by Chris Bagg
NAMUR, BELGIUM — Marianne Vos rode away from the field today in Namur, Belgium, looking unstoppable in her campaign for a fifth cyclocross World Championship. Yesterday’s GvA Trophy race in Essen brought the first true cyclocross conditions, seeing riders completely covered in mud by the end of the race. Today’s World Cup in Namur upped the ante, bringing snow, freezing conditions, and plenty of mud. The riding was slow, technical, and hard. By the close of the first lap, Marianne Vos and Lucie Chainel-Lefevre found some room at the front, establishing a gap of about 20 seconds over a large chasing group that included Katie Compton (Rabobank), who had several technical issues during the first lap, dropping her chain during the starting climb, a mishap that appeared to cost her a chance at riding with Vos in the early going.
The Namur course featured major changes in altitude, which proved all the more treacherous as they were covered in snow and ice. Vos looked unbeatable early, riding away from Chainel-Lefevre. Compton and Helen Wyman (Kona) worked behind in third and fourth, the American taking a bike twice early in the race. The course’s most difficult feature was a long muddy off-camber that Vos rode half of and was forced to run the rest of. Compton tried twice in the first laps to ride the whole pitch and twice went into the course tape, standing up frustrated.
The rest of the race, meanwhile, was on its way back to the chasers, with Sanne Cant (BOXX), Sophie de Boer (Telenet-Fidea), and Daphny Van Den Brand (AA Drink) leading a larger group up to Helen Wyman and Compton. Vos still had 20 seconds over Chainel, who in turn kept a gap of 25 seconds over the American and British riders. By that third lap, Kaitlin Antonneau (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) had moved into the top 10, the tiny rider climbing up through the ranks for one of her strongest rides to date.
Vos displayed her bike handling abilities over the nasty off-camber on the third lap, but Compton, behind, finally figured the stretch out and dropped Wyman, who had been joined by de Boer and Cant. The Rabobank rider appeared to be reeling in Chainel, who was putting together a deliberate but safe ride. By the time Compton crossed the line for the bell, she was 1:10 down on Vos but only 27 seconds behind the French rider. Wyman followed, then de Boer and Cant. Eva Lechner and Van Den Brand were next.
On the last lap, Vos powered away from the field, compounding her already large lead, displaying excellent form. She was making it look easy, riding the huge drops and dangerous off-cambers with ease. Sanne Cant made a move during the last lap to pass Wyman, while Vos took a clean bike for her trip over the line for victory. The world champion displayed the rainbow colors proudly, and was followed over the line by Lefevre, who had put together the best World Cup result of her career. Compton completed the podium, looking visibly frustrated as she came across the line. Sanne Cant was fourth, with Wyman fifth. Eva Lechner held on to sixth, Sophie de Boer seventh, with the World Cup leader Van Den Brand in eighth. Pauline Ferrand-Prevot took ninth, and Kaitlin Antonneau moved into the top ten.
Caroline Mani, who raced the first half of the season on US shores, finished just outside of the top ten, in 11th, with Jasmine Achermann, the Swiss champion, taking 12th.
Results follow gallery.
1 Marianne VOS NED 2 Lucie CHAINEL-LEFEVRE FRA 3 Katherine COMPTON USA 4 Sanne CANT BEL 5 Helen WYMAN GBR 6 Eva LECHNER ITA 7 Sophie DE BOER NED 8 Daphny VAN DEN BRAND NED 9 Pauline FERRAND PREVOT FRA 10 Kaitlin ANTONNEAU USA 11 Caroline MANI FRA 12 Jasmin ACHERMANN SUI 13 Linda VAN RIJEN NED 14 Christel FERRIER-BRUNEAU FRA 15 Pavla HAVLIKOVA CZE 16 Sabrina STULTIENS NED 17 Christine MAJERUS LUX 18 Gabriella DAY GBR 19 Reza HORMES NED 20 Ellen VAN LOY BEL 21 Hilde QUINTENS BEL 22 Asa Maria ERLANDSSON SWE 23 Vania ROSSI ITA 24 Maureen BRUNO ROY USA 25 Joyce VANDERBEKEN BEL 26 Lise-Marie HENZELIN SUI 27 Arenda GRIMBERG NED 28 Nikoline HANSEN DEN 29 Tessa VAN NIEUWPOORT NED 30 Martina ZWICK GER 31 Kim VAN DE STEENE BEL 32 Alice Maria ARZUFFI ITA 33 Christine VARDAROS USA 34 Nicole DE BIE - LEYTEN BEL 35 Katrien THIJS BEL 36 Martina MIKULASKOVA CZE 37 Genevieve WHITSON NZL 38 Nancy BOBER BEL 39 Sarah STEWART CAN 40 Margriet Helena KLOPPENBURG DEN 41 Madara FURMANE LAT DNF Nikki HARRIS GBR DNF Amy DOMBROSKI USA