It was another day of great results for the Great Britain Cycling Team at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Ostend, Belgium, with Tom Pidcock involved in an exciting battle for bronze in the elite men’s race and Anna Kay finishing in eighth place in the under-23 women’s race.
Pidcock started well from the gun but was shuffled back by the time the race hit the sand section while the two favourites – Wout Van Aert (Belgium) and Mathieu Van Der Poel (Netherlands) – firmly established themselves at the front of the race, creating a significant gap before the end of the opening lap.
Pidcock finished lap one placed in tenth but battled hard to gain three places to cross the line at the end of lap three in seventh place and joining the chase group. Lap four saw Pidcock power away from the chasers, gaining in on Toon Aerts (Belgium), who was sat in third place, and very much back in the running for a podium position at the halfway point.
It was the bridge section in lap six where Pidcock made his way briefly into third position, but Aerts overtook again in the sand, creating a small gap of seven seconds as they went into lap seven. From there, Aerts was able to extend his lead and, despite Pidcock’s best efforts to close it down in the final lap, cross the line for the bronze medal with Pidcock finishing in fourth. Van Der Poel took gold, with Van Aert in silver medal position.
Pidcock said: “I got a good start, but I just didn’t commit so I went back a bit then in the first corner I was on the left and in the deep sand, I had to get off and run a bit, so I was far behind and it took me a while to get going. I got to Toon (Aerts) and then we hit the sand and I didn’t make it to the sea, so I did a really bad sand lap and lost some time. On the last lap, I was literally one or two seconds behind him – I’d pulled back 12 seconds – but coming into the finish he was in front of me so I wasn’t going to catch him.
Anna Kay, Josie Nelson and Harriet Harnden all had brilliant starts to the under-23 women’s race, with all three comfortably in the top ten leaving the sand section and taking on the bridge. The Dutch rider Inge Van Der Heijden threw down the challenge in the second half of lap one, extending her lead to five seconds as she began the second lap, with Kay in sixth position, Harnden in ninth and Nelson in 16th.
Van Der Heijden continued to extend her lead, with Kay hanging on just behind the chase group of three riders as the race hit the halfway mark. From there, the chasers caught the leader so going into the final lap there was a lead group of four riders with Kay sitting in seventh place, just under a minute behind.
In the final lap, Kay lost a place to cross the line in eighth place. It was a Dutch one-two once again, with Fem Van Empel taking the rainbow jersey ahead of Aniek Van Alphen who took silver. Blanka Kata Vas from Hungary won silver medal. Harriet Harnden finished in 13th place and Josie Nelson finished in 22nd.