45th International Cyclo-cross
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The weather gods were not very fair-play with the ACC Contern, for the 45th edition of their international cyclo-cross. While the autumn weather was magnificent a few days before and a few days after the event, the rain continued to pour onto our traditional course during the whole Sunday, making the surface slippery and tricky as well as making spectators a very rare commodity. The riders, on the other hand, were present: 147 competitors starting in the rue de Moutfort, among them nearly 40 girls, is unprecedented and proves that small cyclo-cross races have their place on the international calendar in these times of controversial announced reforms. In terms of results, the favourites were present with undisputed victories by Shirin Van Anrooij, Noé Castille and Mathieu Kockelmann in their respective categories, while Thijs Aerts gave his Telenet-Bâloise team the third victory in as many years on the demanding circuit at Contern.

in the novice race, Mathieu Kockelmann did not wait long to impose his law. Winner of four races already (Brouch, Dippach, Kayl, Rumelange) and therefore unbeaten in Luxembourg since the beginning of the season, the rider from Differdange took the lead in the first lap, ahead of Noa Berton, Nik Gremling, Mats Berns and Juan Van Lelyveld. On a circuit that was perfectly suited to his physical abilities, Kockelmann continued to increase his lead, which already exceeded one minute around mid-race. Behind him, Berns had meanwhile moved up and settled in second place, with a small lead over Noa Berton. In the girls' race, the outcome was much more indecisive: Liv Wenzel, best girl in Kayl, was at the top of the rankings, but she was closely followed by Margot Marasco, who had beaten her in Rumelange and was therefore wearing the red Skoda Cross Cup leader jersey. At the halfway point, the gap between the two girls was barely more than 10 seconds.

Mathieu Kockelmann wins the novice race of the 32nd Grand-prix COMAT solo, with a lead of no less than 2 minutes and 14 seconds over Mats Berns and around 30 seconds more on Noa Berton. Less comfortable on the technical parts, Nik Gremling nevertheless took a good fourth place, ahead of Esteban Dorckel who came back strongly from behind in the final part of the contest. In the girls' race, Liv Wenzel finished first, taking a nice tenth place in the overall rankings, 12 seconds ahead of Margot Marasco, from whom she took the Skoda Cross Cup leader's jersey. Almost three minutes later, Anouck Schmitz took third place of the women's category.

Liv Wenzel and Mathieu Kockelmann
Liv Wenzel and Mathieu Kockelmann

In the junior race, there were some riders not presend due to sickness, including Florian Richard Andrade, the fourth in the World Cup round in Bern and presumed biggest favourite of the race. But the French were still the favourites as Tim Neffgen led the race at the end of the first straight, ahead of his compatriot Lucas Lopes. The race quickly opened up and, after two laps of racing, three duos were at the front: Noé Castille and Ugo Ananie were about a dozen seconds ahead of the tandem Mathis Nierding and Paul Anchaing, and eight seconds more ahead of the pair Pierrick Burnet and Tim Neffgen. Behind them, Timothé Gabriel was 38 seconds late while Jordi Van Heijst was the first Non-French rider in the ranking at position eighth. Of the Luxemburg riders, Mats Wenzel was just behind the Top 10 and already had a 30-second lead over Joe Schmitz.

One lap later, Noé Castille had left Ugo Ananie a few meters behind, while Pierrick Burnet had passed Anchain and Nierding to settle in third position, barely five seconds behind Ananie. While Paul Anchaing, winner of last year's Grand-prix COMAT in the beginners category, dropped some positions, Nierding was not far behind and the race was therefore far from being decided. But if gaps remained minimal, the positions remained unchanged and Noé Castille won the junior race of the 32nd Grand-prix COMAT with 23 seconds advantage on Ugo Ananie, who was faster in the final sprint than Pierrick Burnet. Mathis Nierding took fourth place at 47 seconds, while the first places of the race were occupied by French riders. Mats Wenzel finished the race in eleventh place as the best home rider, two positions and a minute ahead of Joé Schmitz, Noé Ury completing Luxemburg's podium in 14th spot.

Noé Castille, winner in the junior category
Noé Castille, winner in the junior category

33 starters at a cyclo-cross reserved exclusively for women (juniors, U23 and elites), this must be something never seen in Luxembourg. The race was all the more exciting, even if the suspense for first place was never really there. Shirin Van Anrooij, the race's big favourite despite her young age of 17, stood out from the rest on the first round in the meadow and completed the first lap with a 12-second lead over her sister Lindy and a third Dutchwoman, Esther Van der Burg. About ten seconds later, another representative of the (very) young generation followed with French rider Léa Curinier, who was just ahead of Thalita De Jong, the double winner of the Grand-prix COMAT. Following her long break due to injury, the former world champion had to start at the back of the starting grid and she made a very strong impression during this first lap, returning into the Top 10. Another big performance during the opening laps came from Marie Schreiber who, for only her second international race in the highest category, moved up to sixth place, along with Camille Devi of France, Kiona Crabbe of Belgium and two more Dutch riders, Isa Nomden and Mascha Mulder, who was 8th last year. Elise Maes followed about fifteen seconds later as second Luxemburgish rider in a nice small group with Jana Dobbelaere, Monique Van der Ree, Tessa Zwanepoel and the Belgian junior champion Sterre Vervloet.

