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by Dan Seaton
Nommay, France – Anybody who might have glanced at the final results from Nommay today may have thought they were experiencing déjà vu, with Katie Compton and Niels Albert once again victorious in a UCI World Cup. However, while the victors were the same, the story was very much different. In the women’s race, the first women’s World Cup since Katie Compton stormed to victory in Treviso, Italy, Compton capitalized on a bobble by World Champion Marianne Vos to open an insurmountable gap and take another decisive win in international competition. Meanwhile the men’s race was decided by centimeters when Albert outsprinted second place finisher Zdeněk Štybar while Sven Nys overcame a slow start to come within ten seconds of the leaders to take third.
Compton Continues Dominance on the World Stage
With the return of World Champion Marianne Vos and World’s runner-up Hanka Kupfernagel to the World Cup stage, today’s race promised to be the first true test of 2009 for the top women’s riders. And, after a rainy week in Western Europe, many figured the race would be a muddy repeat of Nommay contests of the last few years. But Sunday dawned dry, if cold and cloudy, and the course stayed firm, albeit with treacherous conditions on a series of steep, tricky climbs and off-camber stretches in the middle of the course.
Pavla Havlikova, who won a decisive victory on the difficult slopes of the Koppenberg two weeks ago surged off the front of the pack just after the race left the pavement and tore up the stairs that followed just 100 meters past the finish line.
But the race behind was furious, and Havlikova could only hold her lead briefly before being swamped from behind by Katie Compton and Daphny Van Den Brand. Moments later the race hit the steep, muddy stair-stepped climb that dominated the middle of the course and chaos ensued as riders slid and stumbled, falling over one another as the back of the race hit the traffic in front. Compton, Van Den Brand, and Vos managed to escape unscathed and the three connected at the front, some ten seconds ahead of the chase.
That same section of course would prove decisive on the next lap, when Van Den Brand momentarily bobbled on the tricky, slick off-camber section that followed the climb, giving Vos and Compton a chance to open a gap. The off-camber was a factor all day as riders in both races lost traction and struggled to handle their bikes on the short stretch that leaned steeply from left to right. Van Den Brand’s error cost her, and she fell back into a growing chase group led by Sanne Van Paassen.
By the end of the third lap it was clear that this was a two-woman race. While Compton and Vos traded the lead up front, the gap to the chase group, which featured Van Paassen and Van Den Brand along with Hanka Kupfernagel, Christel Ferrier-Bruneau and Katerina Nash, continued to grow.
While Vos looked strong at the ends of the laps, which were largely flat and featured a series of tight, 180-degree turns, it was clear that Compton, with her superior power, had a major advantage on the difficult slopes and that nasty off-camber. The next trip through, Compton surged and Vos, riding more conservatively, couldn’t match her. Compton managed to create a gap of nearly 10 meters and methodically opened her lead, pulling through the end of the next lap some 12 seconds in front of Vos, who rode in a tuck down the homestretch in an effort to regain Compton’s wheel.
But it wasn’t to be, as the Planet Bike rider didn’t let up, extending her gap to 25 seconds with two laps to go. Vos’ difficulties on the more technical sections didn’t help; at one point she had to resort to grabbing a course barrier in an effort to stay upright when she stalled on the steep climb. Compton, meanwhile, continued to blast away on her bike, even falling herself at one point, but quickly recovering and continuing to stretch her lead. As she approached the finish, it was clear that she had wrapped things up, and she cruised down the home stretch, punching the air in triumph and beaming as she took her second World Cup victory of the season.
Vos rolled through 35 seconds back, appearing happy with a solid effort in her first World Cup this year. Van Paassen, who led the charge in the chase group for much of the day, managed to hold off Daphny Van Den Brand for third, while Katerina Nash rolled across the line in fifth. Americans Sue Butler and Christine Vardaros finished 17th and 34th, respectively.
Can Anyone Stop Albert?
From the gun the men’s race set up to be almost a mirror image of last month’s second World Cup in Plzen, in the Czech Republic. Again Martin Bina shot to the front of the race early in the first lap, before Zdeněk Štybar took advantage of a moment of confusion among the race’s early leaders to grab a lead of several seconds and set the stage for the rest of the race. But here the script changed, and ’cross fans were treated to perhaps the first real drama of the 2009-10 World Cup season.
Moments after Štybar went clear of the pack, Niels Albert, who started slow, reached the front of the chase group and immediately surged forward and connected with Štybar off the front. Meanwhile, nobody could seize control of the huge pack just behind them. Sven Nys, who many had pegged as the pre-race favorite, was mired in traffic in the middle of the twenty-some riders in the main body of the chase. With nobody willing to step up and lead the chase, Štybar and Albert were able to extend their lead to some 15 seconds by the middle of the second lap.
