Italy beats USA in ’cross worlds team relay

Team relay squads comprised of elite female and male racers, plus female and male junior or under-23 riders.

Photo: BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images

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In the inaugural team relay at the cyclocross world championships, Italy beat USA, Belgium and a handful of other nations on Friday in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Every participating nation-based team had four riders, who each took a lap and tagged the shoulder of their teammate to tag in the next rider.

Benefitting from the fast times of his teammates before him, Italy’s Davide Toneatti came across the line with enough of a gap to celebrate ahead of American Scott Funston, with Belgium’s Niels Vandeputte coming across the line another nine seconds later.

“It was a little bit more low key than the main race, obviously, and I like that,” said U.S. national champion Eric Brunner, the first rider on course for Team USA – A. “I like how it gets everybody involved, somebody from each category. And it’s just a really nice opener for the weekend.”

Italian Davide Toneatti celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the first-ever team relay at cyclocross worlds. (Photo: David Stockman/Getty Images)

Seven teams participated in the non-medal event, which the UCI ran as a test to consider the format for medal potential in the future.

Because of low initial participation numbers due to Covid and other factors, the UCI scaled back the original format from six riders to four. Nations could choose the starting order for their teams, as long as each included riders from the male and female elite and junior or under-23 categories.

U.S. national champion Clara Honsinger said that in addition to enjoying racing as a group, it was informative to take a lap at race pace ahead of the elite medal competitions this weekend.

“You don’t really get to do that very much in training laps, because there’s always going to be somebody on the course, and so it felt really good to kind of dial it in,” Honsinger said.

Belgians Alicia Franck and Belgian Kiona Crabbe make an exchange during the team relay. (Photo: David Stockman/Getty Images)

Team USA and Canada each fielded two squads, with Italy, Belgium, and the Czech Republic also participating.

Since the third World Cup of the season was held on this course in the late fall, organizers added a massive fly-over hill and a few more turns to add time to the lightning-fast course.

Belgium’s first rider Daan Soete set the fastest lap of the day at 6:58, which put the strong cycling nation into the lead, with Team USA’s Brunner and Italy’s Samuele Leone right behind. The lead see-sawed throughout the very short event — which seven-time U.S. cyclocross champion Tim Johnson likened to “having four consecutive start laps.

In the third lap, the Czech Republic held the lead with Italy and USA chasing. Honsinger was able to overtake Italy’s Lucia Bramati to move into second.

In the final lap, Bramati powered ahead for Italy, with American Scott Funston hanging on for second and Belgium’s Niels Vandeputte putting in a 7:09 lap to move into third.

Team Relay Results

  1. Italy (Samuele Leone, Silvia Persico, Lucia Bramati, Davide Bramati), 31:00
  2. USA – A (Eric Brunner, Katie Clouse, Clara Honsinger, Scott Funston), at 0:07
  3. Belgium (Daan Soete, Kiona Crabbe, Alicia Franck, Niels Vandeputte), at 0:16
  4. Canada – A (Michael Van Den Ham, Sidney McGill, Ava Holmgren, Owen Clark), at 0:46
  5. USA – B (Gage Hecht, Madigan Munro, Katherine Sarkisov, Jack Spranger), at 0:48
  6. Czech Republic (Matayas Fial, Michael Boros, Kristyna Zemanova, Katerina Nash), at 1:10
  7. Canada – B (Tyler Orschel, Isabella Holmgren, Jenaya Francis, Ian Ackert), at 1:56


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