Tibor del Grosso won a first world title of the 2024 UCI Cyclocross World Championships for the Netherlands, with a commanding display in the under-23 men’s category.
The under-23 World Cup winner powered away from his opponents soon after the start and built a winning margin of 23 seconds. A huge crash on the opening grass and mud section reduced the leading group and ended the hopes of Belgian riders Ward Huybs, Aaron Dockx and the USA’s Andrew Strohmeyer.
Del Grosso was unaffected and then took control of the race during the second lap and built an unassailable advantage. Belgian Emiel Verstrynge was the only rider who challenged del Grosso in the opening laps before fading away. He was joined by countryman Jente Michels to spark a the battle for silver and bronze.
Del Grosso had enough time to enjoy his first world title during a lap of honour on the muddy Tábor course. Behind Verstrynge came from behind to beat Michels in a sprint for second place.
“It was a really tough course and the conditions made it even tougher, I definitely suffered” del Grosso said modestly.
“It means a lot, it’s everything I’ve ever dreamed of to become world champion. It’s so cool to accomplish that in such a cool country, I loved it.”
How it unfolded
Despite four Belgian riders starting on the front row, the Dutch riders led the charge away from the line on the asphalt. Their fast start proved vital as a crash near the front on the opening grass section resulted in a massive crash.
Strohmeyer crashed at speed and that sparked a huge crash on both sides of the track, involving Belgian hopefuls Ward Huybs and Aaron Dockx while many others, including Frenchman Rémi Lelandais, lost time in the mayhem.
Verstrynge and Michels avoided the chaos and forced the pace along with del Grosso and Frenchman Léo Bisiaux.
Using his strength on the soft ground of Tábor del Grosso broke open the leading group and was joined by Verstrynge after eight minutes of racing. Despite being put under pressure on the opening lap Michels managed to ride back across to the leading duo, followed by Bisiaux.
After finishing second in last year’s under-23 world championship Del Grosso used his power on the small banks to gap his opponents with what proved to be the winning move. That attack split the chasing pack as Verstrynge chased at six seconds, with Michels in third, along with Bisiaux. Del Grosso clinched the overall under-23 World Cup title after winning four races and was an imperious figure at the front.
Belgian national under-23 champion Verstrynge was the only rider able to challenge the lone leader and sat six seconds back after two laps and20 minutes of racing.
Former European U23 champion Verstrynge was under pressure as the Dutch leader increased his lead to 14 seconds with two of the five laps remaining. Meanwhile, Michels was on a charge after gapping Bisiaux and was closing in on second placed Verstrynge.
Current Under-23 European champion Michels caught Verstrynge on the main climb of the lap, the pair battling for silver 25 seconds down on del Grosso.
During the final lap Michels slid out on a tight bend but managed to ride straight back to Verstrynge and the pair battled side by side for silver.
Del Grosso had time to celebrate with the Tábor crowd and enjoy his maiden world cyclo-cross championship crown.
Behind Michels tried to power away from Verstrynge in the closing stages and led out the sprint for silver, only for his countryman to come around him metres before the line.
The opening lap crash victims failed to come close to the podium positions as Lelandais battled back to fifth finishing 1:28 back and behind fellow Frenchman Bisiaux.
Canadian Ian Ackert was an impressive sixth, while Strohmeyer battled back to place 16th at 3:39.
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