Helen Wyman takes career best bronze in UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships

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Helen Wyman took bronze in the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships, winning Great Britain’s first women’s medal in the discipline since Louise Robinson in 2000.

Fifth place for Nikki Harris completed a superb race for British riders, with Netherlands’ Marianne Vos taking her seventh world title.

Wyman led in the opening lap before the reigning world champion and local woman Vos took control of the bike race, followed by Italy’s Eva Lechner.

Lechner held onto the wheel of Vos for a while but it was only a matter of time before the Dutch rider opened the throttle and took total control.

Behind, Wyman settled into what would become a race-long battle for third spot, first with Belgian Ellen Van Loy, then with her compatriot Sanne Cant.

Further back, world cup winner Katie Compton of the USA had a bad start and was back in the pack, desperate to make an impact.

As the race continued Vos powered away to establish a gap of around minute, with Lechner a lonely second.

Wyman’s battle for third continued, swapping places with Cant throughout the middle of the race. Compton recovered and threatened for bronze but her challenge fell away going into the final lap, leaving the British rider and Cant to battle for the final podium position.

With less than half a lap to go Wyman attacked Cant and opened a gap. Up ahead, Vos celebrated her seventh title, with Lechner coming in over a minute back. Wyman rounded the final corner ahead of Cant, going on to take a landmark bronze medal for a British rider, while Nikki Harris worked her way through the field to finish a fine fifth.

Team manager Phil Dixon paid tribute to Wyman's ride. 

"It's fantastic to have a medal in the team. Good for morale," said Dixon. "Good for the guys going into tomorrow. It's been a long time since we've had a cyclo-cross medal in the camp.

"Credit to Helen. She took the race on at the start, got a really good start, put herself in the mix from the off, which she wanted to do.

"Then she settled a little bit and almost looked like she'd gone too hard early on. She paid for some early efforts a little bit and then regrouped and really drove the last lap and a half in particular.

"She was quite clever really. She's extremely strong in straight lines, very, very powerful - a real good engine. On the last lap she came into a run-up and carried good speed into it."

"She took a couple of bike lengths from Sanne (Cant) then she ran. She ran as hard as she could - she said that she hasn't dug that deep in a long time. When she came over the top of that run up and rode back down she could see that Sanne had dropped her head and she'd got the gap."

Dixon was also impressed by the performance of Nikki Harris, who fought back well after an early crash.

"She got off the line alright but she went down and shook herself up a little bit," Dixon said. "But we saw the strength she had last week in Nommay of coming back through the field and she came back really well to finish fifth."

Great Britain's other two competitors, Gabriella Durrin and Hannah Payton, finished 26th and 35th respectively, Payton in her first world championships outing.

"I thought Hannah did really well," said Dixon. "It's the first time he made the race this year. In previous rounds of the world cup she's been lapped and she didn't get lapped. I think that's a good step forward for Hannah."

Dixon went on to explain the impact of Wyman's medal and express his thanks for the huge British support in Hoogerheide.

"I think Helen's medal will be good for the sport. I think it will have a good impact in terms of people asking questions about cyclo-cross, how do I get involved, and that's important.

"A lot of Brits travelled over here and I'd just like to say thanks on behalf of the riders and the team for their support today."

Earlier, Great Britain’s Thomas Craig finished an impressive 18th place in a thrilling junior men’s world title race which opened proceedings in Hoogerheide.

Craig and his Great Britain teammates Sean Dunlea, Dylan Kerfoot Robson and Jack Ravenscroft were held up behind a crash on the start straight but Craig worked his way back through the field to put in an impressive top 20 performance for the first-year-junior competing in his first world championships.

Jack Ravenscroft was running in 15th place until a heavy crash mid race, finishing in 39th position, one place ahead of teammate Sean Dunlea who found the conditions tough. Dylan Kerfoot-Robson was disqualified after failing to change bikes in the pit lane.

Phil Dixon summed up the mixed fortunes of his junior riders.

"It was a mixed bag - some get the day right, some don't. Two riders got the day right. Jack Ravenscroft and Thomas Craig. They pretty much rode together, swapped places a few times in laps one and two.

"Jack just eked away a little bit on laps three, four and five and had 15th sewn up then he had a big crash and put his knee through the barriers. He didn't really get up for a long time and ended up 39th."

"Thomas Craig - like his old man really - he started really well, put himself in. Probably started a bit quick. It's the biggest bike race that kid's ever done in his life.

"He absorbed the first lap effort in laps two and three and he just got a nice little rhythm through lap four and then lap five he did a good surge forward to finish 18th.

"For a first year junior that was quite a mature ride - he was over the moon with that. He was blown away by the event."

Thijs Aerts took the junior title in a race that was dominated by Belgian riders, with teammates Yannick Peeters and Jelle Schuermans taking silver and bronze while home rider Joris Niewenhuis, who led mid race, just missed out on a podium in a sprint finish for third. Kobe Goosens completed the Belgian domination in fifth position.

Pre-race favourite Adam Toupalik of the Czech Republic, who won the final world cup round in Nommay, tried to get into the lead group in the early part of the race but was no match for the Belgian and Dutch opposition as the race wore on in wet, windy conditions, the Belgian quartet working well to neutralise the threat of Niewenhuis, whose frustration was evident as he crossed the line.


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Elite women

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