DÜBENDORF, Switzerland—The World Championships started off with the first-ever Junior Women World Championship title. On the mostly flat course on the airfield in the Swiss city of Dübendorf, Dutch rider Shirin van Anrooij, who finished seventh in the Women Elite race in last Sunday’s World Cup in Hoogerheide, was the main favorite to take the first Junior Women’s rainbow jersey. But that didn’t stop an American from taking her shot.
American Lizzy Gunsalus exploded off the line to grab today’s holeshot, unleashing years of anticipation for this day. Years ago, Gunsalas screamed when she was told by Montana Cross Camp coach Geoff Proctor that the UCI was adding a Junior Women’s title in time for her to race it. Now the day had finally come and her start revealed she was all-in.
The problem was, when she looked back, she found the favorite glued to her wheel. Van Anrooij also was excited to ride into history books, and didn’t wait long to take the lead. She accelerated past Gunsalus towards the first steep flyover on the course and immediately opened up a gap.
Fellow countrywoman and European Champion Puck Pieterse and Gunsalus gave chase.
At the end of lap one of four, van Anrooij’s gap amounted to 12 seconds on Pieterse and 29 on Gunsalus.
While van Anrooij and Pieterse kept going solo, Gunsalus soon had company, and found herself in a battle for bronze. Thankfully, she also saw a friendly face in American teammate Madigan Munro. Could the two Americans chase down the two Dutch?
Not today. By the end of the second lap, van Anrooij had extended her lead on Pieterse to 34 seconds and it was Munro who had moved into the bronze medal position. With that, the three strongest riders of the day had taken their rightful positions, which they held on to in the remaining laps.
As van Anrooij had kept extending her lead throughout the race, she earned the title of first-ever Junior Women World Champion, with a big smile crossing the finish line showcasing her joy.
“It feels amazing and it’s unbelievable,” van Anrooij said after her win. “I wanted it really badly, but I was a bit nervous, I’m really happy it worked out well. I wanted to have a really good start and go all out in the first lap, because I knew that was a way I could win this race. I felt really strong. I could get a gap and rode my own race. I’m really happy.”
The silver went to European Champion Pieterse. Madigan Munro held on to the bronze, as she crossed the finish line with a 25-second advantage on Great Britain’s Millie Couzens.
While all three women made history as the first-ever Junior Women to medal at the UCI Cyclocross World Championships, Munro also made history by adding her name to a very short list of American Junior medalists at Cyclocross Worlds. She joins the World Champ Matt Kelly and silver medalists Walker Ferguson and Danny Summerhill as the only American Juniors to win medals at Worlds.
It’s an impressive feat for the relative newcomer to cyclocross. Munro credited her “mental toughness and technique” as keys to her bronze medal-winning ride. “[I was] just really being able to push myself to my limit, and say, ‘I can do this, just one more hill,’” she said. While she was on her own for most of the race, she cited “staying strong mentally and to keep fighting when I was riding by myself” as critical to sealing the medal-winning ride.
Munro, in just her second season of cyclocross, told Cyclocross Magazine she just getting started. “There’s lots of room for improvement, I’m always looking to get better at the sport,” she said. “I’m always looking to get more power, those flat straightaways aren’t my strong suit. Also my starts, I still feel like those aren’t my strongest part either, having that explosiveness off the line.”
A bronze medal in her second year of cyclocross? The future is bright for Munro.
Americans Lizzy Gunsalus finished 8th, Bridget Tooley 30th, Cassidy Hickey 35th, Michaela Thompson 37th and Tea Wright 40th.
Emily Johnston finished as first Canadian rider in 16th. Claire Steciuk finished 41st.
Tooley said the countless flyovers took their toll. “The bottom part is super heavy pedaling, slow cadence, and when you get to the flyovers, they’re so steep, you put in your easiest gear out of the saddle, mashing,” she said. “They just drain your energy so much.”
Mathias Dewaelsche and Andrew Yee contributed to this report.
Photos and full results below.
Junior Women Results: 2020 World Championship Dübendorf Switzerland
|Rank||BIB||Last Name||First Name||Country||Age||Result|
|28||23||VAN DEN BRANDE||Mirthe||BEL||17||0:44:39|
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