FIUGGI, Italy—Riders came into Sunday’s UCI Telenet World Cup race in Fiuggi, Italy expecting an icy, muddy mess with a lot of running, and in the wooded hills, that is what they got.
Marianne Vos (WM3 Pro Cycling) survived a chaotic first lap scrum in the woods to surface at the front of the race and then put in a searing second lap attack in the frozen flats to drop Eva Lechner (Team Clif Bar).
Like a woman on a mission, Vos rode and ran each section of the course with decisive, technical precision as if she burned her turn-by-turn plan to memory, and then executed it without a glitch. Lap by lap, she grew her lead on a dominating solo ride to take home her second World Cup of her short cyclocross season.
Fiuggi Bruises Bodies, Egos
Fiuggi is a small town located 80km east of Rome in the foothills of the Apennine Mountains. The World Cup event, the first held in Italy since the 2013 and 2014 races in Rome, was held at the Parco Termale dell’Anticolona, which is a spa and resort. The waters of Fiuggi became famous in Italy after Michaelangelo credited them with curing his kidney stones, and they have been recognized by the Italian Health Institute for their kidney-issue curing abilities.
The course at Fiuggi was much narrower than courses fans are used to seeing for World Cups. The lower part of the course near the spa featured frequent surface changes from stone to gravel to dirt. Elevation change came in the narrow wooded section that was muddy, slick, and technical.
Snow covered the grounds on Saturday, and although the temperature was 37 degrees at the beginning of the race, the ice from yesterday’s precipitation remained beneath a layer of mud in much of the wooded section.
if you are watching #fiuggi to put perspective on the woods section. It is like peanut butter on glass!
— Kerry Werner (@kerryw24) January 15, 2017
Fiuggi might be known for its healing baths, but racers throughout the day took unwelcome head-first splashes into its injuring mud. The narrow course through the woods and the gnarly conditions on the ground created mayhem during the opening lap. Racers were forced to run most of the section throughout the day.
A Frantic Fiuggi First Lap
The narrow section in the woods meant the Fiuggi course was one where a fast start is imperative for riders with podium aspirations. Eva Lechner (Team Clif Bar) blasted out to the holeshot and Ellen Noble (Apsire Racing) joined her at the front as the riders navigated the varying surfaces of the race start.
When the riders hit the first downhill in the woods, all cyclocross hell broke loose. The narrow descents and corners would have been challenging on a dry day, but with the ice and mud, the section became a haunted forest. Nary a rider made the first trip through the “slidy section,” as English announcer Anthony McCrossan called it, without slipping or crashing. Noble, sitting top five, slid into the fencing the first time through—just one of many such incidents she and most racers experienced out on the greasy course.
One unfortunate casualty of the first lap was Italian Alice Maria Arzuffi (Lensworld Zannata). She crashed over the orange snow fencing and left the race on a stretch while her bike was left dangling on the barrier. The Italian, closing out a great season, later Tweeted she went to the hospital for a back injury:
I'm still waiting at the hospital. I hurt bad my back. I am waiting to know more
— Alice Maria Arzuffi (@AliceArzuffi) January 15, 2017
When the first lap fracas sorted itself out, Marianne Vos and Eva Lechner emerged at the front of the race while Katerina Nash (Team Clif Bar) and Ellen Van Loy (Telenet Fidea Lions) sat 10 seconds in arrears.
Vos Says Arrivederci
Lechner’s challenge to Vos and bid for glory in front of her Italian fans would be short-lived. The Italian hit the pits for a fresh bike shortly after the start of the second lap, and Vos used the opportunity to put in a mighty attack and be first in line for the baths. Within a few turns, Vos had nearly 10 second gap after the attack.
It was all the seven-time World Champ needed. With clear lines ahead of her, Vos stayed strong and upright while running through the woods and opened up a 20-second gap back to second place after the second lap. She extended her lead by five seconds or more each subsequent lap and came across the line with a 40-second victory over second-place finisher Katerina Nash.
After the race, Vos talked about staying composed in the treacherous Fiuggi woods, “Here in the woods it’s like ice. You have to find some balance and shoot for your own path. I think I was able to do that when I was on my own.”
She was also asked about the secret to success through the section, “First, take the good lines. I had good grip with the tires and the shoes. In the end, it’s about not panicking and being able to cope with the circumstances.”
