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Europeans Vincent Baestaens and Annemarie Worst continued their domination of the US Pro cyclocross series by winning the men’s and women’s races on day one of the Charm City Cross on Saturday.
Belgium rider Baestaens made it five wins on the bounce in this season’s series since arriving from Europe, but was pushed all the way in Baltimore.
American champion Eric Brunner matched the Belgian throughout the race but as they came into the asphalt sprint finish the 24-year-old’s tire slipped, ending his challenge.
Curtis White had also led earlier in the race putting Baestaens under considerable pressure and was rewarded with third.
The women’s race was more simplistic as Dutch rider Worst dominated proceedings after powering away from her rivals.
Worst hardly looked in trouble despite some early crashes on a slippery off-camber section and finished 1:10 clear of her nearest rival.
Experienced rider Caroline Mani was alone in the chase behind taking second while Raylyn Nuss recovered from a poor start to finish third.
Also read: Worst, Baestaens double up in Rochester
Round three of the US Pro CX came from Druid Hill Park in Baltimore with the venue hosting two days of competition.
The 2.4-kilometer course was damp after earlier rain and had a mixture of slippery corners, a technical off-camber section, and a tough climb to test riders.
Overnight rain is expected ahead of the second day of racing when Baestaens and Worst will hope to repeat their wins ahead of next weekend’s World Cup round in Waterloo.
Worst brushes off early crashes
After three rounds of racing Caroline Mani (Alpha Groove Silverthorne) had a healthy lead of 30 points in the overall series ahead of Raylyn Nuss (Steve Tilford Foundation Racing) going into the Baltimore event.
After winning both events last weekend, Dutch rider Annemarie Worst (Pantur-Pura) came into the ‘cross as pre-race favorite.
The rain and mud made for slippery conditions away from the opening asphalt start and Mani led the charge with Worst in close attendance.
Coming down off the flyover on the opening lap, Worst showed her technical skills by carrying her speed into the following corner and forcing the pace.
A slippery off-camber section adjacent to a mansion caught Worst out on the first lap causing her to slide down and lose position.
Sidney McGill (Onebike Racing) took the lead, but on the heavy ground Worst was soon back with the early pace-setters.
By the second lap, a group of four was clear with McGill joined by Worst, Mani, and Austin Killips (Nice Bikes).
The Dutchwoman’s strength was evident. Despite struggling on the off-camber for a second time, she put Killips under pressure who also had problems on a wooded turn allowing Worst the gap she desired.
Mani was left chasing Worst alone but the gap between the pair was increasing each lap.
Nuss was on a charge behind and with three laps to go she bridged across to the third-place battle between McGill and Killips, passing them and building a sizeable advantage for the final podium position.
Nuss almost lost everything on the final lap, losing her pedal on an off-camber section and having to pedal with one leg to change her bike in the pit.
Worst celebrated her third American win on the bounce in comfortable fashion finishing over a minute ahead of Mani.
Nuss was exhausted from her last-lap drama but held on for third, finishing just 10 seconds ahead of Killips.
“I felt better every lap, but it was a hard lap so I had to search for my legs. Last year I really had a bad feeling and was jet lagged at the World Cups so that’s why I’m here earlier now,” Worst said.
“It’s also good for me to practice in the mud conditions because maybe that’s also at the World Cup next week so it’s nice to train and practice with the lines and everything.”
Brunner undone as Bastaens bounds to victory
Vincent Baestaens (Spits CX team) had a perfect record going into the third round and sat comfortably at the top of the overall standings ahead of Curtis White (Steve Tilford Foundation Racing) in second.
The Belgian, who was riding on intermediate tires instead of the preferred mud option chosen by his competitors had the fastest start leading a group of seven riders through the first lap as they battled for position on the asphalt section.
With Baestaens changing bikes he was put under pressure as Tobin Ortenblad (Santa Cruz Bicycles) and Kerry Werner (Kona Adventure Team) sensed a moment of weakness and attacked.
Scott McGill (Wildlife Generation Pro Cycling) was also amongst the protagonists, but after 25 minutes of racing eight riders were still grouped together including all the pre-race favorites.
White was the next rider to attack the leading group powering out of the corner and pulling out an initial gap of eight seconds.
American champion Eric Brunner (Blue Competition Cycles p/b Build) was keen not to see the race slip away and worked across the gap along with Baestaens.
A reduction in pace as the rivals weighed up their options allowed the group to swell back to six with two laps remaining.
White and Baestaens went side-by-side in the technical off-camber as the pair, who also battled for last year’s Charm City Cross victory, continued their rivalry.
A crash for McGill coming into the final lap held up his rivals and resulted in Brunner going clear, and Baestaens was forced to chase.
The injection of pace exploded the leading group. Taking the last lap bell, Brunner had an advantage of four seconds on the chasing Belgian while White was alone in third.
On the final lap, Brunner threw everything at the Belgian, but Baestaens was equal to his effort closing on the climb and setting up a showdown for victory.
The pair jostled for position during an exciting final circuit and Baestaens spotted a slender gap on the inside of a turn to take the lead into the finishing straight.
Hitting the asphalt finish, Brunner slid out holding onto his bike as it went sideways but giving his rival the margin for victory while White finished third.
“On the first lap I felt it already that I wasn’t having a good day,” Baestaens said.
“I was struggling all the time. I was also riding with no mud tires today so every corner took me one or two seconds. I think that was also a mistake, that cost me too much effort to follow the other guys as I always had to take the outside turns.
“I think riding solo on this course is pretty hard, maybe tomorrow will be different, they were tough competitors today and it was a very hard race.”