There’s an old Dutch saying that notes that when two dogs are fighting for a bone, it’s often the third dog that ends up getting it.
Holland’s Marianne Vos may have remembered that old line when she sat firmly in the middle of what appeared to be a battle for the women’s world cyclocross championship between Germany’s Hanka Kupfernagel and American Katie Compton on Sunday in Hoogerheide, in the Netherlands.
Because of the bitter cold, the Hoogerheide course remained hard and fast for the women’s race, and was likely to remain the way for the following men’s event.
After a 40-minute race that saw the women favored to win this year’s rainbow jersey emerge at the front, it was Vos who scampered across the line ahead Kupfernagel and Compton to take the second world cyclocross title of her career.
“We should have these in Holland more often,” Vos quipped, recalling that her last title was won in Zeddam, the Netherlands, in 2006.
Fast startWhile Vos was by no means a surprise winner — she remains the only woman in the history of the sport to have earned rainbow jerseys on the road, the track and in cyclocross — she was not counted as the favorite to win the title in Hoogerheide this year.
That distinction probably fell to either defending world champion Kupfernagel, Compton or Vos’s Dutch teammate Daphny van den Brand, the three of whom have consistently battled for top honors in the season-long UCI World Cup series.
Vos, too, was among those lining up near the front of the 38-rider field and that prime starting position proved to be invaluable. Compton was near the front through the first hard right-hand turn that came 200 meters up a paved uphill local street in Hoogerheide. Kupfernagel, Vos, Van den Brand and France’s Christel Ferrier-Bruneau were right on her wheel. Further back in the field, a crash in the turn in the turn, causing a big split that left several riders, including former world champion Maryline Salvetat chasing for the rest of the race.
Compton, however, had already established her rhythm and quickly set about building a lead over the rest of the favorites. Within a lap-and-half, the American had a solid 15-second advantage over Kupfernagel, Vos and Ferrier-Bruneau.
“I know a lot of people said that this fast surface would hurt me, that I would have the advantage if I rode in mud, but I only end up riding mud in Europe,” Compton, who won the silver medal in 2007, said. “This is an easy course, to be sure, but it’s sort of a Colorado course, so I’m used to riding on surface like this.”
Over the course of another lap, Compton showed she was well suited to the conditions, extending her lead to 17 seconds, as Kupfernagel chased with Vos and Ferrier-Bruneau clamped firmly to her wheel. Another 15 seconds back, a chase group including Van den Brand and American Rachel Lloyd was in hot pursuit.
“It’s because Daphny was back there,” said Kupfernagel, “that Marianne had no reason to pull. I don’t fault her for that.”
Hanka the workhorse
As Compton continued to ride on her own, Kupfernagel never stopped her own solo effort.
“The French girl wouldn’t — or couldn’t — pull, Marianne had no reason to pull and I knew Daphny was back there somewhere,” Kupfernagel said. “I didn’t want find myself sprinting against two Dutch girls.”
Indeed, Kupfernagel finally began to show signs of tiring when Vos encouraged her to continue the chase.
“I saw that we were closing in on Katie,” Vos said.
And by the end of the third lap, Kupfernagel had, indeed, closed the gap, catching the American on hard dirt that lead to one of the many paved sections of the course. The surface made it difficult for Compton to shed her new companions. She continued to pull at the front for another half-lap and then a somewhat-rested Kupfernagel took over.
Kupfernagel was aggressive throughout and even managed to gain a small advantage over Compton on at least two occasions. Vos, however, stayed closely on the German’s wheel, a career’s worth of track and road racing skills that proved valuable on Sunday.
Compton fought back both times, never allowing Kupfernagel to gain more than a few seconds and countered with her own increase in tempo in response. Kupfernagel would have none of that, though, and powered past.
“I wanted to make it hard for both of them,” said Kupfernagel. “I know what kind of sprinter Marianne is and Katie has beaten me in a sprint this year, too. I wanted to make it hard, but I didn’t make it hard enough, I guess.”
For all of the jockeying, the three entered the last stretch of pavement together. They negotiated the 200-meter uphill stretch, hit the turn and then Vos charged. It was clear that the Dutch rider had the advantage, a natural sprinter with very little time in the wind.
Both Kupfernagel and Compton responded to the attack, but Vos held them off, with the German taking second and the American rounding out the podium.
“Sure, it’s frustrating, but it was a good ride,” said Compton. “It’s been a good year and the bronze is nothing to be too disappointed with. There were tactics, but I rode a good race. The work fell to Hanka and me and you can’t do much to make someone pull … with the Daphny back there, too, it’s not like we could do a track stand in the road.”
No, and besides, that probably would have played into Vos’ hands as well.
Besides Compton, American Georgia Gould finished in the second chase group at 1:02, Sue Butler was at 2:04 and Laura Van Gilder was at 2:57.
Rachel Lloyd, in what may be her last race before retirement, was 11th, at 32 seconds.
Lloyd said she finished at the end of the chase group “because I made a dumb mistake. For some reason I thought the fifth lap was the last and I sprinted like crazy at the end … no one came by me and then I realized that we were still going, that I had another lap to go.”
1. Marianne Vos (NETHERLANDS) in 0:42:39
2. Hanka Kupfernagel (GERMANY) at 00:01
3. Katherine Compton (UNITED STATES OF AMERICA) at 00:02
4. Sanne Van Paassen (NETHERLANDS) at 00:29
5. Caroline Mani (FRANCE) at 00:29
6. Sanne Cant (BELGIUM) at 00:29
7. Brand Daphny Van Den (NETHERLANDS) at 00:30
8. Mirjam Melchers-van Poppel (NETHERLANDS) at 00:30
9. Eva Lechner (ITALY) at 00:31
10. Maryline Salvetat (FRANCE) at 00:31
11. Rachel Lloyd (UNITED STATES OF AMERICA) at 00:32
12. Christel Ferrier-bruneau (FRANCE) at 00:37
13. Georgia Gould (UNITED STATES OF AMERICA) at 01:02
14. Nikki Harris (GREAT BRITAIN) at 01:13
15. Joyce Vanderbeken (BELGIUM) at 01:34
16. Helen Wyman (GREAT BRITAIN) at 02:03
17. Susan Butler (UNITED STATES OF AMERICA) at 02:04
18. Wendy Simms (CANADA) at 02:30
19. Laura Van Gilder (UNITED STATES OF AMERICA) at 02:57
20. Pauline Ferrand Prevot (FRANCE) at 02:58
21. Natasha Elliott (CANADA) at 02:58
22. Mika Ogishima (JAPAN) at 03:29
23. Sabrina Schweizer (GERMANY) at 03:38
24. Gabriella Day (GREAT BRITAIN) at 03:39
25. Veronica Alessio (ITALY) at 04:04
26. Ayako Toyooka (JAPAN) at 04:05
27. Daniela Bresciani (ITALY) at 04:06
28. Milena Cavani (ITALY) at 04:06
29. Elke Riedl (AUSTRIA) at 05:10
30. Francesca Cucciniello (ITALY) at 05:11
31. Pepper Harlton (CANADA) at 05:24
32. Jana Kyptova (CZECH REPUBLIC) at 05:43
33. Nadia Triquet-claude (FRANCE) at 06:09
34. Lise MÜller (SWITZERLAND) at 06:20
35. Katrin Leumann (SWITZERLAND) at 07:25