Katie Compton soloed away to victory in the World Cup kickoff, while Sven Nys had to dig deep into his bag of tricks to pull off a victory in front of Kevin Pauwels and defending world champ Zdenek Stybar.
By Scott Rosenfield, with help from Gregg Germer
PLZEN, CZECH REPUBLIC—While defending world champion Zdenek Stybar (Quickstep Cycling Team) entered the first World Cup race of the season as home turf favorite, a host of other riders were poised to challenge. Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) was looking for a solid result to begin his overall title defense, and Belgians Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) and Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) were both rearing to start the season on a strong note. Out of the four Americans entered in the men’s field, Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) has been riding the strongest and appeared hungry to perform in his 2011-2012 World Cup debut.
Defending her sole World Cup victory at Plzen would be a challenge for 2010 winner Sanne van Paassen (Brainwash). She faced stiff competition from American Katie Compton (Rabobank-Giant Offroad), who narrowly missed overall World Cup victory last year by 10 points en route to winning all the series racing she participated in. British champion Helen Wyman (Kona) hot off of a ten win early season campaign was also in the mix for the overall victory as well as Katerina Nash (Luna Pro Team) after beating Compton in the States.
Compton Solos to Victory in the Women’s Race
In the first race of the day, Compton took the solo win ahead of Van Paassen and 2011 World’s bronze medalist and Czech national champ Nash after taking advantage of a split formed by Wyman at the start of the race. Compton rode a confident race and went on to make her winning move, leading into the stairs by gapping Nash and Van Paassen.
Racing hard out of the gates, Wyman took the early lead and established a high pace that quickly split the field. At the head of the field, a group of six formed including Wyman, Van Paassen, Nikki Harris (Telenet-Fidea), Compton, Nash and Amy Dombroski (Crank Brothers Race Club).
“I started the season in the USA and I used the racing there as a bit of top end training,” said Wyman. “It’s very difficult when you’re away from home and on unfamiliar roads to stick 100% to your training routine perfectly. The flight home has also taken its toll on me but that’s getting better now. Fair play to all the riders from the USA that come over here and do well straight away. That isn’t easy to do and shows just how good they are.”
Halfway through the second lap, Compton came to the front and put on a dazzling display of power to whittle the group to Nash and Daphny van den Brand. The course suited Compton’s strengths, and she used the turns to pressure the field and take control of the race.
“It was a super fast course with tons of accelerations out of the turns and not a lot of straight pedaling sections,” Compton said. “It was a race you want to lead from the front just because it’s easier to accelerate out of the turns instead of following. Today was a really good day. I had good legs and my technical skills are finally there. I could push, accelerate hard and felt good.”
Van Paassen dangled off the rear of the group but managed to bridge over the open sections of the course, bringing the group up to three. Through the corners and hotdog turns, Compton repeatedly used her power to jump and weaken her three followers. Nobody appeared willing to take over the pace making from her. Behind the lead group, Wyman fought to stay in contention but continued to lose time. By the end of the second lap she was 20 seconds down on the leaders.
Despite a slip on the stairs in the second lap, Compton remained in the lead and continued to do the majority of the work. Throughout the day, the extend stair section pressured riders. Meredith Miller (Team Tibco-To the Top) entered the race hoping for a top-10 result, but faltered on the stairs. “Oh my God, you could run up the first ten and then I could barely walk up the last three,” Miller said.
Miller went on to say that her race was, “not bad for the first World Cup of the season, but not as I was hoping. I was hoping for a top 10, but I rode a relatively smooth race, but didn’t have the legs to make it happen. It’s the first World Cup, plenty more to come.”
Coming into the steps on the third lap, Compton clearly was the strongest of the group. Quickly climbing the stairs, she managed to consolidate a six-second gap on Nash and Van Paassen, with Van den Brand trailing by 15 seconds. Meanwhile, Wyman was chasing at 40 seconds, with Harris and Dombroski closing in on her. Dombroski had started in the third row and clawed herself back into contention.
“I was just trying to be smart about where to make my efforts to move up, and I think I gauged that pretty well,” Dombroski said. “I was defiantly moving forward the first half of the race and kinda got to a spot where I was going to end the day. It was just a matter of keeping the spot then and making sure no one came from behind me.”
