Among the mud and the crowds, the Flying Dutchman claims his third consecutive European Elite Championship in Silvelle. Eva Lechner nails an outstanding second place, as Kastelijn takes the European title. The Netherlands sweeps the medal stand, with four titles out of six
Anyone who had a first-hand experience of the golden age of cyclo-cross in Silvelle was surely expecting a wonderful show. And so it was, in this small town in the province of Padua, which has been a venue for the leading specialty of winter cycling for the last 40 years.
The competitive events (Elite, U23 and Juniors) closed a thrilling weekend with six titles up for grabs, and the top names in European (and, therefore, worldwide) cyclo-cross battling on a difficult course, which the mud made even trickier. After the pouring rain on Friday, the sun shone brightly on Saturday for the Masters’ races, and even more on Sunday, drawing thousands of cheering fans along the course.
The values of the discipline were tested on the field in Silvelle, and it could not be otherwise. Mathieu Van der Poel scored a record third consecutive European Elite title, while his fellow countrywoman Yara Kastelijn crushed the competition in the Womens’ race, preceding Eva Lechner. The U23 titles were awarded to France’s Mickael Crispin and to Netherlands’ Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado. Thibau Nys (born into art) and Puck Pieterse were crowned Junior Champions.
In the battle between Belgium and the Netherlands, the latter swept the medal stand once again, with an outstanding four titles out of six.
THIRD TIME’S A CHARM: VAN DER POEL DEFEATS BELGIUM
A great show, full of suspense, in the Elite Men race. And eventually Mathieu Van der Poel scored another win, picking up his third consecutive European title (a unique achievement for this record-breaking athlete). Eli Iserbyt held his banner high on the muddy course, giving up to the world champion’s class only on the last lap.
The plot of the competition has been clear since the beginning: Van der Poel against Belgium. Six Belgians tried to put the World champion in a difficult position. Van der Poel’s first acceleration comes after six minutes of race; Iserbyt and Michael Vanthourenhout are the only ones who can keep up with him, staying close to his wheel.
As the race suddenly becomes more tactical, Quinten Hermans, Laurens Sweeck and Toon Aerts are back in the game, in a true Belgian encirclement against the “dreaded” Van der Poel. Iserbyt doesn’t just want to play a secondary role and repeatedly tries to raise the pace, without – however – troubling the Dutchman.
The race is decided on the last lap: Van der Poel puts his foot down, Iserbyt tries to hang on but eventually loses a few meters and no longer manages to bridge the gap. Belgium’s Laurens Sweeck finishes in third, while Tom Pidcock, one of the favourites, has to settle for the eight place, behind six Belgian riders.
“I am happy about this jersey,” Van der Poel said, “although it was really hard today, on a heavy course, where it was not easy to make a difference, also because of the top-level competition. Winning here is the best encouragement to continue the cyclo-cross season in the view of the World Championships. My goals for 2020 also include road Classics, and the MTB event at the Olympics. Off-road racing will probably be my main focus for next year, and I may also consider the MTB World Cup. But meanwhile, I just want to enjoy this jersey, and an amazing day with a wonderful audience. Top-level cyclo-cross should come to Italy more often.”
A FANCY DAY FOR LECHNER (SILVER), WHILST KASTELIJN TAKES EUROPEAN TITLE
First, unbeatable, Yara Kastelijn; second Eva Lechner: the Dutch Team monopolized the Women races at the 2019 UEC European Cyclo-cross Championships in Silvelle, whilst Italy celebrated the first medal of this edition thanks to Eva Lechner.
Lechner confirmed her feeling with the Silvelle course, finishing second, after conquering the 2017 edition of the Italian National Championships. Lechner was preceded on the finish line by Kastelijn, whilst the defending champion Annamarie Worst placed third. Fifth place for the World Champion Sanne Cant, after a disappointing performance. Sixth Italy’s Alice Arzuffi.
Kastelijn, Lechner and Worst started in the best way, gaining a big advantage after the first lap, whilst Arzuffi had to trail painstakingly after a difficult start.
