46th International Cyclo-cross

cyclo-cross races for (nearly) all categories (UCI Cat 2)
on Saturday, October 30, 2021 in Contern
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After a truce due to the world pandemic in 2020 and the only blank year so far in the almost 50-year history of our off-road event, the cyclo-cross in Contern was back in action in 2021, with a 46th edition that was certainly not blessed by the weather gods. If the 2019 edition had been execrable meteorologically speaking, 2021 did much worse with pouring rain during most of the day. It was a weather not to put a spectator outside, but the riders were there: 173 registered and 151 starters, meaning a new all-time record. For the first time since 2014, the Belgians finished empty-handed: no Belgian rider was able to win in his respective race, and for the first time, a Spaniard won at our event with Felipe Orts Lloret taking the victory in the queen race. Czech and Luxembourgish successes with Adam Seeman in the junior category and Rick Meylender in the beginners' event sounded less exotic, while the domination of home rider Marie Schreiber in the women's category was undoubtedly the highlight of the day.

The novices were traditionally the first of the day to set off and it was soon cleas that the course would take its toll as it had become as muddy as possible due to the rain whereas it had been very dry and fast under the sunshine of the previous day. If the meadow was slippery and also called upon the technical abilities of the riders, the forest paths became quickly unridable, forcing the riders to put feet on the ground and run during some long meters. Logically, only the strongest would survive and Rick Meylender was undoubtedly one of them. After one lap, the serial winner of the beginning of the season and leader of the Skoda-Cross-Cup had already taken advantage on his opponents, ahead of the duo Jonah Flammang-Lies and Flavio Astolfi as well as, a little bit further back, Belgian Dries Heirbaut and David Loschetter. On the girls' side, the suspense wasn't really there either and Lisi Schmitz had already left Sarah Mousel behind her after one lap, while the gaps were increasing lap after lap.

After the four loops of the race, Rick Meylender wins the beginners' race of this 33rd Grand-prix COMAT, one minute and a half ahead of Dries Heirbaut, who had overtaken Jonah Flammang-Lies and David Loschetter in this order. Lisi Schmitz finished 17th of the scratch classification and thus first girl, far ahead of Sarah Mousel in position 20. Logically, Meylender and Schmitz strengthen their lead in the overall classification of the Skoda-Cross-Cup, where they are now firmly installed at the top of the list, after two accomplished events.

Sarah Mousel, Lisi Schmitz, Rick Meylender
Sarah Mousel, Lisi Schmitz, Rick Meylender

If the suspense was clearly lacking in the race of the youngest, the event for juniors was full of position changes until the very last lap. 33 riders took the start of this international cyclo-cross, among them the Belgian Robbe Dhondt who, although he started from the last row on the starting grid, managed to take the lead after half a lap of the circuit, at the entrance of the field that, during the ongoing the laps, looked less and less like a meadow. Behind the Belgian, 5 riders followed in a group, among them the favourites Silas Kuschla, Patrik Cerny and Kenay de Moyer. The latter soon reacted and took the lead after the first lap, still accompanied by Robbe Dhondt. Czech rider Cerny as well as Frenchmen Paul Travert and Hyppolyte Loete followed a few seconds behind, whereas the other Czech riders, Frantisek Hojka and Adam Seeman, who were among the pre-race favourites, had to pay the price for a rather bad start and were far behind. Juan Van Lelyveld and Noa Berton were the best Luxemburgish riders at the beginning of the race, a few meters ahead of Mats Berns and Fynn Ury.

