Taking the first lap and never looking back, Nikki Harris (Telnet-Fidea) won her first World Cup race at Namur this morning, while Eva Lechner (Team Colnago Sudtirol) rode back into the World Cup leader's jersey after a lackluster performance from Sanne Cant (Enertherm-BKCP).
A relatively clear day with comfortable temperatures for the 2015 Namur World Cup. For the Women's Elite race, 67 riders were on the start line. All eyes were on Cant after her win yesterday in Scheldecross, resplendent in her World Cup leader's kit. But one rider missing at the start was American Elle Anderson (SRAM/Strava) who we heard from yesterday.
Off the line it was Helen Wyman (Kona Factory Racing) who led the field up the cobbled climb start with Lechner on her wheel. At the top of the climb Emma White (Cyclocrossworld.com) on the inside of the right hander got hung up on the race fencing as riders raced past.
Coming off the first paved section and just into the first wooded section, it was Lechner on point, while it was Wyman's turn to tangle with the race fencing. The Brit appeared to get a foot stuck in her pedal at the top of the first steep drop off. Shortly thereafter, Wyman would take a bike change and start trying to claw her way back.
The first pass of Namur's famous off-camber rutted stretch saw Lechner on the front chased by teammates Harris and Ellen van Loy (Telnet-Fidea) as well as American Katie Compton (Trek Factory Racing). And by the end of first lap Harris had made her bid for glory. Lechner, van Loy and Compton all chased hard. Yesterday's winner and World Cup leader Cant was 34 seconds adrift in 10th, with Wyman just off her wheel in 11th.
Harris picked it up at the start of second lap, trying to put it away for good and gunning it on the course's faster sections. The effort ended up with her putting in a lap that was one second faster than her first. In her wake, things were fairly consistent.
By the third lap it seemed unlikely anyone would see Harris again until the podium presentations. Behind her van Loy went after Lechner to try to make it Telenet-Fidea one-two at the front. But Lechner quickly hit back, while a handful of seconds back Compton watched them both, seemingly waiting to make her move.
Cant's struggles continued. Despite the win yesterday, today's up and down course seemed to play havoc on her nagging rib injury and she never really found a rhythm that would let her start moving up the field.
Also giving up ground were a some of the Americans. Compton was overtaken by a hard-charging Caroline Mani (Raleigh-Clement) who slotted into fourth with her eyes clearly set on the podium. And behind the leading riders, White had more trouble as she got perpendicular to the course heading through the off camber stretch.
It wasn't long before Mani took off in search of Harris. At two to go it was Harris, Mani who had moved to second, Compton, van Loy, Sophie de Boer (Kalas-NNOF), Lechner and Wyman who had made it back to eighth. By the time the racers came back to the rutted off camber pass, it was clear that van Loy was stalking Compton.
Cant was holding on to that tenth position and the race within the race took shape. Could Lechtner put enough placings between her and Cant for the World Cup lead? At the start, Lechner was 11 points behind Cant.
On the final lap, Harris held a solid lead and it seemed she was racing on autopilot, working just hard enough to maintain her advantage and looking to avoid mistakes. Mani though was really making a hard, final bid to get to Harris, putting in the fastest lap of the day.
Behind them Compton was 32 seconds behind the leader, van Loy was 35 seconds back, and Lechner, perhaps realizing that she had a shot at the World Cup lead again, was 42 seconds behind Harris but pushing hard. American Kaitlin Antonneau (Cannonade p/b Cyclocrossworld.com) had ridden herself into an impressive 10th place overtaking Cant and others by the start of the final lap.
On the final pass of the off-camber Harris scooted across the top. As she was exiting the section, Compton, headed into it, seeded third to Lechner, who was chasing those World Cup points.
In the end it was Nikki Harris with the win, her first in a World Cup, with the sun beaming down on her. Mani was just 10 seconds back, clearly having closed the gap some. Lechner took third, also snagging the World Cup leader's jersey from Cant who was 14th. Compton was best of the rest at fourth. And her compatriot, Antonneau gained one spot before the finish and came in ninth.
2015 Namur World Cup Women's Elite Race Full Results
|5||Ellen VAN LOY||BEL||35||43:13|
|6||Sophie DE BOER||NED||25||43:20|
|12||Aida NUNO PALACIO||ESP||32||44:25|
|13||Thalita DE JONG||NED||22||44:37|
|15||Sanne VAN PAASSEN||NED||27||44:38|
|17||Femke VAN DEN DRIESSCHE||BEL||19||45:07|
|27||Alice Maria ARZUFFI||ITA||21||46:30|
|33||Asa Maria ERLANDSSON||SWE||41||47:08|