Last year’s Junior champion Isabella Holmgren fought from 20th to fourth place in Sunday’s penultimate race of the 2024 UCI Cyclocross World Championships in Tabor, South Bohemia, Czechia. Zoe Bäckstedt of Great Britain won the rainbow jersey in a canter, soloing right from Lap 1. Isabella’s sister Ava came in 13th.
The Holmgren sisters’ main competition would come from last year’s runner-up Bäckstedt, Dutch rider Leonie Bentveld, Luxembourg’s Marie Schreiber and Czech Kristýna Zemanová, who was third last season.
Madeleine Pollack joined compatriots Ava and Isabella Holmgren in a small field of 31.
Ava and Isabella started on the front row side by side. Schreiber loves to claim hole shots, and it was no different on Sunday. Bäckstedt, Zemanová and Bentveld was the order with Ava sixth. Isabella was down in 20th. Schreiber and Bäckstedt powered open a gap. Ava slipped down a couple of spots and Isabella surfed her way to 14th. Bäckstedt dropped the Luxembourger and found the Czech her closest pursuer, 23 seconds in arrears at the completion of Lap 1. Ava was up to 5th leading a group of four and Isabella was 10th, with Pollack 29th.
Bentveld raced only a few seconds behind Zemanová, as Bäckstedt continued to churn out front. Schreiber lurked in fourth. The Dutch rider found the Czech. Ava dropped a couple of the Belgians in the group she led into Lap 2 of 4 and set her sights on Czech Simona Spesna in sixth place. Isabella passed her sister and took over the Spesna-chasing duties. At the midway point of the race, Bäckstedt had nearly a minute’s lead.
On the penultimate lap, Isabella came around Spesna and looked to grab Lauren Molengraaf in fifth. Ava continued to sift down the order. Did she have a mechanical problem? Bentveld and Zemanová continued their private battle 22 seconds ahead of Schreiber. Isabella dropped Molengraaf; Schreiber was next on her list.
Bäckstedt heard the bell with a 1:06 buffer. Isabella crossed the line nine seconds adrift of Schreiber. Sister Ava was 13th. Zemanová kept pushing Bentveld in the runner-up scrap and finally opened a gap. The race leader took one more clean bike. Isabella nabbed Schreiber but had to run where the Luxembourger rode. But finally the Canadian prevailed and finished a half minute ahead of Schreiber and 13 seconds behind third place…