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2006 Cyclocross World Championships - CM
Zeddam, Netherlands, January 28-29, 2006
Race 3 - January 29: Women
Vos takes Cyclo-cross World Championships at the line
By Steve Medcroft, with additional reporting from Brecht Decaluwé
For the third year in a row, the Women's Cyclo-cross World Championship has been won in front of a home crowd: in 2004, Laurence Leboucher triumphed in Pont-Chateau in France; last year, when German Hanka Kupfernagel soloed to a win in St. Wendel; and now in 2006 as 18 year-old Marianne Vos of the Netherlands out sprinted 31 year-old Kupfernagel at the line in Zeddam.
For much of the 40-minute race Kupfernagel, Vos, and pre-race favourite Daphny Van Den Brand (Ned) held a comfortable lead over the rest of the 43 woman field. But when Van Den Brand flatted with two laps to go and had to stop in the pits for a fresh bike, Kupfernagel upped the pace and left herself with only Vos to contend with. Kupfernagel led onto the finishing straight and kept the pace high but just didn't have enough gas in the tank to fend off a perfectly timed come around sprint by Vos.
After pre-riding the course, the women had to have known what kind of race was in store; temperatures over night stayed several degrees below zero setting up a fast, solid racecourse that would favour good starting positions, technical skill and power riding. So it was no surprise when the three favoured riders got away together in the first half of the first lap. "We knew we had to start fast," Vos said after the race. "It wasn't a planned tactic for Daphny and I to be with Hanka but it worked out well that were two Dutch in the lead group."
Of the three members of breakaway, Van Den Brand was the most likely to win if the trio remained together to the end; the 2004 World Champion has won most of her head-to-head battles against Kupfernagel in World Cup racing this season and Vos was, well, 18. Thus, Kupfernagel was the next most likely winner; the three-time and defending World Champion had the experience and strength to win. But fate played its wild cards on Sunday.
Wild card one was played when Van Den Brand, who had policed the front of the lead group and successfully tested her ability to attack on a couple of key sections of the course (a 40-step staircase and through some tricky off-camber downhills), flatted on lap four.
Wild card two was played when Vos made the tactical decision following Van Den Brand's flat to sit on Kupfernagel's wheel. "Because there was a chance that Daphny could get back to us," she said, "there was no reason for me to ride in front of Hanka."
Hanka immediately lifted her tempo to keep Van Den Brand, who lost 15 seconds in the bike transfer, from gaining back any ground. "I knew Marianne wouldn't take the lead but I figured it would be better to have to fight only one Dutch woman and not two," Kupfernagel said about her decision to make the move.
With Kupfernagel pressing the pace, former World Champion Van Den Brand settled in to preserve her spot on the podium. "I didn't think it was possible to come back so I decided to not take any risks and focus on third place."
The two leaders, assured of their gap, settled into a rhythm entering the final lap. Both Vos and Kupfernagel said they had studied the previous two finishes at 2006 Worlds. In both the elite junior and U23 espoir men's race, the leaders held slim margins on the final straight for their wins. So even though Kupfernagel and Vos traded the front of the race a couple of times in the final lap, Kupfernagel wanted the front for the finish.
Descending the dirt farm road leading to the finishing straight, Kupfernagel kept the held the throttle open. Vos tucked in behind and fought to hold the defending champion's wheel at all costs. "When I looked at the U23 race, I knew that even ten meters was a sure loss so I had to be as close as possible out of the last turn."
Out of the last turn, Kupfernagel says she knew her attempt to win was doomed. "Vos was very, very close. I just didn't have enough room."
"I was in the right position," Vos said.
The win caps an impressive young career for the Dutch phenom. But not unexpected; In 2005, she won the European Elite cyclo-cross championship, Dutch Elite cyclo-cross as well as Dutch road and mountain bike championships in the junior division. Before that, she won the junior road World Championship.
Amazingly, Vos is still active in four sports; road racing, cyclo-cross, mountain biking and speed skating. With such a brilliant future, reporters in the post-race press conference asked her whether she had her mind set on a future in road or 'cross racing. "I have no intention of choosing," she answered with a grin. "All I'm going to think about is to race a couple more 'cross races with my World Championship jersey this year, then take a break and start getting ready for the big races on the road."
There were eight North Americans and three British women in Sunday's championship race. The best result of the group was put up by Helen Wyman (GBR) who finished just behind fourth-placed Mirjam Melchers-Van Poppel. The top American result came at the hands of veteran Ann Knapp; a not-bad ninth place for the 'retired,' non-serious rider from the Pacific Northwest. Canadian Lyne Bessette is a strong enough rider that with a better starting position, she might have picked up third place when Van Den Brand lost time to her flat, but considering she's been chasing away a flu for a week and started mid-pack start on a course that absolutely favoured good starting positions, her 10 place shows real promise.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Luc Claessen/www.actiefotos.be
1 Marianne Vos (Netherlands) 39.14 2 Hanka Kupfernagel (Germany) 3 Daphny Van Den Brand (Netherlands) 0.52 4 Mirjam Melchers-Van Poppel (Netherlands) 1.16 5 Helen Wyman (Great Britain 2.22 6 Maryline Salvetat (France) 2.26 7 Nadia Triquet-Claude (France) 2.29 8 Birgit Hollmann (Germany) 2.30 9 Ann Knapp (United States Of America) 2.31 10 Lyne Bessette (Canada) 2.40 11 Arenda Grimberg (Netherlands) 2.43 12 Christel Ferrier-Brunau (France) 2.49 13 Reza Hormes-Ravenstijn (Netherlands) 2.51 14 Laurence Leboucher (France) 2.54 15 Anja Nobus (Belgium) 3.03 16 Kathy Ingels (Belgium) 3.05 17 Rosa Maria Bravo Soba (Spain) 3.25 18 Annabella Stropparo (Italy) 3.25 19 Susanne Juranek (Germany) 3.42 20 Corinne Sempe (France) 3.44 21 Daniela Bresciani (Italy) 3.56 22 Wendy Simms (Canada) 4.02 23 Veerle Ingels (Belgium) 4.03 24 Rhonda Mazza (United States Of America) 4.08 25 Barbara Howe (United States Of America) 4.11 26 Hilde Quintens (Belgium) 27 Monica Brunati (Italy) 4.16 28 Nicole Kampeter (Germany) 4.22 29 Sue Thomas (Great Britain 4.23 30 Elisabetta Borgia (Italy) 31 Milena Cavani (Italy) 4.25 32 Stacey Spencer (Canada) 4.28 33 Christine Vardaros (United States Of America) 4.50 34 Joyce Vanderbeken (Belgium) 5.07 35 Louise Robinson (Great Britain 5.11 36 Maureen Bruno (United States Of America) 5.19 37 Rocio Gamonal (Spain) 5.35 38 Ayako Toyooka (Japan) 39 Carina Ketonen (Finland) 40 Ruth Moll (Spain) 5.50 41 Mika Ogishima (Japan) 7.25 42 Ikumi Tajika (Japan) 7.56 DNF Britt Jochems (Netherlands) Nations ranking 1 Netherlands 8 2 France 25 3 Germany 29 4 Belgium 54 5 United States of America 58 6 Canada 64 7 Italy 66 8 Great Britain 69 9 Spain 94 10 Japan 121 11 Finland 39