It was a warm day in China for their first-ever UCI cyclocross race, which took place in a small town north of Beijing, surrounded by mountains and sunny blue skies. Racers warmed up in tents according to team and country, and 18 countries total were represented. The women’s field was small—only 23 starters compared to the men’s 63—but the competition was fierce.
The race began with a double set of stairs with a sharp downhill into an immediate U-turn in between, and it was Adela Carter of Great Britain who led into the stairs. The lead group after one lap consisted of Asa Maria Erlandsson, Margriet Kloppenburg, Ellen Sherrill, Adela Carter, and Jennifer Makgill. Sherrill, one of the US racers, had some bad luck and ripped her rear derailleur off the bike and lost her chance at her first UCI podium, despite a strong race start. The leading five took turns at the front, attacking each other and testing their competitor’s weaknesses. “”I think it only took half a lap for the five of us to group up, and then we sort of took turns attacking and sitting on each other. It was a real race,” Shirrell explained. Behind them, Kari Studley headed up the chase group.
“It was like going through sand, just churning,” Makgill explained of the course. Makgill, a former World Cup downhiller, Messenger World Champion and New Zealand Cyclocross National Champion, was having what might be the ride of the day, and put in some turns at the front and used her technical skills to her advantage, despite the race being her only her sixth cyclocross race. “I haven’t raced much so I started at the back of the grid, which didn’t help a hell of a lot. It was hot, it was tough,” she explained after the race. “I was just trying to keep up. This is my fifth or sixth cyclocross race so this was a testing ground to see how I could pan out… There are some fast girls out there!”
In the end, Erlandsson, surged ahead in the bumpy, turn-filled sections deep in the woods, and only Kloppenburg could stay within reach as first Makgill and then Carter fell back. Erlandsson said she hoped the gave a sizable lead coming into the finishing stretch, because she knew Kloppenburg had a better sprint. Would it be enough?
It wasn’t. Erlandsson looked over her left shoulder, trying to find the red jersey of the Danish champion, but Kloppenburg sprinted right, passing her just meters from the line but with enough time to raise a hand in celebration of taking the first-ever UCI cyclocross in China.
Carter took third, with New Zealand’s newest cyclocrosser, Makgill, close behind. Australia’s Katherine O’Shea took fifth to add to the southern hemisphere’s strong showing, while the US’s 30-34 World Champion Studley headed up the second group of riders, eventually taking sixth place. “I hadn’t really planned on racing Elite this season because I’ve been focused on the women’s only race in Washington,” Studley explained. “But I got this opportunity, started really riding, and it’s been a ton of fun. I had a great time on the course. It was abusive but it was fun.”
She continued, “My strategy was not to crack on the third lap, and goal achieved! I just tried to conserve and keep a steady pace and ramp it up, and just have fun.”
Shirrell, who’s rear derailleur forced her out of contention, said, “That’s what’s frustrating about this. I’ve never been so comfortable sitting in contention for the podium, even in a local race. I think it was the course. I need to stop doing grass crits!”
The future of British cyclocross looks bright, at least on the women’s side, with 19-year-old Hannah Payton finishing sixth, and 16-year-old Abby Mae Parkinson getting the invite from British Cycling and representing well in her first-ever women’s race with a 13th place. Many of the European countries and teams chose to send young riders to gain international experience without having to foot the bill.
Stay tuned for more photos and interviews!
Elite Women Results - Qiansen Trophy UCI C2 Cyclocross Event
|1||Margriet Helena KLOPPENBURG||DEN||25||35:47:00||40|
|2||Asa Maria ERLANDSSON||SWE||39||35:47:00||30|
|13||Abby Mae PARKINSON||GBR||16||37:56:00|