Mo Bruno Roy, one of the seven American women to start the race, was less pleased with her finish and said, “I had a pretty bad first lap, stuck in a lot of traffic, and I really didn’t push my way through as far as I needed to. On the second lap, I ended up passing groups of four and five to move up and ended up 20th. So it was pretty good, but I felt like I could have gotten closer to that top 15 if I had a stronger first lap.”
Through the third lap, Nash held on to second place with Van Passen trailing her by several bike lengths. Compton continued to explode out of the turns and consolidate her lead. Nash chased hard and was gapping Van Passen when she lost grip on her front wheel and crashed on the descent following the stairs. Following the crash, Nash slipped behind Van Passen, and the two continued to lose time, falling to 13 seconds behind Compton.
As Compton continued to consolidate her lead on the final lap, Nash was losing speed and forced to run up some of the steeper sections of the 2.6k course. With an 18-second lead, Compton crossed the line and scored the victory. Van Passen came across in second with Nash trailing a further 10 seconds behind for third.
Nys Wins over Pauwels and Stybar in a Three-up Sprint Finish
Diving through the final turns, Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) countered an attack by Zdenek Stybar (Quickstep Cycling Team) to lead out the sprint and win ahead of breakaway companions Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) and Stybar. American Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) had a fast start and managed to ride a savvy race to finish 10th within a heavy-hitting chase group that included former world champions Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) and Bart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea).
From the beginning, anarchy ruled the day in the men’s race as officials started the race with the television cameramen and photographers directly ahead of the right side of the field. A large portion of the field, including American Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) and Belgian Niels Albert, were caught behind in the chaos. Then, as riders rounded the first corner there was a crash involving the barriers. Johnson had expected to contend for a top finish, but was left struggling after the camera incident at the start.
“That was the absolute worst start I’ve ever had in any race,” he said. “I was on the right side and the camera person with the wires and everything was standing right in front of us when the light changed. I was literally last place at the start line. I got going and there was a crash half way [up the start straight] and then there was another crash in the first corner. My race was basically over in the first 30 seconds. I kinda cried about for a lap, and then figured I might as well go as fast as I can.”
Excluding Albert and Johnson, the rest of the favorites managed to make it through the hairy first lap. Nys quickly took the lead on the fast course and drove the pace to distance Albert. Heading into the steps, American Jonathan Page (Planet Bike-Blue) remained well-positioned along with compatriot Jeremy Powers.
On the second lap, Steve Chainel (FDJ) took over the pace making from Nys, but was unable to cause any major separation in the large pack of leaders until he hit the barriers. With Chainel, Nys and Powers opting to bunny hop, an amorphous group began to emerge including Stybar, Nys, Chainel, Pauwels, Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor), Wellens and Radomir Simunek (BKCP-Powerplus).
As the riders hit the stairs, the gaps quickly decreased and the lead group consolidated into a pack of over 10 riders. Behind, Albert and Powers were chasing and working together to close the gap.
Into the second lap, a flurry of attacks threatened to shatter the lead group. However, the riders quickly regrouped and Stybar took over the lead. The pace remained high throughout the second lap with Nys hitting the front again at the start of the third lap. With Nys driving the pace, some gaps opened in the lead group, but it remained anybody’s race with eight laps to go.
Seeing Albert nearing the lead group, Stybar moved to the front and set a blazing pace at the head of the now seven-rider-strong group that included Pauwels, Stybar, Chainel, Nys, Bart Aernouts (Rabo-Giant Offroad Team), Wellens and Simunek. Moving through the start/finish, Powers and Albert were trailing by only 13 seconds and seemed to be closing as Stybar put in his move.
Nearing the barriers, Pauwels and Stybar put in an attack that gave them a several-second gap. Behind, Chainel chased out of the saddle but appeared to be making little headway. With Chainel faltering, Nys went on the offensive to bridge to the leading duo. Up front, Pauwels was doing the majority of the work and Stybar appeared to be pained.
