by Mathias Dewaelsche
Coming into Saturday’s U23 race at the 2019 Bogense World Championships, the race was expected to be a battle between Belgian Eli Iserbyt and British phenom Tom Pidcock.
This season, the odds seemed to be in the favor of the Briton. Not only did Pidcock win more races of the two (13) during the season, he also took the World Cup overall and won the European Championships back in November.
Winning would also give Pidcock redemption from last year’s Worlds in Valkenburg. It was a day not to be remembered for him when he came in 15th and watched Iserbyt win his second U23 world championship in the Valkenburg mud.
The U23 riders hit the start line along the Danish seashore early Saturday afternoon ready to write the story of the 2019 edition of the U23 Men’s race.
Iserbyt Animates Early
The French U23 National Champion Antoine Benoist was the rider with the best start, and Lander Loockx (Belgium) and Italian U23 National Champion Jakob Dorigoni (Italy) entered the field as second and third.
Iserbyt was the race favorite with the better start, moving into fourth position shortly after the field passed across the bridge and onto the long straight to the far side of the course.
Midway through the first lap, Loockx stepped up to take the lead, and Iserbyt grabbed his wheel. Later in the first circuit, Iserbyt then took the lead and attacked. Loockx played the role of a teammate by stopping pedaling and allowing Iserbyt to press his advantage.
With Iserbyt off to a small lead, Benoist recognized the danger of the Belgian setup and quickly closed the gap. With Pidcock still limping behind the leaders, Iserbyt pushed again toward the start/finish straight. This time Swiss U23 national champ Loris Rouiller followed the move.
At the end of the first lap, a lead group of seven formed at the front with Iserbyt, Pidcock, Benoist, Dorigoni and Rouiller—the riders expected to perform well—and Loockx and Tim Kelich (Belgium) completing the group.
Halfway into the second lap, Iserbyt accelerated again. This time Rouiller and Pidcock closed the gap, and after the fast start, the leaders finally slowed their pace a bit. The brief lull allowed a few others to join the front group, which now included 14 riders, including Gage Hecht and Lance Haidet of the U.S.
At the beginning of the third lap, Pidcock went into Pit 1 for a bike change and dropped back to the end of the 14-headed leading group. It was a sign for Iserbyt to attack again. Initially, Swiss riders Kevin Kuhn and Rouiller tried to keep up but ultimately had to allow Iserbyt to go.
A few others closed the gap to the Swiss riders, and a chase group led by Pidcock followed a few seconds behind Iserbyt at the beginning of the fourth lap.
“I had a bit of a problem with my gears and had to change bikes, but yeah, I was going well. It all went alright,” Pidcock said about his trip to the pit.
Go Time for Pidcock
Three laps into the race, Iserbyt had been the aggressor and held a six-second advantage nearing the midway point of the eight-lap race. Then the moment of the race occurred.
Pidcock, as if chased by a lion, closed the gap to Iserbyt in no time and then immediately left him behind with a ferocious attack.
Iserbyt, who clearly needed to recover from his efforts in the first three laps, soon faced a deficit of seven seconds.
“I figured out from the races that when I’m in the wheels I just make mistakes,” Pidcock said. “So I thought I better go to the front now.”
Dorigoni joined Iserbyt in the chase, but at the end of the fourth lap, Pidcock already had a 20-second advantage on Iserbyt and Dorigoni. Iserbyt seemed to realize he would not get his third U23 world championship title, and took Dorigoni’s wheel, allowing Benoist and Rouiller to join for a chase of four.
When even more riders caught the chase group, Iserbyt, perhaps resigned to fighting for second, attacked again, but after a slow passage on the off-camber, he stopped his effort. The four chasers were now Rouiller, Benoist, Tomas Kopecky (Czech Republic) and Iserbyt. At the end of five laps, they were chasing 29 seconds behind Pidcock.
The next two laps, Pidcock stayed off the front while the chasers mixed things up. In Lap 6, Iserbyt attacked again and got a gap, but a mistake on the off-camber allowed Kopecky to come back to him. The next lap, Kopecky slipped on one of the steep inclines, giving Iserbyt another advantage. Benoist bridged to the Belgian to make it a chase of two at the bell.
Pidcock, with a lead of 25 seconds, did not take any risks in the last lap. He ran the barriers instead of hopping. He did grab a British flag from the large crowd in Bogense to celebrate the team’s second U23 World Championship winner after Evie Richards’ two U23 wins in 2016 and 2018.
“This is the last jersey available for the season. It feels good to go and get the rainbows stripes back on.,” Pidcock said about his second Worlds title.
Iserbyt held off Benoist to take the silver medal, and the Frenchman took third.
Gage Hecht led the North Americans with a 12th-place finish.
Spencer Petrov bounced back to take 16th, Lance Haidet 22nd, Cooper Willsey 23rd, Brannan Fix 24th, Gunnar Holmgren 28th, Sam Noel 39th and Tyler Orschel 47th.
Full results are below. Stay tuned for more photos and interviews. See our interview with Gage Hecht here.
For more from Bogense, see our 2019 Bogense World Championships page.
2019 UCI Cyclocross World Championships Results, Bogense Denmark: U23 Men
|Rank||BIB||Last Name||First Name||Country||Age||Result|
|13||15||VAN DER HEIJDEN||Maik||NED||22||0:49:33|
|21||16||VAN DER STEGEN||Roel||NED||22||0:50:20|
|53||49||GØTKE||Rasmus Wulff Nørholm||DEN||22||0:53:09|