The final Saturday of the 2021 road worlds saw young new champions, retiring greats, and several thousand bike-mad fans lining the streets to cheer them on.
The 18-year-old American Kaia Schmid finished a close second to Zoe Backstedt in the junior race before 23-year-old Elisa Balsamo outsprinted triple world champion Marianne Vos in the elite competition.
Ruth Winder was one of a few, high-profile riders to hang up her wheels after Saturday’s elite race. The former U.S. national champion celebrated her final day as a pro with a 21st-place finish, while Dutch superstar Anna van der Breggen and Canadian veteran Karol-Ann Canuel also put a stop on their careers when they rolled to the line in Leuven.
Casey B. Gibson was in Belgium to capture all the action.
The U.S. team of Kaia Schmid, Olivia Cummins, Makayla Macpherson, and Chloe Patrick on the start line of the juniors race.
Makayla Macpherson of the US was on the attack in the junior women’s race to set up silver medalist Kaia Schmid for the final break.
With Kaia Schmid following closely, Zoe Backstedt followed a Dutch rider on the Wijnpers climb in the juniors race.
Fans had a little cycling fun with President Joe Biden’s name.
After dropping the field, Backstedt and Schmid tackled the short and steep final climb with one lap to go.
In their sprint for the gold medal, Zoe Backstedt had a little too much power, and size, for the United States’ Kaia Schmid.
With plenty of sun and temperatures in the low 70’s, the fans were getting heated up for the weekend of racing.
Ruth Winder and Tayler Wiles marked the powerful Dutch and German teams on the climb in the elite race.
Several thousand fans lined the barriers for the elite women’s final. Crowds are expected to double or triple for the men’s race on Sunday.
Tayler Wiles, Kristen Faulkner, and Leah Thomas stuck together in the peloton early in the race.
Forget beer coolers. Team Fennet of Holland and Norway brought a generator, a refrigerator, and plenty of beer to survive the weekend.
Belgian fans at the top of the Wijpers climb, keeping busy.
U.S. champion Lauren Stephens had a tough day on the bike wasn’t able to stay with the final selection.
Coryn Rivera was the medal favorite for the U.S. squad, and she eventually finished in tenth place.
Ruth Winder marked moves and chased down breaks in her last professional race.
Marianne Vos cried out in frustration as her sprint runs out and Italy’s Elisa Balsamo passed her to take the gold.
The elite women’s podium of (left to right) past world champion Marianne Vos, new world champion Elisa Balsamo, and Poland’s Kasia Niewiadoma.