The opening race of the UCI Cyclocross calendar certainly got off to a splendid start, in Yanqing, China. Going into the event, the big names expected to fight for glory were returning champion Thijs Al (NED), Ryan Trebon (USA) and top favorite Steve Chainel (FRA). On the women’s side, eyes were on Ellen van Loy (BEL), Lucie Lefevre-Chainel (FRA), Elizabeth Jacobs (AUS), and returning champion Margriet Kloppenberg (DEN). As the race played itself out, these riders all lived up to expectations, but not without a twist in both races, namely due to the powerhouse couple of Steve and Lucie.
The women’s race got off to a flying start with Ellen van Loy taking the hole shot from beginning to end. Behind her, was Lefevre-Chainel, Margriet Kloppenberg, and Christine Vardaros (USA). Shortly after, in the first round, the order changed with Vardaros dropping quickly behind due to a near-deadly bee sting, and Jacobs charging to the front after a slow start. Once Jacobs found her position in 2nd she never let it go, while Kloppenberg and Lefevre-Chainel fought it out behind for the last podium spot with Kloppenberg edging out Lefevre-Chainel. “Lucie had a mechanical on the third lap (of five) – chain came off or something. She had to go into the pit ahead of me so we came out of the pit zone at the same time. I attacked straight away, got a good gap and held it. We were pretty much going the same speed, so when I got the gap I didn’t think she had the push to close it again. That was my luck,” explains Kloppenberg.
As for the winner, Van Loy couldn’t be more excited. “I’m the girl with the most UCI points, so I have the pressure to be first or second. There were a few other strong girls here though. After the third lap I had over 30 seconds, according to Jonas [Bruffaerts – mechanic] who was giving me time checks. So I could relax and not to take any risks for the rest of the race.” Using this as an indication for her season to come, Van Loy adds, “This race gives me only a little bit of an indication of my fitness because most of these girls never race in Belgium, but it’s always good to start the season off with a win, with a good feeling from the race, and in such an exotic land [smiles broadly].”
Runner-up Jacobs is equally pleased with her placing since it represents more than just a number. “When I came here last year, I crashed out early. Since then I have been working a lot on my skills and race tactics. So my objective was to come and put that into play. I think I did that so I’m happy. I think it was a strong field with some great riders.” This year she joins Jeremy Powers’ Rapha Focus squad although she will still remain mainly in Australia since her fulltime job as lawyer doesn’t afford her much vacation time to travel the 24 hours needed to get to Belgium, the heart of cross.
On the men’s side, it was Zach McDonald (USA) who took the hole shot – and kept it for the first round despite having had not much time over the summer to train due to his heavy school schedule. “If I could start well, then my goal was to at least get some Chinese television time. After the first round, Chaniel came roaring by and I just started waving some people through that I knew would be contenders for the win like Thijs and Trebon – didn’t want to hold them up from chasing down Chaniel. Then I just saw how long I could hang. I really only have about 30 minutes of effort in me, so I blew super hard with three laps to go then I did my best to hold off anyone who was coming up on me. Molly [Cameron of USA] did a really good job towards the end to keep me honest. She was coming up on me from behind.”
With Al, Trebon and Chainel off the front, it became a game of attrition. Chainel was the first to blow off the front when his rear derailleur ripped off the bike, forcing him to run almost half a lap. With him gone, it came down to Al and Trebon who were weakly attempting to shake off the other as they were both at their limits. Trebon explains, “It took me a while to find my rhythm out there but once I caught Thijs and noticed he was suffering pretty good I thought that maybe I don’t feel so bad. But then a lap went by and I felt like shit.”
On the last two laps, it was ‘game on’. Al explains, “On the climb Ryan [Trebon] pushed it really hard but I could come back. So in the last lap, just before the big climb I attacked him, thinking this is my only chance since I knew that I was faster in the tight turning section just before the end. I luckily got a gap and held it to the end. It was really awesome!”
With Al taking the win, Trebon rolled in for second. The surprise of the race was Chainel. “When I broke my derailleur, it was very hard mentally. I figured if I could come in top 10 then it’s ok. But every lap my wife and mechanic said that I should keep going, that I’m winning 20-25 seconds per lap on the leaders, so I pressed on. I’m so happy I finished 3rd.”
After the race, the riders collected their prize money – in cash, mostly currency from that rider’s home land and the rest paid in Chinese cash – enough to buy a few souvenirs for the unfortunate folks who couldn’t be here to watch it all unfold. The cash-in-hand was merely a cherry on the sundae for the riders, topping off their magical experience. Scott Smith from the US was thrilled with his by exclaiming, “My goal here, aside from checking out this strange land, was not getting lapped and maybe making a little money – so top 30. I finished 17, 2 away from UCI points. This is my first UCI race ever and what a place to do it! I already look forward to coming back next year.” This may come down to a federation decision for him, though, considering this event plans to apply to become a World Cup next season.
2014 Qiansen Trophy UCI Cyclo-Cross C1event Yanqing Station – Women Elite Results (PDF)
2014 Qiansen Trophy UCI Cyclo-Cross C1event Yanqing Station – Man Elite Results1 (PDF)
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