GB’s Evie Richards takes historic U23 cyclocross win at hectic, controversial Worlds

British teenager takes incredible win in her first ever international event. Words: Ben Goddard / Snowdon Sports

Great Britain’s Evie Richards wrote her name into history as she dazzled the international field and secured the inaugural Under-23 Women’s World Championship jersey.

The 18-year-old from Malvern, competing in her first international cyclo-cross race, rode clear of her rivals to take a comfortable 35-second victory in take gold in the new event.

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“I really can’t believe I’ve done this in my first international cross race – it just feels amazing,” said Richards.

“I had no fear at all but it was so cold on the start line, and it was just chaos trying to get to the front as I started on the third row.”

Evie Richards on the podium alongside Nikola Noskova (Cze) and Maud Kaptheijns (Ned) (Watson)

Evie Richards on the podium alongside Nikola Noskova (Cze) and Maud Kaptheijns (Ned) (Watson)

The event has since become notorious after the UCI detained a bike belonging to Femke Van den Driessche after the race for reportedly containing a motor.

In other categories, Ian Field was GB’s best placed rider at 28th in the elite men’s race, but the victory went to Wout Van Aert who gave Belgium the win after overcoming a controversial crash in the closing stages.

The 21-year-old held the hopes of his nation but had two in-form Dutch riders to beat to claim the coveted rainbow jersey.

A hesitant race developed leading to eight riders forming at the front when Mathieu van der Poel crashed and his foot got trapped in Van Aert’s back wheel.

The pair both lost almost 30 seconds in the incident but the young Belgium champion battled back up to Lars Van Der Haar (Netherlands), who had looked a sure winner. Van Aert snatched the title with a last lap attack.

Wout van Aert (Bel) celebrates his win in the Elite Men's category (Watson)

Wout van Aert (Bel) celebrates his win in the Elite Men’s category (Watson)

In the elite women’s race Thalita De Jong timed her effort to perfection to deny Sanne Cant the home victory she craved, while Nikki Harris was GB’s best finisher in fifth after having led early in the race.

Dutch rider De Jong stunned the home crowd after riding from 11th on the opening lap and catching the leaders on the final lap before launching a decisive attack.

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Cant tried to follow the winner but faded away into bronze while Caroline Manni (France) passed the Belgium favourite for silver.

It could have been so different for Harris who attacked the leading group and got a gap mid-race while the other riders hesitated.

This was until a slip an uphill section allowed the chasers to close the gap and Harris fell back to fifth on a frantic final lap.

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GB junior Thomas Pidcock was left to rue a poor gridding as he got stuck behind first lap crashes, allowing the medallists to ride away.

The 16-year-old ranked 54th in the world before the event, but he rode from 29th position back up to within contention of a medal.

On the last lap the youngster was 19 seconds quicker than the eventual winner Jens Dekker (Netherlands). but Pidcock ran out of track as he fell just short of a medal in fifth.

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The under-23 men’s race provided yet another talking point of a dramatic weekend when Adam Toupalik (Czech Republic) thought he had won, only to be given the bell instead of the chequered flag.

Celebrating down the home straight, the youngster was devastated to hear the bell — and this was made worse when on the next time round he was beaten in the sprint by Eli Iserbyt (Belgium).