Given that the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships junior races in 2021 did not take place due to restrictions limiting sporting events to professionals due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2022 event in Arkansas is the first opportunity for all junior riders to fight for the Title.
After the Junior Women’s race on Saturday, the riders were full of energy and excitement after experiencing the biggest cyclo-cross event in the world.
Zoe Backstedt (Great Britain) stormed through the first round to complete her unbeaten streak in juniors and add her second world title after winning the world road title in Leuven in September.
Dutch riders Leonie Bentveld and Lauren Molengraaf rounded out the podium, but all the riders behind them seemed to be enjoying themselves, enjoying the atmosphere, the course and the race itself.
Cycling news spoke to six riders after Saturday’s first race to hear their thoughts on the race and the course.
Ella MacLean-Howell (Great Britain) – fourth
MacLean-Howell raced forward at the start to help teammate Zoe Backstedt, who won the title as she herself finished just nine seconds from bronze.
“It was quite a bumpy start. I was on the second row and didn’t expect to go that far. Everyone collided in the first corner, so I was able to be with Zoe for that first section, which was She could leave at the start and I just held back a little just to let her take that gap.
“From then on it was just a brutal race – I was in a small group and we were crashing the whole way, so I was super happy to finish fourth.
“[The race] was unbelievable. I didn’t expect so many fans, it was just crazy going up the steps and up the hill, there were so many people screaming and there was a really warm atmosphere and I loved it.”
Ava Holmgren (Canada) – seventh
Holmgren comes from a large family of cyclists and raced with his twin sister Isabella and under the guidance of his father, who is the national team coach.
“It was amazing. Maybe I was a little too strong at the start, but it gave me that extra confidence and it was great to hear my name on the course or ‘go Canada’, because I knew some of them were my friends and family, and I’m so grateful that they were able to be here and that my first world championships were in North America.
“I have not seen [Isabella] for the whole race until the end. And I kind of thought in my head, wouldn’t it be great if it all came down to a sprint finish, two twins and sisters side by side. It was great to see her at the end and give her a big hug.”
Isabella Holmgren (Canada) – eighth
Isabella rode 11 seconds past her twin sister Ava to score a second top 10 finish for the family.
“It was really fun, especially running with everyone. And it was good to always hear people cheering for Canada. It was good to have a lot of Canadians racing.
“I really liked the course. Personally, I like more technical courses, but when I ran it I felt better than I thought. It was really good. It was a very fast course because the Most races in Europe are all muddy, so it was nice to have something a little different.”
Katherine Sarkisov (USA) – 11th
Sarkisov also ran the relay as part of Team USA B yesterday, earning him a fifth-place finish. She set her sights on a top-10 finish, but fell short of it by one spot.
“It was awesome. It was fantastic. I loved having such a crowd and 90% of them were Americans and they’re all shouting ‘US-A’. Some of them don’t even know our names, but it’s okay. They’re screaming for the USA team and I loved it.
“I ran a block in Europe, but we had no spectators there. And so I felt like I missed that aspect of the race. So for this to be the first race , in front of such a big crowd and to be on American soil where a lot of people support us and know us – it was fantastic.
“I was a lot more confident at the start of this race just because I raced with most of these people. I raced some really tough courses and it was just helpful to get used to the way they do things and handle higher pressure, you know?”
Keira Bond (USA) – 12th
“It’s so surreal for me here. I’m so lucky. I feel like I’ve worked so hard for this and now that it’s here I really can’t believe it. My first Worlds were nothing if not amazing, I had so much fun there, I didn’t have my best day to be honest, but I was having so much fun I barely noticed.
“The course was awesome. I have to be honest, I was watching the World Cup and I wasn’t super happy with the course. And then the first time I rode it, I was like, okay, I Love this course It fits I love the rock climbing and thought it was super fun and there were some muddy turns and tricky ruts which made it really interesting too.
[On the new addition of a steep berm] “I loved those parts. Honestly, it was one of the hardest parts of the course because you go up the climb and you just get cracked, you’re breathing so hard, your head’s all over the place, and then you I’m like, okay, I have to concentrate for this little top-to-bottom section. So that made things really tricky, but it was a really good addition.
Mia Aseltine (USA) – 18th
“It was an amazing experience just with all the fans cheering you on at every corner. Like, wow. The competition was really fast and now I’m super motivated to try harder and hopefully be ahead at the next one.”
“This team is amazing. We support each other so much. We really pushed each other during the race, so it’s just a great team atmosphere.
“[The course] was super fun. It was nice to have a course specifically designed for cyclo-cross. It was just super fast and smooth and all the features were really fun to ride. But very difficult for sure.”