It was a weekend of high expectation and high emotion for British riders heading to the World Championships. A run of strong form meant there were medal hopes for many – perhaps surprising given the relative lack of visibility and funding of this cycling discipline in the UK.
There could be no doubt about the team’s commitment to doing their best, with the added impetus of remembering their friend Charlie Craig, who died just before last year’s Championships. In tribute, British Cycling posted this video on Twitter, and the emotion that the team members and staff still feel is clear to see.
The British success at the @UCI_CX World Championships last year came just days after the tragic death of 15-year-old Charlie Craig.
— British Cycling (@BritishCycling) February 2, 2018
With everyone committed to #RideForCharlie and do their best, it was off to the muddy course of Valkenburg-Limburg in the Netherlands to see if they could perform as planned.
The Junior Men raced off through deep and sticky mud, with British first year junior Ben Tulett racing off and managing to create a gap. Czech rider Tomas Kopecky worked hard to close the gap only to slip up on an off camber section during the final lap, leaving Ben to race to the win with a clear 22 second lead.
You can hear Ben’s account of the race here:
Success for the British team continued in the Women’s Under 23s, with Evie Richards riding an incredible race to take the win. Fighting back from behind, she took the lead, opened up a gap, and then nearly lost the race again with a mechanical that saw her struggling to shift gears. Absolutely spent, she crossed the finish line only to collapse and require medical attention before taking to the podium to collect her medal and jersey.
Another notable performance in that race was 16 year old Hattie Harnden. Coming in 4th place, had there been a Junior Women’s category, she’d have been the World Champion (to go along with her U17 European MTB Champion title). She might not have the jersey to show for it, but she deserves as much credit as Ben Tulett in the Junior Men.
The Elite Women’s race brought disappointment for both Nicki Brammeier and Helen Wyman, who both placed outside the top ten. Sanne Cant played a great game of cat and mouse with Katherine Compton (USA), but the Belgian crossed the line first, giving headline writers plenty of opportunity for ‘yes she can’ based puns.
Driving home from worlds with an 11th place, for sure I’m dissapointed, but Some days your best just isn’t good enough. Needed all of the stars to align perfectly for me today and unfortunately that didn’t happen, but can honestly say I couldn’t have done anything more. pic.twitter.com/A639FLFcXT
— Nikki Brammeier (@NikkiBrammeier) February 3, 2018
CX Diaries 40 – Worlds. Well, I’m happy enough, it wasn’t amazing but it’s been a great season. Thanks to all my sponsors for making this possible. Thanks to the fans for all the shouts. I’ll be back. #cyclocross #bornfromriders #kindrider pic.twitter.com/AGzfFXMCPR
— Helen Wyman (@CXHelen) February 3, 2018
The Men’s U23 race didn’t turn out to be the Iserbyt-Pidcock battle that everyone had been expecting, with Pidcock finding himself off the back of the race and struggling. He usually rides full gas off the front, but it was clear that something wasn’t right. His post race interview suggests he might be ill, but certainly confirms his disappointment. Eli Iserbyt managed to catch Nieuwenhuis after the dutchman had to stop and swap a broken shoe. Both riders continued to slip, slide and crash, but Iserbyt held the lead and grabbed Belgium’s second World Championship jersey of the weekend.
The final race of the weekend was dominated by riders from Belgium and the Netherlands. Race favourite Van der Pol found himself battling for third place, while the winner Van Aert had time to go crashing over the bars and still pick up the win.
A proper muddy end to the season, with some promising British talent coming through the ranks. No doubt there’ll be a brief period of respite before riders start eying up the Summer ‘Cross season – which here in the UK may be no less muddy than February in the Netherlands!
Any doubts about how tough it was? Here’s Ian Field calling it ‘a pig of a race’!
If you want to watch all the action for yourself, hop on over to the UCI YouTube channel: