Thibau Nys and Shirin van Anrooij are your new U23 cyclocross World Champs!

Two incredible, versatile young talents just put their stamp on the future

Thibau Nys and Shirin van Anooij had already arrived. Everybody at Cyclocross World Championships in Hoogerheide knew their names. Everyone watching on hand and around the globe expected big performances.

The two 21-year-old talents left no doubt: Nys and Van Anrooij took home the men’s and women’s U23 world titles, respectively, and fanned the already-roaring flames of excitement around their respective careers.

Thibau Nys celebrating solo across the line in Hoogerheide. | Photo: Belga Images (@belgaimage)

Nys soloed away on Lap 2 and never looked back

The course was roaring fast and twisty in Hoogerheide. In theory, the conditions made gaining any sort of gap especially difficult. But that didn’t stop Nys from putting the hammer down on Lap 2 and taking a lead that he would never relinquish.

Nys ultimately held off second-place Tibor Del Gross by just four seconds, but the tight margin belies just how dominant Nys looked.

“I wanted this so bad. I worked so hard for this, it was the biggest goal of my season,” Nys told VeloNews. “The pressure was huge, but also from myself. It’s a race where you can’t make any mistakes. To pull it off like this it’s amazing — I could only dream of this.”

Thibau Nys celebrating with his father, former Belgian cyclocross champion Sven Nys. | Photo: Belga Images (@belgaimage)

Nys embraced fans and his father Sven at the finish line. Winning the U23 World Championship had been his biggest preseason goal. The title capped a brilliant one month stretch of results that included two U23 World Cup wins and third-place as an elite rider at Belgian Championships.

Nys now has junior AND U23 rainbow jerseys in cyclocross to his name, as well as a U23 European road race title from 2021. He has no problem rising up to the challenge in cycling’s biggest races.

Shirin van Anrooij riding past a big, supportive home crowd in Hoogerheide. | Photo: Belga Images (@belgaimage)

Van Anrooij puts hammer down on her 21st birthday

What could possibly be better than a rainbow jersey for your birthday?

After a tough start, Van Anrooij had to pick her way through the field to find the front of the race. Once there, she left no doubt that she was the strongest rider. By Lap 2, only Zoe Backstedt remained on her wheel. By Lap 3, Van Anrooij was all by herself. She proceeded to take more time from her competitors on every lap, and secured a world title by 33 seconds over Backstedt.

“It was perfect, I can’t really describe it,” Van Anrooij told VeloNews. “There was so much pressure, also from myself, to win here. I felt like I could only lose this race and then it all went really well, so I’m just really happy.”

Shirin across the line! | Photo: Belga Images (@belgaimage)

Van Anrooij turned 21 on Sunday, and is one of just three women to win a World Cup race this season. The other two, Fem van Empel and Puck Pieterse, duked it out in a thrilling elite race. All three riders represent an exciting future for the sport. They’ll be battling each other tooth and nail for a long, long time. 

Like Nys, Van Anrooij also has a knack for title races. She’s the defending U23 road and time trial champion, and she won the white jersey last year as the fastest young rider at the first ever Tour de France Femmes. Get used to seeing Van Anrooij’s name in cycling headlines for years to come.

Lucinda Brand scrapping her way to a bronze medal in Hoogerheide. | Photo: Belga Images (@belgaimage)

Lucinda Brand ends trying season with a hard-fought bronze

Lucinda Brand dominated cyclocross more than any rider for two straight years heading into the 2022-23 season. By her own admission, she never found her stride during the last four months. She suffered a broken hand in October, and struggled to get back to full health and regain her usual place atop podiums.

But despite the setbacks, Brand never stopped fighting for every place she could in every race she entered. On Saturday, she pedaled across the line in third in the elite women’s race, and earned a cathartic bronze medal.

“A season with good results, but many times the body was not as strong as I was hoping,” Brand wrote after the race. “I kept working hard, fighting hard (against myself sometimes). As I knew I can reach the level, I kept believing that I could make a step and reach a higher level on the big day.

“Still the two youngsters were stronger, but I made that step I kept believing in. And actually having the feeling to be part of the front race is like a win for me. Yes the feeling of winning the jersey will never be beaten by a bronze medal, but I’m very proud on this medal!”

Thibau Nys atop the podium! | Photo: Belga Images (@belgaimage)

You can see more of Nys, Van Anrooij and Brand very, very soon

The cyclocross season may be wrapping up in just a few weeks, with several loose-end races still to go, but you won’t have to say goodbye to the three Baloise-Trek stars to earn World Championship hardware just yet.

Nys, Van Anrooij and Brand all ride for Trek-Segafredo, and will be turning their attention to their road racing programs very soon. All three have big ambitions. Nys and Van Anrooij are defending European champions, as aforementioned. Brand displayed incredible versatility last year, taking third at Paris-Roubaix, winning the overall at Tour de Suisse and taking the mountains classification at the Ceratizit Challenge by La Vuelta. 

Nys and Van Anrooij will look to keep the momentum going from their excellent cross seasons. Brand will be champing at the bit to rest up and show off what she can do at full form. Wherever these riders are, you definitely won’t want to look away.