In the end, the World Cyclocross championships showed that whilst you can take the Europeans out of Europe, you can’t take Europe out of cyclocross. Once again, the low countries dominated, with Belgium and the Netherlands taking all four of the available titles and most of the podiums as well. Sure, it wasn’t the utter domination of 2012, where the Belgian seven man squad destroyed everyone to take the first seven places for the men, but this was a much better event over all.
Arguably the best part was the course and venue. We were sadly denied the chance to see the course features a ‘dynamic’ obstacle as the river next to the Louisiana course was barricaded back, but it was a pipe dream for a while that the waters might breach the dams and make the riders race not only to win but to get off the course before it flooded.
The weather was still key however – by the end, blizzards where beginning to form, and the early rain had melted the top layer of ice to form a slippy layer of mud on which riders struggled for traction. As a result, the course was slow, sticky, and not conducive to simply trying to power away solo – not that this stopped Frenchman Mourey, who went off for a couple of laps.
It was odd to see Niels Albert, who for all the world looked like triplicating his World Champion credentials, seemingly struggling to keep with the pace. But this was a race of surprises – even Lars Van der Haar didn’t do his usual ridiculous start where he sprints off only to be caught and finish 4th. Perhaps this was why he came third.
In the end though, the race came down to mistakes – who was going to make them? Who had the greater mental strength? This was elucidated clearly when Nys, clear with Vantournout, bunny hopped the obstacles whilst his companion dismounted. The mental strength to do the bunny hop in such a knife edge situation is incredible admirable from Nys, and it is arguable that this mental ability is what won him the race.
For just after making an attack, Nys dismounted around a right hand corner and set off, but Vantournout, ever so slightly gapped, had a mental lapse and as he rounded the bend, clipped his pedal on the plastic netting and snagged his machine for a brief second in the fencing. Nys was off, and whilst Vantournout closed the gap down to 2 seconds, suggesting he would have been able to stay with Nys, such a slip up seems to suggest Nys would have had the better mental fortitude in the sprint to win anyway.
So Sven Nys took his long overdue second world title, which fittingly means he will ride his last cyclo-cross season in rainbows. The fact that all the races where held on Saturday thanks to the rising waters and flood risk meant that all four jersey presentations were held at the same time, which gave an equality between the achievements of (again) multi world champion Marianne Vos and the men’s winners.
It was a great race – miserable conditions, a understated but tricky course, and the best men and women won. What could have been better?