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Saturday Recap: Motoring Around Zolder

Two good races, one incredible race, three new world champions, a possibly illegal bike, an amazing comeback and the disappointment of the host country.


The racing has ended for day one of the World Cyclocross championships and we have three new world champions. Jens Dekker, of the Netherlands won the junior race, Britain's Evie Richards won the first ever under-23 women's worlds, and the day was capped off by another Dutch win with Thalita De Jong overwhelming the lead group on the final lap.

The day started with the junior race. The French side tried to dominate the beginning of the race, before Kevin Kuhn of Switzerland crashed, and the race fractured into small groups, the main beneficiary being leader Dekker. He and Mickael Crispin then had a large gap at the front of the race, and indeed they went on to come first and second. Dekker kept on increasing his lead until the end of the race, winning by thirty-five seconds from Crispin, the only rider within a minute. "The start was the most important thing," he said. "I knew I that normally I would be the best, so I made sure to start very well and take the lead, and then I tried to get away." France took two medals in the race, with Thomas Bonnet rounding out the podium. Kuhn took fourth and Thomas Pidcock fifth. Pre-race favourite Jappe Jaspers dropped to seventh.

The second race of the day came with some fanfare as it was the first running of the under-23 world championships. The initiative was taken early by Chiara Teocchi, who had a quick start, opening a gap at the start, but she was recaptured quickly by British rider Evie Richards. Richards is a mountain biker, most of the time and this was her first ever cyclocross race outside of the British Isles. Richards took over the lead, and never relinquished it, winning the race by thirty-five seconds from Czech Nikola Nosková "I missed out on the mountain bike world jersey so to get it in ‘cross in my first one it just feels amazing. And my mom and dad were watching today so I’m happy to make them proud watching me," she said after the victory. However, a display of dominance may not be all this race is remembered for. Checks performed on the bicycle of pre-race favourite Femke Van den Driessche, who pulled out late in the race with an issue with her bike have revealed a technological fraud. This is sad news for cycling and cyclocross, and leads one to wonder what sanction Van den Driessche will receive. She has not been available for comment on the issue.

To elaborate on this, according to Sporza, the UCI auditors took the saddle off Van den Driessche's bike, and found wires. They followed the wires to the bottom bracket, which could not be removed, and the motor in the bike was found there. The excuse from the Van den Driessche camp is that "The bike was in the pit but it [belongs to] someone from her entourage, who sometimes trains with her. But it was never the intention that it would be raced." The Director of the Belgian Cycling Federation, Jos Smeets, was seen crying. Emotions are at a low ebb in the Belgian camp, safe to say.

The day's main event was the women's race. Helen Wyman had the best start, and led for a good portion of the first lap, but she soon fell back, and a top four of Harris, De Boer, Cant and Mani. Harris seemed the strongest, attacking several times, but always falling back on the run-ups and falling back. De Jong, the eventual winner, had a very bad start, and had to claw her way up the field, beating or equalling the lap time of the top four in every lap after the first two. She finally caught up on the penultimate lap, and powered away from Sanne Cant on the final lap. Cant cracked, and looked on despairingly as De Jong tore up the ground on the way to the finish line, which she crossed with a fourteen second gap on second placed Mani. "It was not a good start for me," she said. "I started on the second row and couldn't catch the front group. I took the lead and said go and go till the finish line."

Thalita De Jong crosses line.

Cant slipped down the field to third, just ahead of De Boer. She was distraught after the race, crying before going onto the podium to receive her bronze medal, heart on her sleeve.

Oh, and the UCI have released next year's calendar, with nine World Cups, the new ones being Iowa (Jingle Cross), Zeven and Fiuggi. It's here.