by Neil Schirmer
DÜBENDORF, Switzerland—The U23 race in Duberndorf, Switzerland featured many of the favorites in an exciting and dynamic race that didn’t really sort itself out until the midway point.
As would be the theme of the day, Dutch team tactics and power ultimately led to Ryan Kamp (Netherlands) taking a decisive win.
The Worlds course and weather provided a perfect backdrop for fast and fluid racing, with 55-degree temperatures and a relatively dry but soft ground underneath allowing most riders to go the distance without needing to pit.
From the gun, French favorite and last year’s U23 bronze medalist Antoine Benoist took the holeshot into the first turn, where other favorites like Ryan Kamp and host country favorite Kevin Kuhn (Switzerland) chased, keeping an eye on affairs and making sure not to let any of the favorites get an early gap.
The field strung out single-file with top Americans Gage Hecht and Eric Brunner in the top 20 in the early stages. Through the start line at the end of lap one, a small group of three separated themselves briefly including Kuhn, Kamp, and Benoist, with Dutch chaser Pim Ronhaar close behind, foreshadowing a dynamic that would later be decisive. Brunner and Hecht remained within striking distance at the end of lap one in 11th and 12th places, respectively.
A group of five to six riders would grow and contract at the front over the next few laps that included Niels Vandeputte (Belgium), Kuhn, Kamp, and Ronhaar. At the end of lap four, Mees Hendrikx (Netherlands) made contact with the lead group giving the Dutch contingent (Kamp, Ronhaar, and Hendrikx) a dominant position from which to start attacks.
In that decisive lap four, Kamp made the first attack from the Dutch squad of riders, and immediately Vandeputte, who had been dangling closely from the front group for several minutes, was dislodged. Benoist was the first rider to respond to Kamp’s attack with Kuhn quickly on his heels.
Benoist would falter slightly as Kuhn mustered the strength to overtake him as a lone chaser of the leader, Kamp, who continued to work hard to make his initial attack stick. While Benoist and Kuhn were attentive and responded to Kamp’s move, neither of them could close the gap. Through the start line at the beginning of lap five, Kamp had a 6-second gap over Kuhn, with Benoist 17 seconds down, and Dutch reinforcements in the form of Hendrikx looming just 3 seconds later.
Kamp would solidify his lead on this lap, with Kuhn chasing hard, fueled by the energy of the crowd of his home country. Close behind, Benoist and Hendrikx came together in a battle for third as the race for the win raged on ahead.
By the beginning of the bell lap, Kamp had extended his lead to 14 seconds over Kuhn, with Hendrikx in third position after attacking Benoist decisively in the battle for bronze. With a surge of energy, Kamp would kick again on the last lap to put the final decisive stamp on the race.
Kamp rode through the finish, tearful and overcome with emotion over the World Championship win, followed by a smiling Kuhn, with an emotional Hendrickx rounding out the podium in third. The Dutch had made another strong impression on the 2020 international cyclocross landscape.
In a post-race interview, Kamp described the sensations out on course as what was obviously a good day. “When I went, I didn’t feel my legs anymore, it was amazing.”
American riders may not have factored at the front of the race, but several finished strong with solid showings from Brunner (13th), Hecht (16th), and Caleb Swartz (21st). Alex Morton finished in 37th, Same Noel in 42nd and Lane Maher in 46th.
Canadian Tyler Orschel finished 31st and Malcolm Barton finished in 47th.
Full results below. Stay tuned for our continued coverage from Switzerland.
Visit our dedicated 2020 World Championships page for all of our 2020 World Championships coverage.
U23 Men Results: 2020 Cyclocross World Championships, Dübendorf Switzerland
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