Sunny skies and relatively warm and dry conditions greeted today’s racers, with little mud on the Le Bandie Lake course in Treviso, Italy. To the casual observer, it might not seem like ‘cross. No mud, snow, ice, or barriers, and many riders in short sleeves. But true to ‘cross, the course still forced several dismounts, and despite the weather, it proved to require tremendous power and bike handling skills typically needed in ‘cross, with its steep climbs, drops, and off camber sections. However, with the weather and conditions not playing the x-factor in the races, the favorites prevailed in the weekend’s opening races, although in completely different fashions.

Albert Unbeatable

Niels Albert (Bel) wasted no time demonstrating his dominance in today’s Espoir World Championships. The overwhelming favorite, Albert escaped a start-line pileup and hit the front of the race just 20 seconds after the start to set a blistering pace. His first lap time was just 7:01, almost a minute faster than the fastest lap times of the junior race. Lucas Kloucek (Cze) tried in vain to chase, but within a lap, Albert, who has won Elite races this year against the best, had a 10 second gap. Although his lap times slowed down, completing subsequent laps in 7:08, 7:18, and then 7:21, he continued to open up the gaps to the rest, with a comfortable 30 second gap just halfway into the race. Aurelien Duval (Fra), Kloucek, Jonathan Lopez (Fra), and Cristian Cominelli (ITA) were chasing but losing time, and quickly started looking at each other, settling for the race for second.

With a lap to go, Lopez and Duval and teammate Clément Bourgoin (Fra), who joined the chase group, started to talk, planning their tactics to try to ensure they took at least the silver medal, and it seemed to work. Duval, through a late lap attack, gapped the rest for second, with Cominelli exciting the home crowd with a third place.

It was hard to tell who was more happy at the end. Albert raised his bike over his head in celebration, but Cominelli was clearly ecstatic with the bronze, pumping his fist and screaming with joy.

“I am very happy one of my dreams has come true. I had very, very, very good legs,” Albert said in the understatement of the day. “I wanted to show them I was the very best of the under 23.” It’s too bad spectators wont’ see him in tomorrow’s Elite race. With his current form, he’s likely give any elite a run for his money.

Jamie Driscoll was the top American, finishing in 34th, 3 minutes and 46 seconds back, but had to visit the pits to swap bikes early in the race. Nicholas Weighall, Chance Noble, and Carson Miller finished in 43rd, 44th, and 45th, respectively.

Notes: None of the top riders rode entire 26 percent grade climb. Most riders chose to run the entire length, but some rode most of the way up and then dismounted. Neither approach appeared to have a significant advantage. (In an earlier world cup race, the top 3 riders rode the climb and escaped for the remainder of the race as the rest of the pack got caught behind the fourth rider who had to dismount)

Jouffroy Survives the Pressure

Like Albert, Arnaud Jouffroy of France came into Saturday’s race as the favorite to win, having finished 6th last year at worlds as a first year junior. All those who beat him last year are no longer juniors, and were forced to race Albert in the Espoir race. But Jouffroy didn’t have it easy, faced stiff competition from the gun.

The Italian Domenico Salviani got a fast start and the hole shot, leading the other 62 riders, but a mechanical quickly sideline his chances, and instead of racing for gold he was racing to the pits. Six and half minutes later, he finally got his new bike, with the rest of the race over a half a lap ahead.

Lubomir Petrus (CZE) put in a giant attack later on the first lap, with Marken Konwa (Pol) hanging on with the two coming through lap 1 in a time of 8:01. Jouffroy was stuck in traffic early on, and hit the steep run-up outside the top 20, but flew past riders in the coure’s straightaways, quickly moving up to third by the end of the first lap. Meanwhile, Luke Keough (USA), riding his first junior worlds race, was having an impressive ride, only 10 seconds back in the next chase group after the first lap.

