Vos makes it seven World Championships. © Thomas van Bracht

Vos makes it seven World Championships. © Thomas van Bracht590

A familiar script played out today on the muddy parcours of Hoogerheide, as Marianne Vos – powered in part by a fanatical home crowd – proved once again to be hands, head, and legs above the rest of the field, escaping from a strong Eva Lechner on the first lap and blitzing the course in her trademark solo fashion to take an incredible seventh World Cyclocross Title.

It was a disappointing day for America’s heroine, however, as Katie Compton first suffered a poor start, then a heart-wrenching tangle, the combination of which put her far in arrears of the leaders. Though she fought hard, and at one point looked to be back in podium contention, the effort – and perhaps a continuation of the breathing problems that saw her pull out of the final round of the World Cup last weekend – was too much, and she faded back to finish in ninth.

While Italy’s Eva Lechner valiantly hung on to silver, the battle of the day went to bronze, as Britain’s Helen Wyman and Belgium’s Sanne Cant traded blows for most of the race, with Cant showing superior technical skills and Wyman proving physically stronger. In the end, Wyman launched a last lap acceleration that Cant couldn’t quite follow, and though the Belgian clawed her way to within three seconds of the Brit, bronze belonged to Wyman.

Americans Kaitie Antonneau and Elle Anderson finished 13th and 15th, respectively, with Meredith Miller coming in at 25th. An early mechanical put Crystal Anthony unfortunately behind to finish in 30th.

Compton was very disappointed and didn’t want to talk much immediately after the race, but she told us, “I missed my pedal at the start then got stuck in traffic. Then Pavla Havlikova (Czech) got into a rut and fell in front of me and I t-boned her and our bikes got stuck and we couldn’t get them apart until the race has gone past us. Then I was just chasing and that caught up with me.”

As for the Brit that we called for a potential podium finish, “I went so hard on the first lap!” said Wyman. “I just died. I started to go back through the riders but I got a second wind at the end of the second lap so I started telling myself ‘You can do this.’ I saw Katie was struggling so I knew I had to stay with Sanne, and on the last lap I knew she made a mistake behind me. Then I said, all right, just hammer. I sprinted every corner in the last lap thinking ‘Don’t let her take it now!’ You can only ride as fast as you can ride. Thankfully, I recovered quick and I was able to come back. I tried not to let them get too far away because then you can inspire yourself to get closer in corners. Today just worked.”

“It was amazing from the first lap on!” said Vos after the race. “Amazing crowds, all the yelling and screaming my name. Of course that helps you, but you still have to push yourself. I was in the lead with Lechner, and I didn’t feel too good, but I tried to push on the run-up and see if I could get a gap. It’s a hard lap, so the gap can be early. I felt good all week so I knew I had a good chance but after the changing conditions we all were unsure, would I be strong enough? I’m really happy with this title, next will be road.”

Vos powering away at UCI Cyclocross World Championships 2014 Elite Women. © Thomas van Bracht

Vos powering away at UCI Cyclocross World Championships 2014 Elite Women. © Thomas van Bracht

Challenges to the Queen, Tragedy to the Hopeful

At the gun, Eva Lechner proved punchiest, taking the holeshot and leading the opening salvo ahead of Vos and France’s Lucie Chainel-Lefevre, as Compton became immediately swamped by the field, slotting in nearly twenty places back.

As the race began, so it finished: Wyman took over at the front, powering away and stringing out the field behind her, with Lechner and Marianne Vos the only two to follow closely, leaving Germany’s Hanka Kupfernagel, Belgian’s Elen van Loy and Britain’s Nikki Harris to chase behind.  While Vos looked content to stay where she was for the moment, Lechner and Wyman traded leads as the course, slick and muddy from the previous night’s rain, wound through the woods. At the first sharp climb, however, Vos showed she clearly was the racer to beat as she smoothly rode up what the rest had to dismount and run. Lechner followed, with Wyman on her tail, and though there would be some shuffling throughout the race, the podium was set.

Far more drama was happening behind, however, for the American racers. While attempting to make up ground from her poor start, Compton tangled with the Czech Republic’s Pavla Havlikova when Havlikova bobbled, and the camera focused on the most tragic moment of the race as the two fought desperately to untangle their handlebars as the field disappeared around them. At a loss, Compton could only shake her head, knowing the win was riding away from her.

Lechner taking control of the battle for silver at UCI Cyclocross World Championships 2014 Elite Women. © Thomas van Bracht

Lechner taking control of the battle for silver at UCI Cyclocross World Championships 2014 Elite Women. © Thomas van Bracht

Lechner Shows Chutzpah, Vos Shows Prowess, Compton Shows Tenacity

Back at the front, Lechner attempted to change the script by taking the lead back from Vos, a move that took the two away from Wyman, who would never regain contact with the lead. As the course closed into the final risers of the first lap, Vos decided that it was time to make her move, and accelerated hard over a sharp pitch, then driving hard, head down, on the finishing straight.