January 29, 2017 (Bieles, Luxembourg) – Michael van den Ham from Edmonton, Alberta, was the top Canadian on Day 2 of the 2017 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Bieles, Luxembourg. Van den Ham finished 38th in the Elite men’s race followed by reigning national champ, Jeremy Martin of Quebec City in 47th with Mark McConnell of Calgary in 55th.
Van Den Ham © Michal Cerveny
Wout van Aert, 22, of Belgium defended his title, winning on the muddy and slick course ahead of Dutch rider Mathieu van der Poel in a race marked by multiple flats and other mechanicals as overnight rain and warming temperatures turned the racing into a muddy affair.
Wout van Aert (Belgium) © Cor Vos
Van der Poel, also 22, took an early lead but Van Aert reeled him in and took over when his Dutch rival punctured and never looked back. His win gave Belgium both Elite wins and rainbow jerseys as Sanne Cant won the Elite women’s race as well over Dutch rival Marianne Vos.
Final podium © Cor Vos
Speaking to Pedal following the race, national champ, Martin said “it was a tough one! Brutally fun, but lots of bad luck and I could not move forward as I was hoping. Everyone had problems with flat tires today, so having a smooth ride was the winning strategy today. I finished far from my expectations, but still tankful to be racing in Bieles today.”
Jeremy Martin © Michal Cerveny
As expected, the course was extremely challenging, not aided by the conditions. “I would say [it was] way harder than it looks. Conditions were challenging, but the drops were very steep and very off-camber. This course was a real puzzle,” added Martin.
Mark McConnell (Canada) © Cor Vos
McConnell described the experience telling Cycling Canada, “It was really muddy today, but I’ve never had more fun at a race, I think. There was obstacle after obstacle, but the crowd was fantastic. I had the worst luck…I crashed at the start and had a flat, but it was just carnage today. I was just doing everything to focus on my lines and keep it upright.”
Trevor ODonnell © Michal Cerveny
Earlier in the day the U23 Men’s race saw Trevor O’Donnell of Barrie, Ontario, Canada’s sole contender, finish 46th, at 3 laps down on winner Joris Nieuwenhuis of the Netherlands. O’Donnell echoed Martin’s comments about the course, saying, “The course was a bit harder than it looked, lots of tricky bumps and ruts the camera doesn’t show. There were a bunch of ruts forming at the bottom of the downhills and all of the corners were very slick [with] mud. Definitely more of a skills then legs day.”
After a bit of an excited start, O’Donnell settled into a rhythm, despite feeling his earlier efforts. “I nailed my lines and left it all on the course. Happy with that,” O’Donnell told Pedal post-race.
The 2018 Cyclo-cross World Championships are set to be held in Valkenburg, The Netherlands on February 3 & 4, 2018 – results here.