by Chris Bagg
NAMUR, BELGIUM — Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) added to his mythology (and his 134 previous victories) today in Namur, beating a resurgent Niels Albert in the final few hundred meters to take round five of the UCI Cyclocross World Cup Series. Nys recovered from two flat tires to take the win, making his victory even more impressive. At the start of the Namur round, Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) still held onto the leader’s jersey, ahead of Nys by 15 points. Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) was returning from an injury and Lars Boom (Rabobank) had decided to put the skinsuit back on. Of the five Americans toeing the line, Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cylocrossworld.com) and Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) looked to have the greatest hopes.
At the start, Francis Mourey (FdJ) and Klaas Vantournout (Sunweb-Revor) took the holeshot, with Mourey getting to the top of the opening climb with a small gap. