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Following the first round of the DVV Trofee series at Koppenbergcross, the storylines for the 2019-20 cross season are crystalizing.
Here’s what we learned on the iconic cobbled climb outside Oudenaarde, Belgium.
Odds On The 777 Pro Women CX Team
When Alice Maria Arzuffi dispatched fellow Italian Eva Lechner for the final podium spot, the 777 Pro Women CX Team completed a podium sweep at Koppenbergcross, with Yara Kastelijn and Annemarie Worst on the top two steps respectively.
The powerhouse team, managed by two time world cyclocross champion Bart Wellens, has won five races in 2019, including Worst’s win at the Bern World Cup, Arzuffi’s victory at Superprestige Boom, and Kastelijn’s wire-to-wire ride at Koppenbergcross.
While the Telenet-Baloise Lions have long reigned over the men’s elite field, a dominant elite women’s team is a new phenomenon in professional cyclocross, and could potentially change the race dynamics on certain courses.
While the heavy Koppenbergcross course favored individuals, on courses more prone to drafting and tactics, watch for the 777 riders to employ team tactics—sending a solo rider on off the front and then following the chasers.
Iserbyt Vs. Pidcock: A Fresh Rivalry In Elite Cross
Longtime foes in the under-23 ranks, Eli Iserbyt and Tom Pidcock’s shoulder-to-shoulder race up the Koppenberg brought back not-so-long-ago memories of Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert.
Over the last two seasons, Van der Poel and Van Aert have increasingly turned their attention to other disciplines, to the detriment of avid cyclocross fans.
Van der Poel is chasing a medal in mountain biking at the 2020 Olympics, while Van Aert raced a full road season in 2019—and continues to recover from a crash incurred at the Tour de France.
Iserbyt versus Pidcock may be the next big rivalry in the elite men’s field, and will only get better as the season progresses.
Having taken a break to recover from the Road World Championships, Pidcock is missing the UCI points needed for a front row start, which cost him at both Koppenbergcross and Superprestige Ruddervorde.
With a better start position, and increasing cross form, we can anticipate more challenges from the aggressive Pidcock to the DVV and World Cup series leading Iserbyt.
Don’t Believe The Rumors Of Van Der Poel's Demise
The reigning world cyclocross champion opted not to start Koppenbergcross, saying the parcour would prove too “heavy” for his first race back in action.
However, on Sunday Mathieu van der Poel easily dispatched with the elite men’s field in route to winning Superprestige Ruddervorde by 26 seconds over Laurens Sweeck.
Van der Poel appeared to be gauging the strength of his competitors during the first half of the race. With about four laps to go, he employed his superior handling skills and top end power to almost effortlessly roll away from the field.
The Dutchman will next compete in the European Championships on Nov. 10, before appearing live on FloBikes in Rectavit Jaarmarktcross the following day (note: a Monday).