At mid-race, the race seemed to be decided: Kenay de Moyer, number three in the UCI classification and biggest favourite of the race, had taken the lead and was betting on the win, having left Silas Kuschla several seconds down behind him. But the Czechs were still fighting and three of them were coming back in contention: Patrik Cerny, who was the strongest on paper, the tall and lanky Frantisek Hojka and, above all, Adam Seeman. The TJ Stadion Louny rider made a big impression and after a very bad start around the twentieth position, he overtook everyone else to establish himself in second place in the race, only a few meters behind de Moyer. On the last lap, a brake problem prevented de Moyer from moving forward, or at least moving fast enough to hold off Seeman who was riding on the good wave: Adam Seeman wins the 33rd Grand-prix COMAT for juniors, following a long line of Czech winners with the likes of Boros, Adel, Skala or Pavel Masa, a few years ago. Kenay de Moyer finished second at 26 seconds, visibly disappointed. But the Belgian rider was able smile again a few days later, because at the end of the (extended) weekend, it turned out that with this second place, he had regained the position of world number one that was already his in the weeks before the cyclo-cross in Contern. Behind de Moyer, Silas Kuschla wasn't far behind for the third place on the podium, whereas Frantisek Hojka, Ferre Urkens and Robbe Dhondt were also within a minute on the next places. On the Luxemburgish side, it was Mats Berns who took the best position with a nice 13th place in a tough race, only 20 seconds ahead of Noa Berton and Fynn Ury, 17th and 18th respectively in the scratch classification.

Adam Seeman, winner of the junior race
Adam Seeman, winner of the junior race

40 riders lining up in the women's categories (juniors, U23 and elites), this was of course also an new record and, for the first time since the participation of Christine Majerus in 2017 and despite the presence of Laura Verdonschot, Karen Verhestraeten or Suzanne Verhoeven, a home rider had a chance for a podium spot: young Marie Schreiber, first year U23 rider, has impressed since the beginning of the season with for example her third place behind three times world champion Sanne Cant and Zoé Backstedt in Lokeren. Wearing the beautiful jersey of her new team Tormans, which is far too white to play in this kind of mud, the 55th rider of the UCI classification was up for a great start, taking already a small gap on her rivals in the first, extremely dangerous descent in the woods. After one lap, the Luxemburgish rider had a few seconds advantage on the suprising Fauve Bastiaenssen, the amazing Nina Berton and the very young Xaydee Van Sinaey, only 16 years old. Behind them came Verhestraeten, Jinse Peeters, Femke Gort, the leader of the Skoda-Cross-Cup and only later Suzanne Verhoeven, the strongest rider on paper. An even worse start happened for Laura Verdonschot, well outside the Top 10, and for Lindy Van Anrooij, who had already shown some nice things on the circuit in Contern in previous years.

Marie Schreiber continued to ride in the lead, but the surprise of the day came from Fauve Bastiaenssen: the Belgian wasn't one of the strongest girls on paper, but she did more than limiting the damage and remained in the fight for the win, less than 30 seconds after Schreiber. Behind her, Nina Berton had logically conceded some space and it was Karen Verhestraeten who rode in third place, ahead of Jinse Peeters, Femke Gort and Suzanne Verhoeven, who had recovered from her slow start and was moving up. Another competitor who was making a fabulous race was surprising Isabelle Klein from Luxemburg. She had entered the Top 10 around mid-race, bringing the counter of home riders at the head of the race to 3, which is exceptional for an international cyclo-cross of this level. Suspense in the last lap: after problems with her chain on the bike, the race leader lost some ground and was now under the threat of Bastiaenssen, only half a dozen seconds behind her.

But Marie Schreiber didn't panic and she still had enough power left to increase the gap again and take the win, 9 seconds ahead of the Belgian rider Fauve Bastiaenssen. This is the first international success in the elite category for the Luxemburgish rider who, as a reminder, is only in her very first year of U23 racing, after a last season in the junior category where she didn't manage to get any result due to Covid, apart from a podium in the world cup, only race of the season. For Bastiaenssen, who is a little bit elder, it was also a first: podium in an international race after a few Top 10 in French events at the beginning of the season. After a nice comeback at the end of the race, Suzanne Verhoeven finally finishes in third position, a few seconds ahead of Verhestraeten and Peeters, with whom she was fighting in the last laps. After a great performance and a strong finish, Isabelle Klein ends the race in sixth spot, one position ahead of Femke Gorts, who still has the leader jersey of the Skoda-Cross-Cup, for the moment at least.

