This year was a first for under 23 women in cyclocross – thanks to campaigning from representatives such as Helen Wyman who sits on the UCI Cyclocross Commission – they had the chance to compete for their own title as opposed to wrestling it out with seniors.
It was also a first for eighteen year old, Evie Richards – in more ways than one. The British Cycling Olympic Development XC rider raced to the top spot after breaking away early in the event.
Downpour meant that conditions over the course in Zolder, Belgium, where wet and very muddy – therefore challenging, but it took only one lap for Richards to make her move and take the lead from Italiy’s Chaira Teocchi, remaining at the front for the rest of the event.
She told British Cycling after the race: “I started quite far at the back. I was third row so I didn’t really know where I was to be honest. I didn’t realise I was in first and I’m not a fan of riding in a group. I just wanted to make a break and just get away and see how long I could last. I lasted four laps!”
She added: “It feels amazing! This is my first cyclo-cross race abroad so to get a jersey for my first race is incredible and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”Alice Barnes was ninth, Hannah Payton 12th, Ffion James 15th with Bethany Crumpton 25th. The race, being the first of it’s kind, gave the younger riders a chance to shine as opposed to racing alongside much more experienced riders.
As Helen Wyman told us when the introduction of the race was announced: “Having an under 23 category at Worlds is what we’ve needed for a long time. It is quite tough… there is the odd exception, like Marianne [Vos] won one Worlds when she was 18, but others are older. A lot of the podium winners are well into their late 20s, early 30s, it’s really important that you encourage riders and give them something to aim for that is more achievable.”
It is possible that the U23 women’s race wasn’t run entirely on a fair playing field – as the UCI have confirmed that one rider’s bike has been detained and is under investigation for ‘technical fraud’.
The UCI have confirmed that it was not the bike of any of the riders on the podium and sources suggest the Belgium Cycling Federation have confirmed the rider in question to be home nation competitor Femke Van den Driessche.
The only statement from the governing body so far, reads: “The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) confirms that pursuant to the UCI’s Regulations on technological fraud a bike has been detained for further investigation following checks at the Women’s Under 23 race of the 2016 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships.
“This does not concern any of the riders on the podium. Further details will be shared in due course.”
Nikki Harris Fifth for Seniors
In the senior race, recently crowned British National Cyclocross champ and recent World Cup round winner,
Harris spent much of the race in a leading group but De Jong chased them and finally succeeded and set a distance between the rest of the riders and herself in the final lap. Nine time British Champion Helen Wyman took 11th place, and spent a lap at the start in the lead.