Shirin Van Anrooij increased the gap to almost a minute in the third lap, while the battle for runner-up remained open. Thalita De Jong had overtaken Curinier and bridged up to the duo Van der Burg and the older Van Anrooij, while Camille Devi had joined her compatriot in the pursuit of this trio. Marie Schreiber continued her extraordinary journey and was now in seventh place on her own, barely twenty seconds late on the podium and thirty seconds ahead of Elise Maes, who herself had a very good race with the Belgian U23 champion Axelle Bellaert, around position fifteen. With two laps to go, Shirin Van Anrooij's advantage was still about a minute over Thalita De Jong, who was now riding alone in second place with a 20-second lead over the duo Lindy Van Anrooij and Van der Burg.

Shirin Van Anrooij wins the women's race of the 32nd Grand-prix COMAT, his first major international victory in cyclo-cross, after an impressive series of places of honour in races with the elite category. A minute and a half later, Thalita De Jong took second place in the race, while the French riders Devi and Curinier managed to overtake the Dutch riders Van Anrooij and Van der Burg in the penultimate lap. Camille Devi took the third place on the podium, ahead of Lea Curinier and Esther Van der Burg, with less than twenty seconds between these three positions. Marie Schreiber managed to keep her superb seventh place until the end by finishing second in the junior category, three minutes behind Van Anrooij, who is looking like a big contender for the very first world champion title in this category, which will be distributed in a few months in Dubendorf, Switzerland. Elise Maes finished second rider from Luxembourg at a very good thirteenth place, just in front of Bellaert and Vervloet and far ahead of Laetitia Maus, good 23rd in the race and third home rider.

Shirin Van Anrooij
Shirin Van Anrroij, winner of the women's GP Comat

In the race of the elite and U23 men, a new participation record was also set with 73 starters, from 8 nationalities. Former Dutch champion Stan Godrie got the best start, followed by France's Antoine Benoist and Aurélien Philibert, Dutchman Tim Van Dijke and Belgium's Andreas Goeman and Thijs Aerts. A little further on, Jens Dekker led a small group with Yann Gras, Joshua Dubau and Vincent Dias Dos Santos, who had an excellent start as usual and was the best Luxemburgish rider during the beginning of the race. Lex Reichling was not far behind, in the Top 15 and ahead of riders like Niels Van de Putte, Lucas Dubau or Loïc Henneaux, the leader of the Skoda Cross Cup. Eight competitors took the lead in the second lap: Benoist, Dekker, Goeman, Van Dijke, Aerts, Godrie, Gras and Dubau had a ten-second lead over solo chaser Niels Van de Putte who, himself, had a slightly bigger advantage over a next group that contained Luxembourgers Dias Dos Santos and Reichling, as well as Robin Alderweireld, who took off last on the starting grid but was moving up strongly.

In the fourth lap, Antoine Benoist was the one who set the pace. The French champion had a little over ten seconds advantage on the Telenet-Baloise duo composed by Anderas Goeman and Thijs Aerts, then followed Jens Dekker, Joshua Dubau and Tim Van Dijke. Lex Reichling was at that moment the first Luxemburger of the race, only about forty seconds behind the leader and in a group that contained Daniel Mayer, Robin Alderweireld, Koen Van Dijke, Thomas Verheyen and Vincent Dias Dos Santos. A dozen seconds later, Felix Schreiber was riding together with Vince Van den Eynde, Valentin Remondet, Viktor Thomas, Karol Michalski and Scott Thiltges. The former National Champion was recovering after a bad start and was moving up position by position.

A little after mid-race, Thijs Aerts started an attack. The former junior world champion quickly put some air between himself and teammate Andreas Goeman, the second-placed from last year, and, at that moment, a double win from Sven Nys' team was possible for the third consecutive year. But Joshua Dubau was not far behind, along with Benoist, Van Dijke and Godrie, while Dekker now had lost some ground. The former world champion and world cup winner was racing for the first time after a long absence due to health problems and was passed by Van de Putte and Alderweireld, who came strongly from behind. Joshua Dubau still had some power left: the winner of the opening race in France at Boulzicourt was able to break away from the rest and settle in second place. Thijs Aerts started the last two laps of the race with a 30-second lead over Dubau and an additional 20 seconds over Benoist and Goeman, wheel in wheel. From the home riders, Scott Thiltges had meanwhile overtaken Lex Reichling to take Luxemburg's first position, at around 20th place in the race.

After having already won the Grand-prix COMAT for juniors in 2012 on the same course, Thijs Aerts wins the 15th edition of the Grand-prix de la Commune de Contern on his own, 34 seconds ahead of Joshua Dubau who thus prevents a third Télénet-Baloise double in three years. At 46 seconds, Andreas Goeman finished for the second year in a row on the podium, ahead of Antoine Benoist who was obviously disappointed in fourth place. Tim Van Dijke also finished less than a minute behind the winner in fifth place and was third in the U23 standings, behind Goeman and Benoist. Scott Thiltges had an excellent end of the race and crossed the finish line in 20th position, three and a half minutes behind the winner and about 40 seconds ahead of Lex Reichling, who ended 26th of the race. Tristan Parotta finished third on this imaginary podium for the home riders and 34th overall, a few positions behind the leader of the Skoda Cross Cup, Loïc Henneaux, who will have to give up his green jersey in favour of Victor Thomas, the runner-up from Rumelange and good 14th today at the cyclo-cross in Contern.

Thijs Aerts
Thijs Aerts, winner of the 15th Grand-prix de la Commune de Contern

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