TABOR, Czech Republic- The course this morning at the 2015 Cyclocross World Championships struck a balance between the two races yesterday, with a thin layer of slippery mud covering an otherwise stiff, frozen ground. Riders who eased their focus or took lines too aggressively found themselves hitting a course with little give. Michael Vanthourenhout of Belgium was able to manage the conditions better than the other riders as he crossed the finish first, hopping the barriers and making fewer mistakes than Laurens Sweeck and Stan Godrie.
Fans lined the other side of the race tape, shoulder to shoulder, as the U23 race went underway. Both Vanthourenhout and Sweeck were the heavy favorites on the start line with Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert deciding to compete in the Elite Race. American riders Logan Owen and Curtis White were able to take a second row call-up right behind.
The Czech spectators were not disappointed at their U23 riders at the initial goings of the race. Belgian rider Toon Aerts might have taken the holeshot, but Jakub Skala took over with an early lead in the first lap, followed several places back by Vojtech Nipl. Not all of the home crowd favorites were fortunate, however. Adam Toupalik, the U23 rider who won the Men’s Elite Race in the Czech National Championship, had early mechanical problems, preventing him from joining his fellow countrymen at the front of the race.
Before the end of the first lap, Joris Nieuwenhuis of the Netherlands jumped to the front, and Laurens Sweeck wove his way around the Czech riders to take a second position heading across the line for the first time. Godrie was also in the mix of the top six riders, but the big surprise was that Vanthourenhout wasn’t making his presence felt at the head of the race.
Compared to yesterday’s races, the U23 riders in the lead didn’t create much separation early, and Logan Owen crossed the line in 18th place not far from the leaders. Curtis White sat only five places behind Owen as the two Americans fought to keep their positions at the front third of the race.
The uphill barriers proved to be one of the decisive sections of the course, with many U23 riders hopping them, risking a crash in order to gain the acceleration advantage after clearing the barriers. On the second lap, Sweeck had passed Nieuwenhuis before dismounting and running. Godrie followed, but as the Dutch rider stayed on his bike during the barriers, he was able to eliminate the new leader’s gap. When Sweeck crashed around a slippery corner soon after, Godrie found himself dictating the pace at the front.
French rider Clement Venturini, who won the Junior title back in 2011 against today’s favorites Sweeck and Vanthourenhout, had a sudden surge from his top ten position, and within a half lap, passed Nieuwenhuis and Sweeck to take second place behind Godrie. Logan Owen, meanwhile, managed to move up several spots to 16th place, although at this point in the race, the leaders were starting to separate themselves from the rest of the field.
Vanthourenhout, inching forward as the race progressed, finally put in an attack with three laps to go. Godrie looked as if he was the only rider who could keep pace as the two of them created a gap on the French Venturini.
Laurens Sweeck, although haunted by his early mistakes in the race, looked as if he finally dialed in the course. He overtook Venturini, and by the time he reached the pavement, Godrie was urging the Belgian rider to go around and take a turn pulling.
Sweeck and Godrie jockeyed for positions, waiting for one another to make a move instead of pushing one another, which gave Vanthourenhout the advantage he needed at the front of the race to create a massive gap with two to go.
Once again Godrie used his barrier hopping to his advantage as passed Sweeck, who dismounted and ran them, but a crash near the pits with a little over one to go sent Godrie sprawling, and Sweeck was able to fully capitalize on the mistake.
In the final lap, all the podium contenders were able to keep their distance from one another, and Vanthourenhout took the win with Sweeck coming in ten seconds back to make it a Belgian one-two race. Godrie rounded out the podium in third, while Venturini finished fourth, ten seconds off the podium pace.
Skala was the first Czech finisher in the U23 race, arriving to the finish seventh overall.
Logan Owen gave a tremendous effort for a 15th place finish, less than two minutes back on the leader. “I had an okay start, but I wish I would have started on mud tires. I hit that first corner and realized that fast tires weren’t the best for that first bit. I lost a lot of ground sliding all over the place.” At the worst be was in 25th, right around the time he grabbed his pit bike. “Then I got to 12th at one point, before fading just a wee bit. It wasn’t a perfect race. I still got a top 15, which isn’t what I wanted, but it is an okay result for what it is.”
Curtis White gathered a top 20 with his 19th place finish. Drew Dillman secured a 25th place finish, with Tobin Ortenblad coming in three spots behind at 28th. Grant Ellwood finished 31st and Sam O’Keefe rounded out the Americans, finishing on the lead lap in 43rd.
Sole U23 Canadian rider Danick Vandale also finished on the lead lap, three places behind O’Keefe in 46th and right behind Australian Rider Jack Hogan. Jack Clarkson, who entered the U23 race for the final time, lead the British with a 30th place finish.
U23 Men Photo Gallery – 2015 Cyclocross World Championships
|7||SKALA Jakub||CZE19931215||CZECH REPUBLIC||+01:06|
|11||NIPL Vojtech||CZE19930114||CZECH REPUBLIC||+01:36|
|15||OWEN Logan||USA19950325||U.S. OF AMERICA||+01:51|
|18||SUAREZ FERNANDEZ Kevin||ESP19940614||SPAIN||+02:18|
|19||WHITE Curtis J.||USA19950928||U.S. OF AMERICA||+02:23|
|20||CARSTENSEN FINI Sebastian||DEN19950326||DENMARK||+02:24|
|22||TOUPALIK Adam||CZE19960509||CZECH REPUBLIC||+02:38|
|25||DILLMAN Andrew||USA19940401||U.S. OF AMERICA||+03:37|
|28||ORTENBLAD Tobin||USA19940929||U.S. OF AMERICA||+03:57|
|30||CLARKSON Jack||GBR19930710||GREAT BRITAIN||+04:13|
|31||ELLWOOD Grant||USA19960511||U.S. OF AMERICA||+04:30|
|35||SCHUBERT Stepan||CZE19960513||CZECH REPUBLIC||+05:04|
|36||BARNES Nicholas||GBR19940722||GREAT BRITAIN||+05:10|
|37||VRANA Dominik||CZE19960203||CZECH REPUBLIC||+05:32|
|41||SUMNER Ben||GBR19930727||GREAT BRITAIN||+05:57|
|43||O'KEEFE Sam||USA19940124||U.S. OF AMERICA||+05:57|