UCI World Cup Cyclocross round 3 – Milton Keynes
This weekend saw me travel a not inconsiderable distance down south for a small cross race, the things we do for the love of this sport, as Milton Keynes hosted the first ever World Cup CX event outside of the mainland of Europe.
For me the whole event started Friday night, after picking up the media pack and arriving at my hotel to find that I had BKCP – Powerplus, Corendon – Kwadro, the Kevin Pauwels fan club and none other than Trek factory rider Katie Compton for company, an interesting mix if your a rookie like I am in continental CX racing. With the Pauwels fan club the hotel quickly run out of Leffe beer…. lessons to be learned there to all hoteliers in Milton Keynes I think. Meeting Katie in the hallways was a pleasure and I can’t thank her and her husband Mark enough for taking the time to chat and have pics taken.
If your reading this then you may have been following Milton Keynes World Cup CX twitter page showing progress on the building of the course, but if not the course was an absolute stunner, a triumph with off camber descents, long run ups and small steep evil ascents that would test the riders, all this was before the rain came and made it even better(?) turning the twisting and testing course into a mud bath that would sap more watts & energy from the riders legs.
I had never shot a UCI event before and the organisation and scale of the event is amazing but it was the racing that shone brightest on the day showing what the Elite level CX riders can do with both the mens and the womens Elite races ending in sprint finishes. This event saw the crowds come in force, some 10,000 strong I heard, ringing cow bells revelling in the mud and cheering on the British champs Helen Wyman and Ian Fields hoping for a British podium or maybe, just maybe, a British win.
The race could be tracked not just by looking at the giant TV screens but by listening to the crowds as they cheered riders on all around the course, the gasps when Helen Wyman fell on the opening lap could be heard at the far end of the course and then like a Mexican wave the sound of cow bells tolled the riders round the course.
The race was a return to form with a strong ride from former World Cup Champ & current US Champ Katie Compton, who after her slow start that saw her in around 8th place or so, saw her battle her way to the front of the race to join current Belgian Champ Sanne Cant who is in sparkling form after her recent win in Koksijde. The race went back and forth between Sanne and Katie with each putting in attacks and leading the race but it came to a sprint finish between the pair and needed a photo to decide who was the victor, with Sanne getting the nod for the win. Both the riders looked drained after it was over, Katie acknowledged she couldn’t have put in any more efforts afterwards, but then came the moment the crowd was waiting for as Nikki Harris rolled in to take 3rd place and the final podium step for Britain.
With this victory saw Sanne take overall lead in WC standings and saw her don the White jersey on the Podium.
The mens Elite race had high expectations and for me delivered, the pace was electrifying from the start and just kept going until the very end. Again drama on the first lap with crowd (co) favourite and Belgian champ Sven Nys have mechanical issues with his chain and taking an age to be put right. Sven never panicked and in typical Sven(ness) style fought back ending the day in 8th place. The battle for the lead was between fellow Belgians and teammates of Sunweb, Kevin Pauwels, Klaas Vantornout and FDJ rider Francis Mourey (Fr) with Pauwels edging the sprint for the win ahead of Vantornout. The crowds however had eyes mainly on just one rider, Ian Fields responded to the fans cheering, screams and calls for him all the way round the course gaining for his efforts his highest placing in a World cup event with 12th. Ian was clearly emotional with this experience and teary eyed at the podium ceremony unable to initially speak to the expectant crowd, finally thanking them for the cheers and hoped he lived unto expectations, Ian….chapeau sir….I had tears in my eyes after this speech.
All I can really say is same time next year?