France won the relay, the Czechs finished sixth
In the opening race (the relay) of the 57th Cyclocross World Championship in Tábor, the French team consisting of Rémi Lelandais, Martin Groslambert, Célia Gery, Laurine Duraffourg, Hélene Clauzel, and Aubin Sparfel emerged victorious. In the final sprint, junior Sparfel defeated British elite rider Cameron Mason, securing the bronze for Belgium. The Czech team, composed of Václav Ježek, Kristýna Zemanová, Kryštof Bažant, Simona Spěšná, Amálie Gottwaldová, and Zdeněk Štybar, finished in sixth place.
Ježek, despite a fast start, entered the terrain first but then began to lose ground, falling to the seventh position as some juniors overtook him. The last to arrive were the Brits, with Zoe Bäckstedt riding in their colours, but as it turned out, it didn't matter much; Ježek was trailing by 24 seconds. France led the race, closely followed by four other teams. "It wasn't a successful section; I am aware of that. I was under pressure and a bit more nervous. But it wasn't a terrible performance; I delivered rather an average performance," evaluated his performance Václav Ježek.
Zemanová dropped to the last position in the men's competition on the second section, and on the handover, Bažant took over with a loss of 1:36. "I'm satisfied with my performance. It was tough for me because I had to ride with men and gradually fell behind. I brought the relay to the last place, but I anticipated that and tried to ride at my maximum to minimize the loss," said Zemanová. Despite two falls, Bažant moved the Czech colours to second place, trailing by 17 seconds behind France, but it should be noted that he was only competing against women. "I definitely learned something new for Sunday's individual race because the track was different from what we practiced in the morning. Some places surprised me; it was like a skating rink, and I fell to the ground twice. When I came to the first hill, I almost went deaf from the fans urging me forward. It helped me a lot. I believe I will ride even faster on Sunday," said Kryštof Bažant.
On the fourth section, Spěšná made some mistakes, and American junior Lopez overtook her, putting Brit Oscar Amey in the lead, with France trailing by 20 seconds. "I was quite surprised at how the track loosened up against the warm-up. So I struggled with it a bit; my legs were constrained, and it wasn't going perfectly," Simona Spěšná commented. The Czech position wasn't significantly improved by junior Gottwaldová, but she certainly didn't disappoint. "I'm satisfied, I enjoyed my section. I like a tough and muddy track. The fans were incredible; it drove me forward tremendously. It's an immensely pleasant feeling, it gives me energy, and then I ride in immense euphoria. Tomorrow, I want to leave everything on the track and finish this season dignifiedly. I want to prove to everyone that the results were not accidental and aim for the best placement of the season," said Amálie Gottwaldová.
In the final lap, Clauzelová handed over to seventeen-year-old junior Sparfel with a seven-second lead over Britain. Behind him, elite rider Mason started on the track, and it seemed like a matter of time before he took the lead. Štybar started on the fifth position, trailing Canada by 20 seconds. Mason almost caught up with Sparfel several times, but Sparfel fought brilliantly. In the final sprint, he defended the gold by centimeters and could celebrate the gold with his teammates. Unfortunately, Štybar did not catch up with Canadian Eckert and, moreover, lost the sprint to Italian Bertolini. "A man always wants to finish as high as possible, we were hoping for a medal a bit. Each of us left everything on the track. I started making mistakes on the stairs, sometimes I hit the wrong line. Sunday will be completely different than today, the tracks will be even deeper. I wanted to eliminate the loss as quickly as possible, but I ran out of strength at the end," said Štybar after his second-to-last race of his career.
Surprisingly absent from the start were the defending champions, the Dutch, as their top riders declined to participate. This significantly opened up opportunities for other countries, and the British took advantage of it.
1. France (Lelandais, Groslambert, Gery, Duraffourg, Clauzel, Sparfel) 1:01:23
2. Britain (Backstedt, Carrick-Anderson, Ferguson, Amey, Kay, Mason) same time
3. Belgium (van den Boer, Huybs, de Schoesitter, Brouwers, Cant, M. Vanthourenhout) +32
4. Canada (Clark, McCullen, A. Holmgren, Carrier, I. Holmgren, Ackert) +1:06
5. Italy (Agostinacchio, Viezzi, Corvio, Ferri, Venturelli, Bertolini) +1:17
6. Czech Republic (Ježek, Zemanová, Bažant, Spěšná, A. Gottwaldová, Štybar) +1:18.