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Ashland's Honsinger fourth at cyclocross worlds

Ashland’s Clara Honsinger, the reigning U.S. national champion, capped an outstanding — albeit abbreviated — season Saturday by placing fourth in the UCI World Cyclocross Championships in Ostend, Belgium.

Honsinger is a 2015 graduate of Ashland High who lives in Portland and races for Cannondale Cyclocrossworld.

Competing on a challenging, sandy surface in the coastal community, Honsinger was the lone elite woman to finish in the top six who didn’t race for the Netherlands.

Winner Lucinda Brand, who ruled the five-race World Cup series leading up to the worlds, spearheaded the Dutch dominance.

Cyclocross is off-road bicycle racing over a variety of terrains and obstacles that sometimes requires riders to carry their bikes through some sections.

The competitive season was shortened because of COVID-19, and the U.S. championship race that Honsinger captured in 2019 was canceled in 2020.

Still, she managed to etch her name at the top of the USA Cycling roster with strong performances in Europe.

Honsinger, 23, entered the weekend having placed second in her previous two World Cup races, and she had sixth- and fourth-place finishes in the other two she entered. She finished the series in fourth place.

After the Dutch leaders pulled away from the pack on Saturday and set the pace, Honsinger steadily picked her way through the field. She was in 12th place on the first lap of the six-lap race before clawing her way back.

Among those she overtook on the final lap was Dutch defending champion Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, who placed sixth.

Brand claimed her first world title with a time of 46 minutes, 53 seconds. Teammates Annemarie Worst (47:01) and Denise Betsema (47:12) were next, followed by Honsinger (47:45).

“Today’s race was a huge challenge between the sand and the cold rain, but difficult conditions suit me well,” Honsinger told VeloNews. “I rode a steady race and continued to catch riders.”

Jess Anthony, the cyclocross manager for USA Cycling, praised Honsinger for her patient approach.

“Clara rode a really good race,” he told VeloNews. “She put in a very solid first lap and put herself in a good position early in the race. The front three riders separated themselves early, and Clara did a great job moving forward through the field to mount her chase for the podium. She rode consistent laps and minimized mistakes, which was one of the keys today.”

The top three finishers make the medals podium.

Three other Americans were in the field of 39, including Katie Compton. Compton had won 15 national titles before Honsinger bested her in 2019, and her 130 UCI career wins make her the most successful American cyclocrosser.

Compton placed 21st, and U.S. teammates Rebecca Fahringer and Kaitie Keough were 23rd and 35th, respectively.

Compton was the oldest rider in the field, and Honsinger the third-youngest.

“It feels extremely satisfying to finish the season with a fourth-place finish at worlds,” Honsinger told VeloNews. “I’m looking forward to some rest but extremely motivated for next year.”

Honsinger is a former NCAA Division II champion for the University of Portland who won the national under-23 championship prior to capturing the elite championship.

Clara Honsinger, shown after winning the 2019 national title.