For the next several laps the duo in front traded the duty driving the pace. But nearly every time they came to the more challenging terrain in the middle of the course Štybar managed to open a small gap, riding cleanly while Albert repeatedly struggled to handle his bike. First Albert bobbled on the climb, then later slid sideways across the slanted ground and found himself snared in the course tape along the bottom edge of the slippery slope. Each time Štybar got free, pouring everything into taking advantage of his superior handling, but each time Albert closed the gap again.
The leaders of the pursuit, who had treated the first half of the race with a degree of indifference, finally appeared to decide that enough was enough. Swiss national champion Christain Heule was the first to step on the gas, then Nys, who had finally made his way to the front, let it rip. Their efforts fractured the still large group, and soon the chase was left to a select few, including national champions Nys, Heule, Francis Mourey and Enrico Franzoi, along with Kevin Pauwels and a handful of others. American Jonathan Page was among the early victims, losing contact with the front group and fading deep into the more distant field.
As the riders approached the end of the lap with three to go, Albert decided to make his move and leave Štybar behind, attacking hard in the flats that led into the road. But Štybar held on to his wheel and Albert eventually put himself in difficulty, attempting to wave Štybar through as the pair finished the lap.Nys’ effort didn’t quite pay off, but did land him on the podium in third, nine seconds back, and six seconds ahead of Kevin Pauwels. Francis Mourey, who rode hard in the chase at the end of the race faded slightly at the very end and rounded out the top five.
Štybar, who spent the week in Majorca training with Nys, Sven Vanthourenhout (who skipped today’s race complaining of overtraining) and Bart Wellens (preparing for a return to competition in December), said that the hard training during the week had left him with tired legs. But he also said he was happy with the day’s effort, “I took some risks today,” he said, “but you can’t win without risk.”
Nys also said the week of training left him feeling flat at the beginning of the race, but that he was very happy with his hard charge at the end. “I had a week of hard training, so in the first half of the race I was not as good,” said the Belgian champion. “At the end I was really good, and I had a good companion in Mourey. If only the race had been a little bit longer.”
Planet Bike’s Jonathan Page crossed the line in 40th. Full results below.
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|1||USA||COMPTON Katherine||Planet Bike||0:42:57||60||10|
|2||NED||VOS Marianne||DSB BANK – NEDERLAND BLOEIT||+00:35||50||1|
|3||NED||VAN PAASSEN Sanne||—||+01:27||45||3|
|4||NED||VAN DEN BRAND Daphny||—||+01:28||40||2|
|7||FRA||FERRIER-BRUNEAU Christel||VISION 1 RACING||+02:07||28||13|
|8||FRA||MANI Caroline||VIENNE FUTUROSCOPE||+02:22||26||14|
|14||NED||VAN RIJEN Linda||—||+03:33||17||5|
|16||NED||ELEMANS Saskia||TEAM FLEXPOINT||+03:35||15||4|
|20||FRA||CHAINEL LEFEVRE Lucie||—||+04:30||11||16|
|21||NED||DE BOER Sophie||—||+05:04||10||6|
|23||FRA||MOREL PETITGIRARD Marlène||—||+05:56||8||18|
|24||FRA||DEMARET GUICHARDOT Maureen||—||+05:56||7||20|
|34||USA||VARDAROS Christine||Zannata-Champion Systems||-2LAP||12|
|37||BEL||VAN RENTERGHEM Kim||—||-3LAP||33|
|2||CZE||STYBAR Zdenek||TELENET-FIDEA CYCLING TEAM||+00:00||70|
|3||BEL||NYS Sven||LANDBOUWKREDIET – COLNAGO||+00:09||65|
|4||BEL||PAUWELS Kevin||TELENET-FIDEA CYCLING TEAM||+00:15||60|
|5||FRA||MOUREY Francis||FRANÇAISE DES JEUX||+00:22||55|
|10||NED||DE KNEGT Gerben||—||+01:25||42|
|12||BEL||VANTORNOUT Klaas||SUNWEB PRO JOB CYCLING TEAM||+01:26||39|
|15||FRA||CHAINEL Steve||BBOX BOUYGUES TELECOM||+01:26||36|
|16||BEL||PEETERS Rob||LANDBOUWKREDIET – COLNAGO||+01:27||35|
|24||NED||VAN AMERONGEN Thijs||VACANSOLEIL PRO CYCLING TEAM||+02:16||27|
|25||CZE||DLASK Petr||TELENET-FIDEA CYCLING TEAM||+02:21||26|
|28||NED||VAN LEEUWEN Patrick||—||+02:29||23|
|31||NED||VAN IJZENDOORN Eddy||—||+03:12||20|
|37||ITA||DAMIANI Luca||COLAVITA / SUTTER HOME PB COOKING LIGHT||+03:39||14|
|38||CZE||KLOUCEK Lukas||SUNWEB PRO JOB CYCLING TEAM||+03:46||13|
|40||USA||PAGE Jonathan||Planet Bike||+03:55||11|
|43||NED||VAN HEESWIJK Roy||—||+04:42||8|
|ESP||MURGOITIO REKALDE Egoitz||—||DNF9|
|NED||VAN GILS Wilant||—||DNF4|