The World Championships weekend in Ostend started this Saturday under a cluster of clouds covering the dunes of the Belgian coast and a fierce wind lifting the waves of the North Sea. The Brit Thomas Mein, one of the three Tormans Cyclo Cross Team riders at the start of the U23 men's race, had made his ambition of a medal well known beforehand.
The man from Newcastle, who won in Tabor earlier this season, turned words into action and was the author of a stunning start. However, and despite a smooth first crossing on the sand, Mein was the victim of a sliper on the stairs and had to yield the lead to the Belgian and Dutch teams, in numbers. Among them, Emiel Verstrynge displayed impressive maturity and his flawless ride propelled him into contention for a medal halfway through the race. Just behind, his compatriot Joran Wyseure (Tormans-Acrog), Mein and Théo Thomas (France) were hanging in the top 20, with a deficit around a minute.
The Dutchman Pim Ronhaar, with impeccable trajectories and clear strongest on the day, made the difference and crossed the line in front of his compatriot and title holder Ryan Kamp. Verstrynge, at only eighteen years of age, finished his race at the foot of the podium, only twenty seconds away from the world title. It is his second impressive achievement in succession at the World Championships, after his bronze medal in the Junior race last year. Despite crashes, Thomas Mein (13th) and Théo Thomas (18th) nevertheless offered a solid overall performance for Tormans Cyclo Cross Team.
"Of course it is a pity that I just miss out on the podium, but above all else I am extremely happy with my performance. It was my first World Championships as a U23, and a top five would have been a dream. I'm racing without pressure, because I know that I still have three or four years to prove myself. I definitely want to come back in the years to come in order to compete for the world title, because I am convinced there is still room for improvement. "
"The combination of the rain, the sand and the wind made it a very tough race, especially the part along the beach. Because the North Sea was so close, it felt like we were cycling through quicksand and the strong headwind made it even worse. For me, it was crucial not to blow up at beginning but it was easier said than done. I started among the last guys, so I settled for my own pace before several riders dropped out in front of me. It is only in the last lap that I really dared to believe a medal was possible. "
"I truly had an exceptionally good day today. My decision to join the Tormans Cyclo Cross Team turned out to be the right one. Learning with coach Bart Wellens constantly supporting on the sidelines, I feel like I can rely on the ideal mentor. I do not forget our pros Quinten Hermans and Corné van Kessel who are a great example to me. I feel strong and look forward to the future with confidence. "
U23 Men's World Championships:
1. Pim Ronhaar (NET) in 49'47 "
2. Ryan Kamp (NET) +8"
3. Timo Kielich (BEL) +14"
4. Emiel Verstrynge (BEL) +19"
12. Joran Wyseure (BEL) + 1'55 "
13. Thomas Mein (GBR) + 1'58 "
18. Théo Thomas (FRA) + 2'54 "