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Gallery: The mud, pain and glory of the Cyclocross World Championships

4 Feb 2020

Testing conditions for riders, bikes and groupsets in the Swiss mud at the 2020 Cyclocross World Championships

Words Jack Elton-Walters Photography Joris Knapen/Shimano

The weekend's Cyclocross World Championships showed the best of the sport, with exciting racing, muddy conditions and hard fought wins.

In the men's race the win was a foregone conclusion as Mathieu van der Poel simply got further and further ahead of the field from the gun and never looked like surrendering his lead. He even had time to make a bonus bike change with half a lap to go, surely with the sole purpose of having a clean bike to pose with on the finish line.


In that sense, the ride for second place was arguably more impressive as Tom Pidcock attacked a group of four Belgians to ride clear in conditions that suited his abilities. That group of four included Wout van Aert – WorldTour road rider and three-time Cycloross World Champion, Toon Aerts – this season's Cyclocross World Cup series winner – and Eli Iserbyt, Pidcock's long-time rival and previous U23 Cyclocross World Champion.


The previous day, the Dutch showed all other nations – including nearest rivals Belgium – just how dominant they are as a group of four orange-clad riders ripped the women's race to pieces. That group reduced to three as Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, Annemarie Worst and Lucinda Brand pushed clear and it was soon obvious that barring disaster this would be the day's podium. The order in which they would finish, however, wasn't decided until the final few hundred metres.


With the win guaranteed for the Netherlands no matter who prevailed, there was no teamwork between the trio as they repeatedly attacked each other and tried to use the technical elements of the course to their advantage – looking to dismount first before foot climbs, take the best lines and force their teammate-rivals to expend energy getting back on terms.

Over on Red Bull TV, if Rob Hatch's commentary was to be believed, Alvarado was practically useless at sprinting in comparison to the riders around her, but she emphatically dispelled that notion by rounding Worst and powering clear in the home straight.


Worst was clearly, and understandably, devastated to have come so close to the win and still looked upset by the time she took her place on the second step of the podium, silver proving little consolation as she stood next to the jersey she came so close to claiming.


Both elite wins had more than the riders' nationality in common as Van der Poel and Alvarado – along with many other riders across the weekend – rode Shimano-equipped bikes and the brand's S-Phyre cyclocross shoes.

Using many of the same parts we see raced on the smooth tarmac at the Tour de France, the componentry offered by Shimano is clearly more than capable of taking the beating it receives over the course of a cyclocross race, with a little help from a mechanic with a jet washer every lap or so.