As lap two began, Peter Sagan (Slovakia), joined forces with Jouffroy, just as Konwa suffered a mechanical and needed a bike swap but wasn’t close to the pit area. Just 13 minutes into the race, Sagan, Petrus, and Jouffroy formed the final trio that would fight for the medals. At the end of lap two, Petrus led Jouffroy by 10 seconds followed by Sagan another four seconds back.

Through lap 2, Petrus rode aggressively, with Jouffroy content to sit back initially, but later showed his strength on the climbs and pavement. Sagan trailed another five seconds back and was losing time, and appeared destined for bronze. Keough continued riding in the top 10, but his group lost another 20 seconds to the leaders on the second lap and was quickly out of contention for the medals.

Jouffroy attacked Petrus several times on the penultimate lap, opening up temporary gaps that Petrus struggled to close, as he appeared to be paying the price from his early aggression. Sagan came through with two laps to go a whopping 12 seconds behind the leading group. Thirty minutes into the race, Jouffroy surged again, finding Petrus in trouble, while at the same time Sagan started to find his second wind and caught the struggling Slovakian. Coming through with one lap to go, the two were trailing by seven seconds and looked to be only racing for silver.

However, under the horsepower of Sagan, Jouffroy was reeled in and the top three hit the final steep climb together, with Petrus leading the runup, but running the slowest and falling back to third. The Frenchman surged again, but in a moment of inattention, got stuck behind a lapped rider, and Sagan attacked. His moment at the front was short-lived with a bobble in a turn, giving Jouffroy a chance to get by and quickly build a four second lead that he’d take into the finishing straight. Sagan didn’t give up, sprinting hard to close the distance, but ran out of room, but taking silver. Keough took an impressive 10th place, as the top American, finishing in the fourth group. Gavin Mannion finished in 32nd place, with Steve Fisher in 40th, Zach McDonald in 42nd, and Eric Emsky in 53rd.

Notes: The several sharp turns after downhills caused problems for many racers, as they were slippery and caused many riders to go down or bang against the course fencing. Crowds lined the course, but were thin compared to Belgian standards.

View Day 1 Photos from Joe Sales

Full Results:

Espoirs:

PlaceRider/CountryTime
1Niels Albert (Belgium)51.11
2Aurelien Duval (France)0.38
3Cristian Cominelli (Italy)0.46
4Jonathan Lopez (France)0.47
5Clément Bourgoin (France)0.48
6Lukas Kloucek (Czech Republic)0.53
7Fabio Ursi (Italy)1.05
8Guillaume Perrot (France)1.31
9Paul Voss (Germany)1.39
10Ramon Sinkeldam (Netherlands)s.t.
11Thijs Van Amerongen (Netherlands)s.t.
12Jempy Drucker (Luxembourg)1.46
13Julien Pion (France)1.52
14Pawel Szczepaniak (Poland)1.55
15Ondrej Bambula (Czech Republic)s.t.
16Philipp Walsleben (Germany)1.57
17René Lang (Switzerland)1.58
18Tom Meeusen (Belgium)s.t.
19Quentin Bertholet (Belgium)2.01
20Ian Field (Great Britain)2.19
21Matteo Trentin (Italy)2.38
22Mitchell Huenders (Netherlands)2.42
23Gorka Izaguirre Insausti (Spain)2.45
24Yannick Tiedt (Germany)2.46
25Wim Leemans (Belgium)2.53
26Alessandro Calderan (Italy)2.58
27Robert Gavenda (Slovakia)3.17
28Julien Taramarcaz (Switzerland)3.18
29Ivar Hartogs (Netherlands)3.29
30Marcel Meisen (Germany)3.32
31Sylwester Janiszewski (Poland)3.39
32David Lozano Riba (Spain)3.40
33Marco Ponta (Italy)3.41
34James Driscoll (United States Of America)3.46
35Joeri Adams (Belgium)3.51
36Yu Takenouchi (Japan)3.52
37Mattias Nilsson (Sweden)3.54
38Ole Quast (Germany)3.56
39Jiri Polnicky (Czech Republic)4.00
40Boy Van Poppel (Netherlands)4.05
41Martin Haring (Slovakia)4.07
42Brian Robinson (Canada)4.18
43Nicholas Weighall (United States Of America)4.35
44Chance Noble (United States Of America)4.55
45Carson Miller (United States Of America)5.44
46Nico Brüngger (Switzerland)5.57
47David Menger (Czech Republic)6.06
48Mark Thwaites (Great Britain)6.18
49Mauro Gonzalez Fontan (Spain)7.15
50Kyle Douglas (Canada)7.27
51Guillaume Dessibourg (Switzerland)8.01
52Tomasz Repinski (Poland)
53Yudai Izawa (Japan)
54Shaun Adamson (Canada)
55Lucian Logigan (Romania)
56Yegor Dementyev (Ukraine)

