Although not located in the Motherland of Cyclocross, the city of Tabor in the Czech Republic has a deep cyclocross history. The venue has hosted 10 World Cups, 3 World Championships and 2 European Championships this millennium.
On Saturday, the Telenet UCI World Cup series returned to Tabor and the Komora Sports Complex for the 4th race of the 2019/20 series.
The hilly, punchy track was relatively dry, but features such as climbs on the back half of the course and the uphill barriers provided plenty of challenging features that affected how the close battles in both the Elite Women and Elite Men's races played out.
Battle of the Young Dutch Women
Of note in the Elite Women's race was the first cyclocross World Cup for Lucinda Brand (Telenet Baloise Lions). Brand, who won the race in 2018, started well off the front row thanks to the new UCI rule giving the first call-ups to the top 24 riders in the World Cup overall standings.
Brand was hoping to give a fight to the young Dutch women who have taken over European cyclocross this season. Yara Kastelijn (777) started in her first race wearing the European Champion's jersey, while Ceylin del Carmin Alvarado (Corendon - Circus) and the elder stateswoman of the young trio, 24-year-old Annemarie Worst (777), hoped to score some Euro Champs revenge.
Alvarado got out to a hot start in Tabor, and one lap in, it appeared she might be destined for another runaway solo win like the one she achieved at Ruddervoorde.
Worst, however, was the rider able to say, "Not so fast my friend," and chased down her countrywoman at the end of Lap 2. From there, the two went back and forth for the next two laps, neither able to gain an advantage.
In the last lap, Worst timed an attack up the steep climbs in the last third of the circuit to get a lead and then hold it to take the win.
Brand put on a good show, roaring all the way forward to 4th place before coming up just 3 seconds short of Kastelijn for the podium. The younger Dutch riders no doubt took note of her strong ride, even if she still sits at 33rd overall in the World Cup overall.
Van der Poel Faces Tough Test
Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon - Circus) was another Dutch rider facing an unfavorable call-up. Van der Poel was also racing his first World Cup of the current season, giving him a third-row starting position.
If you have ever wondered what would happen if Van der Poel pulled a Frank McCormack and maybe started 30 seconds behind the field, this was your chance to see what the result would be.
After a season of largely being absent at the front, the Telenet Baloise Lions had a strong representation in pushing the pace early on. Corne van Kessel (Telenet Baloise Lions) led much of the first lap and was joined by Lars van der Haar (Telenet Baloise Lions), Toon Aerts (Telenet Baloise Lions) and Quinten Hermans (Telenet Baloise Lions) as well.
That did not mean the Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal duo of Eli Iserbyt and Michael Vanthourenhout did not just fade away.
Vanthourenhout again stepped up to play the role of lieutenant to Iserbyt by attacking several times and keeping the pace high in the hopes of shedding the Lions and keeping Van der Poel in the hole.
Early on, the tactics appeared to be spot-on, as Van der Poel made contact with the leaders at the end of Lap 2, but then fell off the pace and dropped 16 seconds behind the leaders midway through the race.
It appeared, for a moment, that the Van der Poel juggernaut had met its match.
For a moment, just a moment.
A lap later, the leaders were Iserbyt, Vanthourenhout, Van der Haar and yep, Van der Poel.
While Van der Haar's teammates were not able to keep with the pace, the elder statesman of the men's ’cross peloton was more than willing to mix it up. Van der Haar was the animator in Lap 7 and at one point took a small lead with an attack up the steep climbs on the back half of the circuit. Van der Poel and Iserbyt recovered, and with one lap to go, it was again down to the trio of riders at the front.
What followed was a thrilling last lap.
Iserbyt was the first to attack and get a gap, but then Van der Poel helped chase him down. Van der Poel and Iserbyt shed Van der Haar at the uphill barriers by hopping them while the man known as LvdH dismounted and ran.
After taking a big dig to grab the lead, Van der Poel attacked u tphe steep climbs where Van der Haar had made his move a lap earlier. His effort gave him just enough of a gap on Iserbyt to ride it out and cross the line with a close win.
For the full stories from the Elite races, you can read our Women's and Men's race reports.
Czech out the afternoon of racing with the photo gallery from Bart Hazen below.