“In the end, it’s about not panicking and being able to cope with the circumstances.” -Marianne Vos
Nash is Numero Due, U23 Women Battle in a Worlds Preview
Katerina Nash, known for her mountain biking prowess, put those skills to work in the narrow confines between the trees during the second lap. She snatched second position from teammate Lechner after a brief team time trial. Within a lap, the gap back to third grew to nine seconds at the end of lap two.
As Vos rode away at the front, Nash solidified silver. She would eventually finish the race with a 19-second gap back to Sophie de Boer (Breepark).
De Boer broke into third after escaping from a chase group that included Noble and Annemarie Worst (Mijn Bad Liv/Giant Offroad Team). Heading into the last lap, De Boer appeared to have a solid grasp on the third podium position, but during the last trip about the circuit, U23 rider Worst did everything in her power to catch De Boer and grab the podium position.
Worst entered the finishing straight just meters behind De Boer, but the World Cup leader sprinted home with a powerful finishing kick to hold onto her third spot.
Worst’s fourth-place finish was the highlight of a number of great finishes by U23 riders. Belgian Laura Verdonschot (Marlux-Napoleon Games) and American Ellen Noble found themselves together midway through the race in a preview of a battle fans are likely to see in Luxembourg two Sundays from now.
Verdonschot pulled away in the race-within-the-race during the last two laps and finished the afternoon in sixth. Noble finished 8th, Chiara Teocchi 9th, and Nikola Noskova 10th, foreshadowing what should be a phenomenal U23 tussle at Worlds.
Courtenay McFadden (American Classic/Zones) had a strong ride in Fiuggi for the American contingent. She flirted with the top ten throughout the race and finished 11th. Britishwoman Nikki Brammeier (Boels Domans) took 12th, Colorado resident Caroline Mani (unattached, although still flying Clement logos in an old National Championship jersey) finished 14th, American Rebecca Fahringer (Amy D Foundation) took 20th, and Elle Anderson (Elle Anderson Racing) placed 29th.
De Boer Wins the World Cup
It has been said that consistency is key, and in the battle for the overall World Cup title, the old adage definitely proved true. With her third-place finish on Sunday, Sophie de Boer clinched the overall World Cup championship after winning the World Cup at Cross Vegas in September and then grabbing a second and two thirds to finish as the top rider ahead of Katerina Nash.
Noble has a nearly-secure lead in the U23 series, with a 79 point margin over Verdonschot. Only a DNF and a Verdonschot win would lose the jersey.
Next Stop, Hoogerheide
The last stop of the 2016-2017 Telenet UCI World Cup series is Sunday in Hoogerheide. Cyclocross Magazine will be providing coverage of this last tune-up before the World Championships in Bieles, Luxembourg.
2017 Fiuggi UCI Cyclocross World Cup Results - Elite Women
|1||VOS Marianne||WM3 PRO CYCLING TEAM||0:41:26|
|2||NASH Katerina||LUNA PRO TEAM||+00:40|
|3||DE BOER Sophie||+00:59|
|5||LECHNER Eva||LUNA PRO TEAM||+01:34|
|7||VAN LOY Ellen||+01:57|
|9||TEOCCHI Chiara||BIANCHI COUNTERVAIL||+02:17|
|11||McFADDEN Courtenay||ZONES / AM CLASSIC||+02:30|
|12||BRAMMEIER Nikki||BOELS DOLMANS CYCLINGTEAM||+02:38|
|17||DEL CARMEN ALVARADO Ceylin||+03:28|
|20||FAHRINGER Rebecca||AMY D FOUNDATION||+03:48|
|27||NUNO PALACIO Aida||+04:34|
|28||BULLERI Alessia||AROMITALIA VAIANO||+04:37|
|29||ANDERSON Elle||ELLE ANDERSON RACING||+04:40|
|32||GONZALEZ BLANCO Lucia||LOINTEK||+05:14|
|33||GONZALEZ BLANCO Alicia||LOINTEK||+05:17|
|36||VAN DER HEIJDEN Inge||+05:44|
|39||MEDVEDOVA Tereza||BEPINK COGEAS||+06:58|
|41||PERSICO Silvia||VALCAR PBM||-1LAP|
|ARZUFFI Alice Maria||DNF|