British champion Helen Wyman has won bronze at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Hoogerheide while the seemingly unstoppable Marianne Vos stormed to her sixth consecutive gold medal and seventh in total.
Wyman became only the second ever elite British medallist at a World Championships after powering beyond Belgian champion Sanne Cant on the final lap to claim the final place on the podium behind Vos and Italy’s Eva Lechner.
Meanwhile, in the men’s race, Czech rider Zdenek Stybar prevailed in a race-long battle with defending champion Sven Nys (Belgium) to win his third career gold medal, despite only deciding to race just days before.
Split over two days in Hoogerheide, Netherlands, Vos was favourite to retain her rainbow jersey in front of her home fans on the Saturday and she delivered in stunning style.
Wyman set the early pace, with Vos and Lechner in pursuit, although another pre-race favourite, American Katie Compton, suffered a disastrous first lap which included an early slip of the pedals and a collision with diminutive Czech rider Pavla Havlikova.
Vos began to assert her dominance, as she pulled clear of Wyman and then highlighted her near-faultless technique on the first off-camber section to drop Lechner.
Thereafter there was only going to be one winner, as the Dutch wonder woman showed why she is regarded as the greatest female cyclist of all time with an almost perfect ride to the finish.
The race for the remaining medals remained heated however, with Compton clawing her way back into contention and Wyman and Cant leading the pursuit of Lechner.
Overall World Cup winner Compton bridged to the duo, but with Lechner fading Wyman and Cant dropped the American on the penultimate lap as they sought a silver medal.
Her exertions in moving back through the field took their toll on Compton as her challenge faded, but Wyman suffered no such problem as she held off the challenge of Cant on the final lap to take third, ten seconds behind Lechner and three ahead of Cant.
Fellow Brit Nikki Harris also recovered from a disappointing start to claim fifth, a further minute behind, while Compton eventually rolled in ninth.
Elite men’s race
All eyes were on Belgian legend Nys the following day, as he began the defence of his rainbow jersey on the muddy course in Hoogerheide.
And, while Frenchman Francis Mourey set the early pace, Nys and compatriot Rob Peeters led the chase just behind with Stybar – lacking a front row start having only competed in a handful of ‘cross races this season – skilfully moving through the bunch to join the two Belgians.
World Cup winner Lars van der Haar (Netherlands) narrowly avoided an early crash when Czech rider Martin Bina crashed just in front of him, and alongside fellow Dutchman Thijs van Amerongen also made the split.
Belgium also had strength in numbers, with Klaas Vantornout, Kevin Pauwels and Tom Meeusen also in the front group, although two-time champion Niels Albert suffered a poor start and found himself stuck in the bunch.
Stybar and Nys quickly established a small lead however, catching and passing Mourey who chased hard alongside van der Haar to stay in contention.
A crash for van der Haar saw him lose time however, while Mourey’s early pace proved to be to his detriment as he struggled to keep in touch with the two leaders.
At the front, Nys led the way with Stybar – who admitted pre-race his technical skills were rusty having committed to the road season instead – clinging on.
He remained in contention however, and took the lead after a bike change with five laps to go with Nys and van der Haar in hot pursuit.
Nys dropped the hammer however, finally dropping the Dutchman, and with Mourey fading further behind Kevin Pauwels took advantage to bridge to van der Haar.
Both lost time after a coming together however, while Stybar also escaped a slip in the mud which saw Nys earn a momentary lead.
A big attack by the Belgian looked set to secure a third career gold medal, but he too then fell and Stybar seized the initiative.
Accelerating away in the final stages, Nys held on but Stybar found an extra gear when it mattered to break clear and solo to victory by 12 seconds.
Further back, Pauwels rolled in third, his third bronze medal in four years, while van der Haar eventually finished sixth.
British champion Ian Field, who told RCUK he had been suffering from flu in recent weeks, finished 29th.
UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships 2014
Elite women’s result
1) Marianne Vos (NED) – 39.25
2) Eva Lechner (ITA) +1.07
3) Helen Wyman (GBR) +1.17
4) Sanne Cant (BEL) +1.20
5) Nikki Harris (GBR) +2.33
6) Lucie Chainel-Lefevre (FRA) +2.44
7) Loes Sels (BEL) +2.47
8) Thalita De Jong (NED) +2.52
9) Katie Compton (USA) +2.58
10) Caroline Mani (FRA) +2.59
26) Gabby Durrin (GBR) +4.47
35) Hannah Payton (GBR) +6.56
Elite men results
1) Zdenek Stybar (CZE) – 1.05.29hrs
2) Sven Nys (BEL) +12”
3) Kevin Pauwels (BEL) +40”
4) Klaas Vantornout (BEL) +59”
5) Tom Meeusen (BEL) +1.07
6) Lars Van Der Haar (NED) +1.22
7) Rob Peeters (BEL) +1.43
8) Francis Mourey (FRA) +1.53
9) Radomir Simunek (CZE) +2.04
10) Wietse Bosmans (BEL) +2.11
29) Ian Field (GBR) +4.38
46) David Fletcher (GBR) -1 lap