Marion Norbert Riberolle emerged victorious in the muddy conditions of the Exact Cross Essen, capitalising on the absence of many top cyclocross riders. The Belgian from Crelan-Corendon clinched the win after a duel with Aniek van Alphen, while Laura Verdonschot finished third after being in contention for the first two rounds.
With many leading riders either in Val di Sole or opting for sunnier training camps, the competition in Essen was wide open. Norbert Riberolle, Verdonschot, and Van Alphen quickly distanced themselves from the rest of the field in the opening round. Heavy rain made the course even muddier and more challenging. The young Czech rider Julia Kopecky briefly joined the leaders in the second round but overextended herself in the effort.
In the third round, Norbert Riberolle and Van Alphen broke away from Verdonschot. Van Alphen made a move on a muddy section, but Norbert Riberolle managed to close the gap, setting up a head-to-head battle in the final round. Norbert Riberolle then launched a decisive attack, to which Van Alphen initially responded but eventually succumbed to small errors, allowing Norbert Riberolle to establish a winning lead.
Norbert Riberolle celebrated her victory after a tough race of over 40 minutes, finishing eleven seconds ahead of Van Alphen, with Verdonschot coming in a minute and seventeen seconds later.
The heavy rain turned the Exact Cross Essen into a challenging mud-cross, playing to the strengths of Norbert Riberolle. Post-race, both the winner and runner-up Van Alphen acknowledged the demanding nature of the course. Norbert Riberolle, elated with her second professional win following her first in Otegem in January 2023, reflected on the tough competition from Van Alphen. She strategically chose to avoid a sprint finish by gaining an early lead. Van Alphen, while disappointed with not winning, praised Norbert Riberolle’s strength and acknowledged that the weather conditions favoured her rival’s style.
Exact Cross Essen 2023 Women Result
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Main photo credit: Cor Vos