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Curtis White broke the European stranglehold on the USCX Cyclocross series Sunday by beating Belgian rider Vincent Baestaens during a dramatic final lap of day two of Charm City Cross.
Meanwhile, Dutchwoman Annemarie Worst dominated her event once again.
After winning five races in the series since his arrival in America last month, Baestaens was the favorite to add to his tally on a muddy course at Druid Hill Park, Baltimore.
However, White came back to the lone leader and a chaotic final lap saw both riders slide out, but the American held his nerve to delight home fans.
It was White’s first cyclo-cross victory in 11 months since winning the Northampton International last November.
The women’s event was more routine for Worst who once again proved too strong for her American counterparts riding clear early on and beating Caroline Mani by 40 seconds.
Worst arrived in America early to acclimatize with her partner Baestaens ahead of the opening World Cup round in Waterloo next weekend.
The USCX series now breaks for a month for the two World Cup rounds in America before concluding in Falmouth on November 5 and 6.
White wins last lap thriller
Vincent Baestaens (Spits CX Team) came into the second round of Charm City Cross with a perfect record of five wins from as many races in the USCX Cyclocross series.
The previous day, Baestaens had been pushed all the way by Eric Brunner (Blue Competition Cycles p/b Build) until a last lap crash cost the American dearly.
The 2.4-kilometer course in Druid Hill Park, Baltimore, was run in reverse on the second day of racing, and overnight rain made a soft course increasingly muddy, causing more crashes and mechanicals.
After a tight 15 minutes of racing Curtis White (Steve Tilford Foundation Racing) struggled on a technical off-camber section just as Baestaens was forcing the pace causing a gap and Brunner was the only rider able to follow the Belgian.
However, Brunner also suffered a crash which saw him drop back to the chasing pack and allowed Baestaens the gap he desired out front.
The chasing group behind included White, Scott McGill (Wildlife Generation Pro Cycling), Kerry Werner (Kona Adventure Team), Scott Funston (Blue Competiton Cycles p/b Build), and Tobin Ortenblad (Santa Cruz Bicycles).
Mechanicals were troubling riders in the mud as Funston rolled his tub off his tire, ending his race while Brunner also dropped further back.
The problems resulted in White and McGill going clear in the battle for the podium positions.
McGill was the next rider to face problems in the mud sliding out leaving White as an alone chaser behind Baestaens.
With three laps remaining, White closed the gap to Baestaens who had looked like an unassailable leader and immediately went past in the battle for victory. White chose to run the technical off-camber while Baestaens remounted and on the descent down the Belgian’s chain came off giving his American rival a gap of 12 seconds.
Angered by his mechanical problem, Baestaens had to work hard pulling White back, while Werner was comfortable in third place.
On the penultimate lap, Baestaens pulled alongside White and a tactical play developed allowing Werner back into the race for victory on the final lap.
Going side by side, there was nothing to separate White and Baestaens into the finishing corners.
A wheel slide for the American on a small bank gave the Belgian the incentive, only for him to slip out. The pair tangled as Baestaens went down in the mud and a second slide on the final corner gave White the slender gap he needed to win.
The former Pan-American champion celebrated his crowd-pleasing victory as his rival conceded he was beaten on the final asphalt section while Werner finished third.
“Today was a really technical and tactical day,” White said. “Eric (Brunner) and Vincent (Baestaens) hit out early and I knew I couldn’t sustain that pace. I saw Eric starting to make mistakes, he crashed and started to go backward.
“Vincent was just ahead and I knew I had to ride my own pace. I continued to ride my pace, it was very tactical and it just came down to that last lap.
“I just needed to get to those final last corners, we were riding so fast and it was so technical. It was whoever didn’t make the last mistake.”
Worst rides toward World Cup with wind at her back
A day earlier Annemarie Worst (777) had powered away from her rivals, and softer ground conditions Sunday increased her status as race favorite.
Sidney McGill (Onebike Racing) was the only rider who went with Worst during the opening exchanges with their opponents letting a gap appear as they powered up the opening climb.
Worst had trouble on the top off-camber section the previous day and despite the course being run in reverse, the Dutch rider again lost time as competitors hit the technical part for the first time.
The moment of hesitation for Worst allowed Austin Killips (Nice Bikes) and USCX series leader Caroline Mani (Alpha Groove) to catch the early leaders.
However, with eight minutes of racing gone, Worst powered clear on a climb putting her opponents under pressure and pulling out a four-second advantage.
As in previous races, Mani timed her effort perfectly distancing Killips who was joined by McGill in the podium fight.
Heavy rain continued to come down on riders as they reached the halfway mark with Worst 20 seconds ahead of Mani and the chasers a similar distance behind again.
Worst limited any problems and took her fourth victory from two weekends spent on American soil, finishing 40 seconds ahead of Mani while Killips did enough on the final lap to take third.
“Rain, rain, rain,” a smiling Worst said after taking the victory. “It didn’t stop raining today but it was nice. The course was really muddy and slippery, more than yesterday so it was different.
“Next week is the World Cup so I think next week is full gas from the start so I tried to do a fast lap first lap to see how my shape is, but it was really hard.
“Now I’m prepared, also with the time (difference), and I’m feeling better and better every week as the jetlag is gone now.”