The DVV Verzekeringen Trofee and IJsboerke Ladies Trophy cyclocross series headed to the Koppenberg hill that overlooks the Belgian village of Melden outside Oudenaarde on Tuesday for the second round of the eight-race series. The Koppenbergcross race is a rare event that is defined by a feature that is equally well-known to road racing fans. The iconic climb up the cobbled Koppenberg road that provides excitement for road fans each spring during the Tour of Flanders made a repeat appearance on Tuesday for the cyclocross crowd.
Historically, the Koppenbergcross course finished with a long downhill into the village of Melden, but in 2016 the event organizers retooled the circuit to finish at the top of the Koppenberg hill, setting up the potential for the famed cobbled climb to be the decisive feature on the course.
Voor vandaag staat de #koppenbergcross op het programma met een pittig parcours gaan @mathieuvdpoel en @ThalitadeJong winnen? #veldrijden pic.twitter.com/hjoo3FSwQ1
— CyclingWeb.nl (@CyclingWebNL) November 1, 2016
The 2016 track started on the streets of Melden and then headed up for a nearly four minute climb to the crest of the Koppenberg hill. A brutal climb like the one to the top of the hill meant that the other half of the course would be defined by a winding downhill back to the cobbled streets of Melden. Conditions on the course were dry, with file treads the tire choice of the day, and although a course located on the side of the hill cannot be considered “fast,” the dry downhills made sure there was no break in the action during the race.
A World Champion and Defending Champ Duel
The 2016 Women’s Koppenbergcross was the 12th running of the event, and until now, only one rider—Helen Wyman in 2012 and 2013—has been able to climb her way to the top step of the podium in two consecutive years. Last year’s winner Jolien Verschueren (Telenet Fidea Lions) looked to be the second woman to win back-to-back titles at Koppenberg cross, but to do so she would have to fend off a stiff challenge from 2016 World Champion Thalita de Jong (Rabobank-Liv), who has been on a dominant tear this season including winning the 2016 UEC European Cyclocross Championships.
The epic duels between Verschueren and De Jong each trip up the four-minute climb are likely to become a historic chapter of the famed Koppenbergcross race.
De Jong started the race off strong, driving the pace the first trip up the Koppenberg and descending the winding downhill section like a rider who earned her stripes on a mountain bike, not the road. On the second climb up the hill, Verschueren broke from a chase group of six and made contact with De Jong at the apex of the cobbled Koppenberg climb. From that point on, the two riders would ride together for nearly the rest of the race.
Each subsequent trip up the Koppenberg added to the legend of the race as Verschueren and De Jong traded attacks and the lead. Often, riders at the front of the race will try to game each other out and sit in on such a brutal climb, but on this November afternoon the two battled up each climb as if there were Queen of the Mountain points awaiting at the top of each lap. These duels throughout the race would provide a foreshadowing for the last epic trip up the hill.
With Verschueren and De Jong off the front, a chase group of Sophie de Boer (Kalas-NNOF), Christine Majerus (Boels-Domans), Sanne Cant (IKO Enertherm-Beobank), and Alicia Franck emerged early in the race. On the fourth trip up the Koppenberg climb, de Boer and Majerus would break away to an eight-second gap on Cant. The Dutch and Luxembourgian riders would wisely maintain that small gap on Cant over the next several laps, and entered the last trip off the cobbles of Melden together.
A Decisive, Final Cobbled Climb
After De Jong opened up a small three second lead on the last descent into Melden, it looked like yet again, the World Champion would finish the final lap out front. However, Verschueren was determined to break the Dutch star’s win streak.
She closed the gap and exited the cobbled street onto the climb in the lead. Three lead changes on the hill found De Jong in the lead as the two riders approached the last iconic climb up the Koppenberg cobbles.
As if she was using it as a cue to give one last attack, at the sign informing the riders they were 80% of the way up the hill, Verschueren put in one last surge to take the lead.
De Jong had no answer. Verschueren accelerated away from De Jong on the climb up the road to be crowned current Queen of the Mountain and adding her name to the record books next to Wyman as a back-to-back winner.
“I felt that Thalita was better on the downhills, but uphill I was better and I wanted to make the game hard for Thalita on the hills,” Verschueren said after the race (translated).
Despite her UCI C1 win against full-time pros, Verschueren doesn’t quite fit the mold as she is a full-time teacher, and has stated she sees cyclocross as a hobby, one that she’s pretty darn good at.
De Jong was never threatened by the chasers and finished in second, 11 seconds behind Verschueren.
Forty-five minutes into the race, de Boer proved to have a little bit more left in the tank as she was able to attack the last time up the hill and gain a ten second gap on Majerus to take home the third step on the podium. Majerus held onto her fourth place spot and Cant rounded out the top five. The top ten was completed by Alicia Franck, Maud Kaptheijns (Team Steylaerts), Ellen van Loy (Telenet Fidea Lions), Nikolka Noskova (AA Drink-Kalas), and Geerte Hoeke. Americans Elle Anderson finished 12th, 4:30 off the leader’s pace with Christine Vardaros in 29th.
De Jong Retains DVV Verzekeringen Trofee Series Lead
Despite the second place finish, De Jong still sits atop the DVV Verzekeringen Trofee standings after the first two races. Verschueren ascended her way into second place with her climbing on the Koppenberg hill and currently sits 45 seconds behind the Dutch leader. Sophie de Boer is in third (2’28”) and Sanne Cant is right behind her in fourth (2’39”).
The next DVV Verzekeringen Trofee race is Flandrian Cross in Hamme, Belgium on Thursday, November 27. Cyclocross fans in the United States can again see the racing action on trekbikes.com before they head off for annual dose of Thanksgiving feasting.
Miss the streaming video? Watch highlight videos here. Full results below.
2016 IJsboerke Ladies Trophy #2 Koppenbergcross Oudenaarde Results - Elite Women
|1||Jolien Verschueren||Telenet Fidea Lions||48:16:00|
|2||Thalita De Jong||Rabobank-Liv||0:00:11|
|3||Sophie De Boer||Kalas-NNOF||0:01:44|
|5||Sanne Cant||IKO Enertherm-Beobank||0:02:03|
|7||Maud Kaptheijns||Team Steylaerts||0:02:55|
|8||Ellen Van Loy||Telenet Fidea Lions||0:03:15|
|9||Nikola Noskova||AA Drink-Kalas||0:03:30|
|11||Pavla Havlikova||MRM Avalon Pro Cycling||0:04:21|
|14||Joyce Vanderbeken||AA Drink-Kalas||0:05:04|
|15||Kim Van De Steene||0:05:46|
|19||Lindy Van Anrooij||0:06:35|
|20||Bianca Van Den Hoek||0:06:36|
|22||Asa Maria Erlandsson||0:07:53|
|32||Eva Maria Palm|