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European and U.S. ‘cross racing wrap

The weekend saw two days of racing in Belgium, where Marianne Vos won her first race back on the 'cross bike, while the UCI Pro Series took place in Texas.

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The weekend saw racing Saturday and Sunday in Belgium, while the Resolution ‘Cross Cup got underway in Texas on Saturday.

Saturday saw the return of Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) and Zdenek Stybar (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) to ‘cross racing at the IKO Cyclocross series in Essen. Vos won the women’s race with a solo win, and Quinten Hermans (Telenet Baloise Lions) took the men’s.

Many of the riders that started on Saturday also raced at the Superprestige race, Sunday, where Toon Aerts (Telenet Baloise Lions) and Annemarie Worst (777) took victory on a heavy, rutted course in Zonhoven.

Dutch wunderkind Mathieu van der Poel was absent from the weekend’s racing as he attended his team’s training camp in Spain.

In the U.S., Canadian pair Michael Van Den Ham (Easton) and Maghalie Rochette took wins at the UCI Pro Series Resolution Cup.

Toon Aerts took the Superprestige race Sunday. Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images (FILE)

IKO Cyclocross – Essen

Quinten Hermans (Telenet Baloise Lions) took a convincing victory in the men’s race, while in the women’s, seven-time cyclocross world champion Marianne Vos (CCC-Liv) took her first ‘cross race of the season in a faultless display.

Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) and Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) both sat out the race, while Zdenek Stybar (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) made his season debut after a long year racing on the road.

Thijs Aerts took the lead through the initial laps, though Hermans overhauled him on lap three, with Laurens Sweeck (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) close on his wheel. Stybar was mid-pack through much of the race as he re-acclimatized to the mud.

Once Hermans had hit the front, he remained unchallenged throughout, putting time into Sweeck with every lap. Hermans went on to beat Sweeck by 57 seconds, with Tom Pidcock (Tinity) placing in third. Stybar finished 2:21 down, in 12th.

While Stybar was finding his feet in the men’s, Vos went into her first ‘cross race of the season in flying form. The CCC-Liv rider went off the front with Ellen Van Loy (Telenet Baloise Lions) in the first lap, and when her rival slipped in the wet mud, rode clear to win by exactly one minute, leading the race solo throughout.

With Van Loy’s rhythm disrupted, 18-year-old Kata Blanka Vas led home the chase to take second, with Anna Kay (Experza) taking third close behind her.

Superprestige – Zonhoven

Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Corendon Circus) led the women’s race through the first laps, with Annemarie Worst (777) and Inge van der Heijden (CCC-Liv) close behind. World Champion Sanne Cant (IKO-Crelan) bridged across midway through the race. Cant slipped off the pace, leaving Alice Arzuffi (777) to chase the lead trio, who remained locked together.

Going into the final lap, Alvarado and Worst had forged a slim gap over a group of Yara Kastelijn (777), Arzuffi, and van der Heijden. Alvarado led the lead pair through the final lap as they fought their way through lapped riders and even tangled with each other at a 180-degree bend. Kastelijn chased hard a few seconds back.

It came down to a sprint finish between Worst and Alvarado, with Worst taking the victory after Alvarado opened her sprint early but seemed to run out of gas before the line. Kastelijn took third.

In the men’s race, a group of seven split off the field in the opening lap, with Eli Iserbyt, Laurens Sweeck (both Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal), Toon Aerts (Telenet Baloise Lions), and Tom Pidcock (Trinity) all in contention.

Aerts went clear on lap five, with his teammate Quinten Hermans taking the front of the chase group and slowing the pace wherever possible to allow the leader to add to his margin. Sweeck was able to jump out of the chase group and set off in pursuit of Aerts in the following lap, and slowly but surely started grinding down the leader’s margin.

Sweeck made it onto Aerts’ wheel in the final lap, with the chase group now out of contention, 40 seconds back.

Aerts sat back through the start of the last lap as he let Sweeck do the work. He picked his moment and accelerated around his rival halfway through the lap and soon gained a few seconds gap. Sweeck’s desperation in the chase caused him to crash, leaving Aerts to ride on to victory.

Sweek was able to hang on for second, looking disappointed as he crossed the line. Iserbyt took third.

UCI Pro Series – Resolution ‘Cross Cup, Garland, Texas

It was a day for the Canadians in the first of two races this weekend at the Resolution Cup, with Michael Van Den Ham (Easton) and Maghalie Rochette taking the victories.

In the men’s, Van Den Ham took the holeshot, and never looked back.  The three-time Canadian national champion was off the front for the entire race, with Cody Cupp, Jamie Driscoll, local pro racer Tyler Cloutier and Cody Kaiser leading the chase through the first laps.

Van Den Ham remained composed through the whole race and amassed time on the chase group with every lap.

Cupp and Driscoll split away from the chase group and followed the Canadian in second and third, with Driscoll passing and moving into second with three laps to go on the lap clock. The top-three remained the same through to the end of the race, with Van Den Ham winning by over 20 seconds. Driscoll and Cupp finished second and third respectively.

In the women’s race, Rochette moved to the front of the field after a fast first lap and was soon joined by Courtenay McFadden, Ellen Noble, Caroline Mani, Texas pro racer Sammi Runnels, and Raylyn Nuss. The group stayed together through the fast dry course, with the lead constantly changing hands.

Rochette, Mani, and McFadden moved away from the group in the final lap, with three-time Canadian national champion Rochette coming out top, with Mani and McFadden rolling in for second and third.