Marie Schreiber
Marie Schreiber, winner of the women's race at the GP Comat

In the Men's elite and U23 race, they were 65 finally at the start, despite 77 registered riders. The weather was probably to blame for that, but the rain had made a little break in its incessant activity, just in time for the start of this 16th Grand-prix de la Commune de Contern. No less than 11 nationalities were present at the start and the lead was also internationally coloured in the first lap of the race: German Sascha Weber was leading ahead of Frenchman Théo Thomas, Belgian Thijs Aerts and Spaniard Felipe Orts. The other Belgian rider Lander Loockx was also part of the leading group, as well as Frenchman Steve Chainel. Yentl Beckaert, Lennert Belmans and Aurélien Philibert followed, whereas Ward Huybs, Thomas Verheyen or Seppe Rombouts didn't manage to hang on to the first group in this first lap, just like the Czech armada led by Simon Vanicek, the former national junior champion. In the internal race of the Luxemburgers, Cédric Pries had a very good start, around the 20th position, together with Raphael Kockelman, whereas Scott Thiltges had a difficult first lap, together with Czech rider Daniel Mayer.

Sascha Weber, who is used to fast starts, kept the pressure high in the next minutes, breaking away together with Lander Loockx in the second lap. Behind them, the other favourites were not far away, also in groups of two: Aerts and Thomas, then Orts and Chainel, the duo from Telenet-Bâloise Huybs and Beckaert, and finally the surprising Sander De Vet with Lennert Belmans, silver medallist at the world junior championships in Dübendorf, Switzerland, two years ago. These were the contenders for the victory, and if the positions changed frequently in the next loops, with Weber, Loockx, Thijs and Thomas taking the lead one after the other with Orts and Chainel were a little bit further back, nothing was decided yet at mid-race. On the Luxemburgish side, there was also a lot of suspense: Scott Thiltges had recovered from his bad start and came back into the wheel of Kockelmann, only a few meters behind Cédric Pries who was still around 20th place, together with Frenchman Valentin Remondet or Jarno Bellens, who had already finished fourth in Contern in 2018.

With three laps to go, the race became more and more interesting: Thijs Aerts, victim of a crash in the woods, had lost some ground, just like former French champion Steve Chainel, whereas Felipe Orts, who had been a little bit in the background until then, had found his way to the front and continued to accelerate. He was the only one to jump the obstacles on his bike in the lead group, using his exceptional technical skills to create a small advantage, ahead of Loockx, Weber and Huybs. The gaps remained small and Thijs Aerts hadn't given up yet: the former junior world champion came back into the race for the podium after a big effort, behind Lander Loockx who seemed to be the strongest among the chasers of Orts. The six-time Spanish champion, who seems to have good fortune in Luxembourg since he already finished silver medallist at the 2017 U23 world championships in Bieles, had however increased his gap in the meantime, taking a very serious option on the win with one lap to go.

Spanish rider Felipe Orts Lloret, reigning National champion, wins the 16th Grand-prix de la Commune de Contern solo, 19 seconds ahead of Lander Loockx, already winner of the cyclo-cross in Podbrezova this season, and 52 seconds ahead of Thijs Aerts, who had overtaken the future leader of the Skoda-Cross-Cup Sascha Weber in the last lap, for the third place of the podium. In fifth position, Belgian Ward Huybs from Telenet-Bâloise finishes first U23 rider in the race, ahead of his compatriot and team-mate Yentl Beckaert, who has already become second in Contern in the junior category a few years ago. Cédric Pries is the first Luxemburgish rider of the race in 25th position, crossing the finish line together with Czech rider Jakub Riman. He was finally clearly the strongest in the last laps, distancing Raphael Kockelmann in 29th position by around 40 seconds and Scott Thiltges, in 30th place, by around 15 additionnal units.

Felipe Orts Lloret
Felipe Orts Lloret, winner of the 16th Grand-prix de la Commune de Contern

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