The UCI Cyclocross World Cup returned to Fayetteville, Arkansas on Sunday, marking the return of big-league racing to Centennial Park after last winter’s spectacular world championship and World Cup events.
Two nail-biter races ended in equally tense sprint finishes on the dry, dirty circuit.
Like last weekend’s World Cup round, it was Fem Van Empel and Eli Iserbyt that crossed the line first. The two Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal ‘crossers take a 100 percent win-rate into the series’ first stop in Europe at Tabor next Sunday.
SnowyMountain Photography was there to capture all the action:
Helene Clauzel (AS Bike Racing), Fem Van Empel (Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal), and Ceylin Del Carmen Alvarado (Alpecin-Deceuninck) lead the women’s Oz Cross UCI World Cup from the starting pavement onto dirt.
Denise Betsema (Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal) was leading the race the first time up the Electric Avenue climb.
Emily Werner (United States) remounts at the top of the stairs and sets up to take the newly added right-hander off the top of the highest feature on the course.
Clara Honsinger (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) and Manon Bakker (Crelan-Fristads) demonstrated different techniques for getting over the two uphill barriers before the drop into the woods.
A group of young fans watches Denise Betsema (Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal) make her way up the 39 steps of the Walmart run-up.
Fem Van Empel (Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal) and Lucinda Brand (Beloise Trek Lions) stayed off the front together for a while before being caught by three chasers.
A bunnyhopping Fem Van Empel (Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal) passed a running Lucinda Brand (Baloise Trek Lions) at the barriers on the final lap, foreshadowing what would happen moments later at the finish.
Fem Van Empel (Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal), Annemarie Worst (777), and Lucinda Brand (Baloise Trek Lions) were shoulder to shoulder when they hit the finishing pavement, and Van Empel pulled away from them both to take the win ahead of Brand and Worst.
A young fan shows her appreciation for 3rd place finisher Annemarie Worst (777) at the podium ceremony.
Laurens Sweeck (Crelan – Fristads) and Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal) fought shoulder to shoulder for the Oz Cross hole shot. Iserbyt led the field into the first corner.
A large lead group of riders makes their way up the stairs for the first time.
Despite losing the additional “free speed” from the big drop, Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal) still built up enough momentum on the alternate descent to get airborne over the subsequent ramp.
Midway through the race, the lead group had swelled again to 11 riders as they made their way over the double set of barriers.
With one lap to go, Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal) lead Laurens Sweeck (Crelan-Fristads) and Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels-Sauzen Bingoal) through the finish. Eric Brunner (Blue Competition Cycles p/b Build) dangled in no-man’s land in fourth, and a group of four riders was chasing hard to catch back on.
In the post-race press conference Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal) said that he did not have a plan for a sprint, the plan was to drop everyone on the Electric Avenue Climb. When Laurens Sweeck (Crelan-Fristads) was able to stay with him, Iserbyt let Sweeck lead onto the pavement and was just able to come around him to win his second straight North American World Cup race.