Heading through the start/finish, Nys made a major push to reach the leaders and closed the gap to three seconds. The duo turned into a trio at the barriers with Nys successfully bridging. Behind, some large gaps began to open, with Powers falling momentarily further behind to 19 seconds. Aernouts, Wellens and Vantornout began a strong chase, with Aernouts eventually going solo in an attempt to bridge.
At the head of the race, Stybar appeared to recover somewhat and Nys was clearly gassed from his bridging efforts. Despite his strong attempt to close the gap solo, Aernouts was again joined by Wellens and Vantornout. Trading pulls, the group managed to keep the leaders within sight over the steps. With five to go, the gap was only eight seconds. From the chase group, it was another eight seconds to the broken packs chasing behind.
Heading into four to go, Nys was reticent to take the lead. Pauwels and Stybar continued to trade pulls, and Stybar continued to improve. Only 17 second behind, the chase of three was joined by Albert and Francis Mourey (FDJ) with Powers several seconds behind but sitting in the top 10. The chase had ballooned to seven riders with Albert leading as they reached the barriers, and the gap grew to 25 seconds.
With three to go, Pauwels and Nys seemed hesitant to take Stybar into a sprint finish, and the two riders traded pulls trying to dislodge him. For the first time in the breakaway, Nys moved to the front and upped the pressure through the finish, managing to open a small gap on Stybar.
Stybar countered the move through the turns with two to go. While Nys seemed pained, Pauwels looked fresh but was forced to chase and had difficulty closing the gap. The gap hovering at two seconds, Stybar threw everything into an attack. But exiting the technical section, Pauwels and Nys managed to regroup. Pauwels then put himself ahead of Stybar through the narrow section to avert another attack with Nys sitting on the rear of the group.
With one to go, Stybar attacked again through the finish line. Nys and Pauwels struggled to hold his wheel but managed to stay on terms. Again, Stybar attacked through the technical section following the barriers but to little effect. Through the narrow stretch, Nys moved to the front but didn’t visibly up the pace. Ahead of the stairs, Stybar regained the lead and attacked the run-up. In a great show of bike handling and race acumen, Nys dove through the turn and took the lead heading into the pavement. He managed to hold his lead through the finish, winning the race ahead of Pauwels in second and Stybar in third. Behind, the chase crossed 40 arrears with Mourey taking fourth and Powers managing to hold on for 10th.
“Today it was full gas all day. I watched Stybar just drop an amazing display of power on the road, and I was five to ten seconds off the back all day,” said Powers. “I didn’t have great legs, but I had good legs. It’s good, 10th is great. Top 10 was the goal so it’s nice.”
Next weekend, the World Cup stays in the Czech Republic but moves to Tabor, site of the 2010 World Championships. Because of timing and proximity to the first World Cup Race, the large American racing contingent is expected to race.
Results after the gallery
Elite Women’s Photos:
Elite Men’s Photos:
Elite Women Plzen World Cup
|2||Sanne VAN PAASSEN||NED||24||40:55:00||160||160|
|4||Daphny VAN DEN BRAND||NED||34||41:20:00||120||120|
|12||Linda VAN RIJEN||NED||24||43:09:00||56||56|
|20||Maureen BRUNO ROY||USA||37||44:30:00||40||40|
|21||Sophie DE BOER||NED||22||44:36:00||39||39|
|22||Ellen VAN LOY||BEL||32||44:45:00||38||38|
|24||Tessa VAN NIEUWPOORT||NED||21||44:54:00||36||36|
|26||Nicole DE BIE - LEYTEN||BEL||37||45:19:00||34||34|
|38||Margriet Helena KLOPPENBURG||DEN||24||22||22|
Elite Men Plzen World Cup
|15||Gerben DE KNEGT||NED||37||01:08:00|
|16||Thijs VAN AMERONGEN||NED||26||01:08:01|
|28||Twan VAN DEN BRAND||NED||23||01:09:13|
|33||Patrick VAN LEEUWEN||NED||27||01:09:31|
|46||Eddy VAN IJZENDOORN||NED||27||01:10:55|
|57||Emil Arvid OLSEN||DEN||19|
|58||David VAN DER POEL||NED||20|
Rider quotes, reactions, and photos to come!