LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (VN) — Saturday was Derby day for the Dutch in Kentucky. After Mathieu Van Der Poel easily defended his junior world title at the UCI Elite Cyclocross World Championships, countrywoman Marianne Vos did likewise, powering away from the field on the first lap and staying away to keep a solid grip on her own rainbow jersey.
“A world championship is always special,” said Vos, who did not get the expected competition from World Cup champion Katie Compton (USA). “For me, the pressure is getting up every year. Maybe it looks easy, but I was kind of nervous before the start.”
The indomitable Vos got a little help from a huge crash just past the start that took down Britons Gabby Day and Helen Wyman, plus Americans Meredith Miller and Georgia Gould.
And she let Lucie Chainel-Lefevere (France) set the pace early, sitting second wheel with teammate Sanne Van Paassen third. Compton, meanwhile, sat eighth in a long line of riders.
Then, like junior countryman Mathieu Van Der Poel, Vos powered into the lead, taking a lead of more than 10 seconds into the second lap — and an astounding 27 seconds over Compton.
At the flyover Vos had 18 seconds over a three-woman chase — Eva Lechner (Italy), Van Paassen and Chainel-Lefevere. Compton changed bikes and got back after it, but she was already more than a half minute down at the limestone staircase.
Going into the third lap Vos led Lechner and Van Paassen by nearly 30 seconds, with Chainel-Lefevere just behind. Katerina Nash (Czech Republic) was fifth at 42, with Compton sixth at 50.
Chainel-Lefevere crashed heavily early in the lap, on a left-hand corner, and dropped out of the chase.
At the end of lap three, with three laps remaining. Vos was still on her own, 51 seconds ahead of Lechner and Van Paassen. Compton was on her own in fourth, chasing at 1:01.
Lechner began making little mistakes, and Compton joined the chase, then slipped past the Italian and into third, behind Van Paassen.
Going into two to go Compton finally found her legs — she escaped the others and rode into second. But she was more than a minute behind Vos and running out of course.
Vos was making no mistakes, riding as though she were on rails and running powerfully up the limestone staircase, as the circuit began to show less snow and more dirt. Compton was solidly in second, with Lechner, Nash, Van Paassen and Chainel-Lefevre battling for third.
But the American was making no headway — at the barriers she was 1:12 behind Vos, who was hearing the bell for last lap.
Vos took the opportunity to grab a fresh bike for the final go-round, but Compton kept going. Heading round to the barriers, the Dutchwoman had a look around to see if anyone was in her ZIP code — no one was — and then settled back into her rhythm.
She crossed alone for the win, saluting the crowd with a deep bow, arms flung wide.
“I was surprised that I could take such a big gap in one lap,” Vos said. “But of course then you have to keep concentrated and keep going to the finish, because anything can happen in a cyclocross race, especially with these conditions. You can crash, you can have a flat tire … so I was not sure until the last lap. It’s not as easy as it seems, maybe.”
Asked what someone would have to do to beat her, Vos quipped, “Ride faster than me.”
Compton hung on for second at 1:31, smiling ruefully and fist-pumping for the spectators. And behind, Chainel-Lefevre lucked into third as Nash, hamstrung by a mechanical, tried valiantly to scoot across for the final podium position … but had to settle for fourth.
Compton said the course was “super technical” and demanded focus.
“I had a really good start, and then I just had a few little mechanical issues in the beginning and I lost some time,” Compton said. “That course, it’s really hard to pass, since it’s like a one-line, slippery course, so I just tried to kind of regroup. I think I found my rhythm about halfway through and just started chasing people down.”
Despite finishing second to Vos yet again, Compton said she was content with the silver.
“I’m actually really happy. I mean, getting second to Marianne, I’m getting used to that. And she’s fast, and she’s so good at this, so it’s like — if I’m going to get second to anybody, Marianne’s a good person to get second to,” she said.
Editor’s note: Stay tuned for more from Louisville.