Juniors:

PlaceRiderCountryTime
1JOUFFROY ArnaudFRA0:40:30
2SAGAN PeterSVK+00:01,14
3PETRUS LubomirCZE+00:04,83
4SILVESTRI EliaITA+00:54,53
5RUPP MatthiasSUI+00:55,69
6GARSON PierreFRA+01:07,13
7BODEN StefBEL+01:08,27
8DE BIE SeanBEL+01:11,24
9CESSOT JonathanFRA+01:11,53
10KEOUGH LukeUSA+01:12,82
11COLEDAN MassimoITA+01:18,40
12WINTERBERG MichaelSUI+01:43,14
13HNIK KarelCZE+01:45,50
14KONWA MarekPOL+01:47,81
15DIAS DOS SANTOS VincentLUX+01:48,68
16EISING TijmenNED+01:54,24
17GRAND ArnaudSUI+02:01,26
18SCHERZ ValentinSUI+02:02,03
19OCKELOEN JasperNED+02:10,92
20BRAIDOT LucaITA+02:18,33
21ADEL FilipCZE+02:20,73
22SCHLECHTER PitLUX+02:26,52
23SZCZEPANIAK KacperPOL+02:32,75
24BARTKIEWICZ AndrzejPOL+02:34,60
25ARU FabioITA+02:35,30
26MARVAN PetrCZE+02:39,93
27VAN DER HAAR LarsNED+02:52,33
28SCHWEIZER MichaelGER+02:56,30
29WALSLEBEN MaxGER+03:00,07
30SMIT KevinNED+03:00,39
31BOSSUYT MatthiasBEL+03:01,75
32MANNION GavinUSA+03:09,39
33HADOUX ValentinFRA+03:09,96
34BATCHELOR SebastianGBR+03:14,93
35SAN EMETERIO GANDIAGA FernandoESP+03:16,78
36BOSMANS WietseBEL+03:17,28
37NAKAYAMA KazuyaJPN+03:18,28
38WILLIAMS AndrewGBR+03:24,80
39BRETSCHNEIDER ToniGER+03:26,59
40FISHER SteveUSA+03:38,38
41DOMENE REYES RamonESP+03:38,81
42MC DONALD ZachUSA+03:40,03
43KORETZKY ClementFRA+03:46,43
44MERINO CORTAZAR IgorESP+03:51,92
45FRIML JakubCZE+03:59,19
46VAN DER HORST GeertNED+04:04,14
47NADAL MAGRINYA JosepESP+04:06,24
48GEETS SimonBEL+04:06,79
49LARSON DavidCAN+04:18,10
50GRADEK KamilPOL+04:32,82
51CREBER HamishGBR+04:46,25
52GRAND AnthonySUI+05:11,65
53EMSKY EricUSA+05:49,27
54PATON AlexGBR+05:53,18
55GOMEZ ELORRIAGA IñigoESP+05:58,70
56MICHELY MaxLUX+06:19,67
57STENBERG PatrikSWE+06:25,16
58RAJKOWSKI BartoszPOL+06:58,51
59SALVIANI Domenico mariaITA+08:57,07
60TAKAMIYA MasatsuguJPN-1LAP
61PROZIRAI ViktorUKR-1LAP
0RAUBER JosefGERDNF