Adam ŤoupalÍk, (CZE), 52:19
- 5. Thijs Aerts, (BEL), 52:38
- 6. Antoine Benoist, (FRA), 52:49
- 7. Sieben Wouters, (NED), 53:19
- 8. Jakob Dorigoni, (ITA), 53:50
- 9. Gage Hecht, (USA), 53:58
- 10. Timo Kielich, (BEL), 54:05
- 11. Yannick Peeters, (BEL), 54:18
- 12. Toon Vandebosch, (BEL), 54:20
- 13. Eddy Fine, (FRA), 54:37
- 14. Jofre Cullell Estape, (ESP), 54:40
- 15. Thomas Pidcock, (GBR), 54:51
- 16. Thymen Arensman, (NED), 54:55
- 17. Lucas Dubau, (FRA), 55:03
- 18. Timon RÜegg, (SUI), 55:06
- 19. Kelvin Bakx, (NED), 55:08
- 20. Daniel Tulett, (GBR), 55:11
- 21. Stefano Sala, (ITA), 55:26
- 22. Maik Van Der Heijden, (NED), 55:32
- 23. Kevin Kuhn, (SUI), 55:41
- 24. Maximilian MÖbis, (GER), 56:28
- 25. Ben Turner, (GBR), 56:36
- 26. Ivan Feijoo Alberte, (ESP), 56:42
- 27. Jens Dekker, (NED), 56:46
- 28. Mauro Schmid, (SUI), 56:50
- 29. Grant Ellwood, (USA), 57:00
- 30. Jelle Schuermans, (BEL), 57:13
- 31. Joshua Dubau, (FRA), 57:32
- 32. Daniel Smarzaro, (ITA), 57:39
- 33. Matteo Vidoni, (ITA), 57:58
- 34. Spencer Petrov, (USA), 58:09
- 35. Matej Ulik, (SVK), 58:23
- 36. Denzel Stephenson, (USA), 58:44
- 37. Félix Schreiber, (LUX), 58:53
- 38. Josef JelÍnek, (CZE), 59:00
- 39. Maxx Chance, (USA), 59:11
- 40. Nicholas Smith, (AUS), 59:15
- 41. Štepán Schubert, (CZE), 59:50
- 42. Mario Junquera San Millan, (ESP), 1:00:01
- 43. Antonio Folcarelli, (ITA), 1:00:13
- 44. Tomasz Budzinski, (POL), 1:01:00
- 45. Nicholas Diniz, (CAN), 1:01:12
- 46. Frederik HÄhnel, (GER), 1:01:29
- 47. Andreas Lund Andresen, (DEN)
- 48. Johan Jacobs, (SUI)
- 49. Carl Erik Schoulgin SØrensen, (DEN)
- 50. Rasmus Wulff Nørholm GØtke, (DEN)
- 51. Juraj Bellan, (SVK)
- 52. Hannes Forsby, (SWE)
- 53. Hijiri Oda, (JPN)
- 54. David Conroy, (IRL)
- 55. Ben Walkerden, (AUS)
- 56. Wojciech Ceniuch, (POL)
- 57. William Ockenden, (AUS)
- 58. Gustaf Darrasson, (ISL)
- 59. Declan Prosser, (AUS)
- DNF Eric Brunner, (USA)
- DNFJakub ŠULC (CZE)