Kastelijn set a hectic pace, outdistancing her compatriot Worst, as Lechner, third after the lap 1, conquered the second place overtaking the defending champion in the lap 2. The South Tyrolean rider tried to close the gap in the second part of the race, but Kastelijn soloed on the finish line, leveraging on her magic moment.
“After a good start, I paid for a mistake in the first lap,” said Eva Lechner, “but then I started to close the gap. In the race finale, I really hoped I could bridge up to Kastelijn, trying to put her under pressure. She was stronger, but I really tried until the end, on a course that I have always loved, in front of an outstanding audience. I had never met such cheering crowds in my whole life. Now I hope that Italy hosts such top-level evets more often. This would strongly benefit our movement.”
The new European Champion cannot contain her amazement for a season that even exceeded her expectations: “At the beginning of the year, my goal was to get on the podium in a race broadcasted on TV. This winter season has already given me more than I could ever expect.”
CRISPIN AND ALVARADO ARE CROWNED U23 CHAMPIONS
The French Team joined the group of the victorious nations at the 2019 UEC European Cyclo-cross Championships in the U23 Mens’ race. Mickael Crispin surprised his rivals, winning ahead of Belgian Timo Kielich, second, and his compatriot Antoine Benoist, third, after an astonishing final lap. Fourth place for Belgian Toon Vandebosch.
Benoist, one of the favourites, tried to clip off after just a few metres, but the challenging course in Silvelle stopped him. He was first caught up by Netherlands’ Kamp and by Belgium’s Vandenbosch, and eventually by Crispin and Kielich, who could not keep up with him in the first place. This strategy ultimately paid off: after Kemp gave up and Vandenbosch crashed, Crispin found the energy to launch the final attack, nailing a surprising win. Kielich finished in second, crying. Benoist disappointingly closed in third.
The Netherlands succeeded in the Women’s U23 race: Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado soloed over the finish line after a long fight with Britain’s Anna Kay, whom she could only outdistance in the race finale. This is her second consecutive European title in the U23 category.
Britain’s Kay finished in second, 12” behind. France’s Marion Norbert Riberolle closed in third, 1’02” behind. The first Italian athlete, Francesca Baroni, clinched the sixth place.
20 YEARS LATER, ANOTHER NYS WINS IN SILVELLE. PIETERSE IS THE FIRST JR EUROPEAN CHAMPION
The generations change but the Nys family is destined to inflame the international cyclo-cross competitions for many years to come. Twenty years after the triumph of Sven in Silvelle, in a historical Superprestige round, his son Thibau Nys took the Men’s JR title at the 2019 European Cyclo-cross Championships.
The talented Belgian rider crossed the finish line ahead of fellow Belgian Jente Michels (+9”), after an exciting head-to-head that was only solved on the last lap, while Swiss Dario Lillo clinched third (+1’10”).
“Last week, I was preparing the race looking at my father’s achievement 20 years ago,” said Thibaut, “but I was expecting a fast and technical course, while the mud actually turned the tide. I was happy to experience another great day for our family in Italy.” His father Sven, always by his side, shares the same feelings: “He did a good job, now we’ll see what he can achieve in the future. I have fond memories of Silvelle, and today’s course, in these conditions, would have been appropriate also for Nys senior, especially the one at the end of his career.”
The first historical European Women JR title was awarded here in Silvelle. As predicted, Netherlands’ Pieterse clinched the title preceding France’s Olivia Onesti and her fellow Dutch woman Shirin Van Anrooij, third. A well-deserved honor: “This was the hardest race of my life,” she revealed. Giada Borghesi, 12th, was the first Italian rider on the finish line.
TAKING STOCK OF THE EVENT
At the end of the day, Mauro Zamprogna is still overcome with emotion and pride for organising a successful event.
“Although we still do not have official box-office figures, I think we could say that our goal of having 10,000 spectators for the European Championships has been reached. Our public could enjoy a wonderful day, in an excellent spring-like weather. We could not hope for anything better. It took a great deal of effort, but the outcomes were rewarding, and we are flattered by the words of praise that we received from the European Cycling Union for the organisation. We are left in a state of emotion that will last for years”.