Dutch Women Sweep Podium in Women’s Under 23 Division
Britain’s Thomas Pidcock took command of the men’s elite race and rode away from the field to win Sunday at the 2022 Walmart UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships at Centennial Park in Fayetteville, Arkansas, U.S.A.
In the women’s Under 23 race, Puck Pieterse led a sweep of the podium places by the Netherlands. Shirin van Anrooij finished second and teammate Fem Van Empel third.
It was the first world championship title in the men’s elite race for Great Britain. World championship for cyclo-cross began in 1951. In 2020, the 22-year-old Pidcock won the silver medal, losing to Remi Evenpoel, who decided not to travel to the United States to compete this year.
“From the start, my legs felt good,” said Pidcock, who won the gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games in mountain biking. “For the first half of the race, the Belgians were trying things. At a certain point, I had to make a decision.”
Pidcock’s decision was to accelerate and use the 39 steps on the hill staircase to make a push. In doing so, he helped explode the pack of Belgians led by Toon Aerts, Michael Vanthourenhout and Eli Iserbyt.
Iserbyt, the winner of this season’s World Cup series, would go on to finish third on the podium. Usually known for his toughness in bad weather, the sunny, 59-degree day was vastly different from what Iserbyt and most of the riders had faced the past four weeks in races in Belgium, France and the Netherlands.
“I did the best I could today to be honest, I am happy with the result,” Iserbyt said.
The “39” feature on the 1.8-mile (3 kilometer course) is about halfway into the circuit. The following steep drop off the top of the staircase led to an attack by Pidcock. For the final three laps of the race, he built up his lead to 30 seconds over Lars van der Haar of the Netherlands. Van der Haar would outsprint Iserbyt, who came home 32 seconds behind the winner.
Team USA placed two riders in the top 20. Americans Curtis White of Beverly, Mass. finished 12thoverall, Eric Brunner of Boulder, Colo., finished 17th, both under two minutes behind Pidcock.
“I’m happy with the way I rode today. I put a lot of things together today,” said White, whose sister Emma White was an Olympic bronze medallist in track cycling. “The crowd gave me extra motivation for sure. I must have heard my name a thousand times out there. It was so great to have the Worlds for cross on our soil. So proud of the way the spectators showed up for us. It shows cyclo-cross continues to be a popular sport in our country.”
Van der Haar said he likes riding in the United States for a lot of reasons.
“In the U.S., they cheer for all the riders, not just the American riders or big stars,” said van der Haar. “Today was an amazing atmosphere. There were spectators along the line the whole time.”
Throughout the 1.8-mile course, flags from 22 countries flew from Belgium to Ireland to the Netherlands to Colombia to the United States. A total of 36 riders from 14 countries competed in the race. It was the most countries represented in any of the six division races.
In the women’s Under 23 race, the Dutch trio took off early in the race and continued to build their lead lap over lap until van Adrooij and van Empel got tangled up a short steep hill with quick turns, which created a gap for Pieterse to ride away.
“It was expected that we would be 1-2-3,” said Pieterse, who added the three are great friends and have fun off the bike.
“Because of the pandemic, we haven’t had big crowds in Europe for races,” said van Empel. “Today was different and very exciting to race with so many people here in Fayetteville. The Americans have great fans.”
Fayetteville is only the second American city to host the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships following a successful event in Louisville, Ky. in 2013. In 2021, Fayetteville was anointed as the first “UCI Bike City” in the United States.
“Experience Fayetteville and its host organizations are thrilled with the results of this weekend. We hosted the world. We had athletes from more than 30 countries participating and you could feel the energy throughout our community. This weekend provided a unique experience to showcase Northwest Arkansas to the world. I’d like to thank the Union Cycliste Internationale and USA Cycling for their confidence in us. We’d also like to thank the City of Fayetteville, our volunteers, and our corporate partners, including our title sponsor Walmart and Medalist Sports.”