by Bart Hazen
British national champion Helen Wyman (Kona) took the biggest win in her career on the Koppenberg today. The newly crowned “Queen of the Koppenberg” soloed to an impressive win with the native Belgian rider Sanne Cant finishing in second and Dutchwoman Sanne van Paassen in third. Daphny van den Brand and Sophie de Boer completed the top five. Cyclocross Magazine contributor Christine Vardaros had a solid ride finishing 12th. Van Paassen retains the overall lead of the Gazet van Antwerpen Trofee.
On a sunny afternoon, Wyman and Belgian champion Sanne Cant had the best start. Dutch champion Daphny van den Brand, Sophie de Boer, Sanne van Paassen and Pavla Havlikova couldn’t follow. Havlikova, last year’s winner of the Koppenberg, had to deal with mechanical problems and was without a chance for a good result.
Wyman and Cant were very strong and equal to one another. Wyman was strong uphill with Cant being the better in the descent. In the penultimate lap, Cant had to deal with bad mechanical luck as well and dropped off of Wyman’s pace. Wyman would build a lead of over 30 seconds on Cant turning into the final lap, which was enough to take her first big win in her career.
“This win is very important”, said Wyman who was second in Zonhoven yesterday. “It’s always a dream to win a race, if it happens on the Koppenberg that is just amazing. It gives me much confidence for the European Championships of next week.”
Belgian champion Sanne Cant had mixed feelings about her second place. “I am happy with the result, but we will never know how it would have ended without the bad luck. I don’t think Wyman would have dropped me.”
Christine Vardaros told reporters after the race that knowing when to run and when to ride made a crucial difference for her today. “What’s kind of ironic is that my weakest skill is my running,” she said, “and the smartest thing I did was run even when I could ride. Because the wheels don’t turn [when they get muddy] and I only have two bikes today. We used the lower pit, which was a smart move, because I could ride up the cobbles with relatively little mud and I passed all these girls who were just bogged down with mud.”
Vardaros, who was diagnosed with thyroid problems last season, has seen her results rise steadily since then, and rode to perhaps her best finish in several years today, despite racing after a week spent trying to recover from stomach illness. “I was really happy today,” said the American. “I saw quite a few racers during the race whom I haven’t seen in three or four years. I had to do a doubletake to be sure it was them. It felt like back to normal. I’m really optimistic now, it was the first really good feeling I’ve had in probably four years.”
Van der Poel and Van Poppel Win Youth Races
The Juniors race was won by Dutch Danny van Poppel (BKCP-Powerplus). The son of former roadstar Jean-Paul van Poppel dominated the race from the start. Jens Vandekinderen finished just as in the Zonhoven Superprestige, in second. Matthias va de Velde fas third.
“I attacked on the climb and nobody was able to follow”, said van Poppel. “I have won the race, but i didn’t feel very good.” The race with the beginners was won by Mathieu van der Poel ahead of Yannick Peeters (son of Quick-Step sports director Wilfried Peeters) and Jens Teirlinck.