A Belgian Takeover

Van Aert stayed strong building his lead to 34 seconds to teammate Vanthourenhout. Belgian Sweeck was 56 seconds behind Van Aert, with Van der Poel chasing hard in the group behind. Slotting in behind the Dutchman, initial race leader Aerts moved into fourth over the course of the lap, putting even more space between the Belgians and Van der Poel.

David Van der Poel actually overtook his brother in the course of the lap, with Mathieu holding on to his wheel as best he could with two to go.

With two to go, Owen was still the top US rider, moving into 14th position, with White in 26th.

Staying smooth and upright in the mud at U23 UCI Cyclocross World Championships 2014? © Thomas Van Bracht

Staying smooth and upright in the mud at U23 UCI Cyclocross World Championships 2014. © Thomas Van Bracht

Coming in for the last lap, it was clearly Van Aert’s race to loose with a 45 second gap, but behind him, Vanthournout chased, with Sweeck, Aert and M. Van der Poel fighting for the last podium step on the line.

With one to go, Owen had moved into 13th position. “I’m proud,” he said of his result. “I went out there and raced hard for Amy and the USA and left everything out there. It’s my best result of the year, and the World Championships is probably the best day to do it on. This is a real confidence booster, I go out there and give every race everything. I was very focused for this race, and I’m glad I didn’t make any mistakes.”

A Win and a Comeback

M. Van der Poel was making a desperate bid for the last podium spot, attacking the two Belgians, changing the tenor of the crowd considerably as he clearly found his comfort zone right at the end of the race.

A minute ahead on the course, Van Aert handily seized the win with Vanthournout comfortably soloing to second, while M. Van der Poel managed the comeback of the day to take third. Sweeck took fourth with Aerts in fifth.

However, for him, the comeback wasn’t impressive. “I came here for first place and the jersey, so the bronze medal is just a consolation prize,” he told us. “I’m not very happy with the result, but I think we saw the two strongest were in front. I can live with my race because two men were stronger. I wanted to quit but because of the crowd, I continued and rode into the bronze medal.”

Men's podium at U23 UCI Cyclocross World Championships 2014. © Thomas Van Bracht

Men’s podium L to R: Vanthournout, Van Aert, Van der Poel at U23 UCI Cyclocross World Championships 2014. © Thomas Van Bracht

Owen was the first American, scoring 14th place, three minutes behind the winner, in his first U23 World Championship race. Behind him, Curtis White came in for 24th. “It was a good race, I started well in top 10 or 15,” Curtis told Cyclocross Magazine. “I wasn’t the strongest guy out there, so got I passed by a few. I found a good rhythm, made a few mistakes but was able to recover well, and I felt solid throughout the race so I think I was around 20th.”

He continued, “I came from the third row on the inside and managed to avoid crashes and put myself in the right places. The first time I came into Worlds, I was a little nervous, and last year I got a little anxious, but this year I came into it with no pressure and I was able to ride within myself. I do feel this was one of my better races, this is certainly one to be happy about.”

Behind the two, Y. Eckmann took 28th, Cody Kaiser 30th and Tobin Ortenblad 34th.

“It felt amazing out there,” Eckmann said. “The crowds—we don’t get anything like this back home. It’s just amazing, and even if I finished a bit further back than I wanted, this was an amazing experience.”

Kaiser also spoke to Cyclocross Magazine, and said, “I made a mistake, I locked up the front end and dropped back to 35th, but I tried to just ride my race and stay positive. I passed three guys on the last lap, they were crying, walking over the fly-over, but I had fun out there and this season I have focused on that and it has improved my results, doing things like hopping over jumps, just enjoying myself and it makes going harder feel better.”