Maghalie Rochette found herself swamped by a quintet of riders on the final lap but stole 10th place from a casual Helene Clauzel at the 2024 UCI Cyclocross World Championships in Tabor, South Bohemia, Czechia on Saturday. Fem van Empel romped to victory to repeat as world champion, beating her compatriots Lucinda Brand and Puck Pieterse.
With riders like 2023 champ van Empel, Brand, Pieterse and Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, the Dutch seemed to have a lock on the rainbow jersey. Belgium’s Lauren Verdonschot was the only rider not wearing orange on the front row.
The Canadian contingent was Maghalie Rochette, ninth last year; Sidney McGill, 25th in 2023; Christiane Bilodeau and Katelyn Walcroft.
Rochette started in the second row. Alvarado seized the hole shot on Lap 1, but the world champion soon took over. The orange train was van Empel, Alvarado, Brand and Pieterse early in the opening circuit, Rochette ninth and McGill 11th. Italian Sara Casasola was the first non-Dutch rider, Verdonschot and Rochette just behind her. Van Empel put Brand and Pieterse in her rearview mirror, Alvarado noe back with Mannon Bakker and Casasola. By the end of the lap Rochette found Clauzel passing her for the first time. McGill was now in 20th.
The reigning champion took 16 seconds into Lap 2 of 4 . Pieterse didn’t wait up for Brand. Bakker sifted down the pack, and midway through the circuit, Rochette was up to sixth, Casasola her next target. McGill jumped up two spots to 18th.
Verdonschot found Rochette before the start of the penultimate lap and they continued to draw Casasola and Alvarado closer. Pieterse still held the runner-up spot with van Empel 45 seconds in the good. Rochette couldn’t hold the Belgian and fell on the steps; she now had to worry about Clara Honsinger, Annemarie Worst and Clauzel. By the end of the lap Brand had caught and passed Pieterse, hitting the line 12 seconds faster.
A full minute separated van Empel from Brand when they heard the bell. Worst was the first to link up with Rochette, and the Canadian saw Worst, Honsinger, Clauzel and Inge van der Heijden pass by. But in the frantic final 500 metres, this group shattered, with Worst riding the best. In the final straight, Clauzel was feather pedaling towards the line when Rochette dug in, passed the French…