Cyclocross history will be made on Saturday with the first-ever Junior Women’s World Championship race. Several years in the making, women racing ages 17 and 18 will get the chance to race for the rainbow stripes against their age peers.
The year 2020 also marks the 5th edition of the U23 Women’s race.
Both races will highlight some of the sport’s future stars, and North American women are well-situated to have a shot at bringing home medals from their trips to Switzerland.
The Junior Women’s race takes place at 5:00 a.m. EST on Saturday and the U23 Women’s race is at 7:00 a.m. EST on Sunday. Full start lists are at the bottom of this post.
With no dedicated Junior Women’s category at the World Cups yet, there is more uncertainty about the race than the other contests held this coming weekend.
However, a number of the Juniors have been racing with the Elites over the past month, and of those riders, two have stood out. Entering the season, Puck Pieterse (Netherlands) was likely considered the rider to watch after finishing 6th in the U23 Women’s race at Worlds last year.
Joining her in smashing fashion this season has been countrywoman Shirin van Anrooij (Netherlands). The triathlete / cyclocrosser started the season with a fifth-place finish at Cross Eeklo back in September and then finished second at Mol. She was having a career ride at Diegem before being in by the split pits, but it proved no worry, as she finished third at Gullegem and then won Dutch Junior Nationals. She now enters Worlds coming off a seventh-place finish at Hoogerheide on Sunday.
Thanks to the Helen100 Trophy series, the Junior Women have had several opportunities to race against their peers. American riders have made their mark on the series, with Lizzy Gunsalus (United States) winning at Loenhout and Madigan Munro (United States) winning at GP Sven Nys.
Two other young women who have raced well in the Helen100 series are Zoe Backstedt (Great Britain) and Femme van Empel (Netherlands).
Heading into 2020, the big question surrounding the U23 Women’s race was whether Ceylin Alvarado would go for the U23 rainbow stripes or race in the Elite race. After winning Elite Dutch Nationals, Alvarado made the decision to race Elites this Saturday, where she is one of the race favorites.
Defending U23 World Champion Inge van der Heijden (Netherlands) returns as the woman to beat. She has been a podium threat throughout the season and won Dutch U23 Nats.
Experza CX teammates Anna Kay (Great Britain) and Manon Bakker (Netherlands) have both raced a full season and sit in the top 20 in the UCI rankings. Both riders, at the opposite end of the height spectrum, are expected to compete for the title.
French rider Marion Norbert Riberolle put her name on the short list of riders to watch by winning Elite French Nationals and riding in the lead group at Nommay before suffering a devastating mechanical.
Katie Clouse (United States) finished in the top 10 at U23 Worlds last year as a Junior, and she got top 20 results at both Nommay and Hoogerheide after returning from a shoulder injury suffered at Namur. Clouse has won a championship or 31 in her days, so she is never one to count out at the sport’s biggest stage.
Ruby West (Canada) got the best of Clouse at the Pan-American Championships, and she enters as another U23 rider to watch.
One more rider to keep an eye on is Kata Blanka Vas (Hungary). The young rider from the non-traditional cyclocross country finished seventh at both Diegem and GP Sven Nys a month ago.
Junior Women Start List2020 Junior Women's Worlds Start List
U23 Women Start List2020 U23 Women's Worlds Start List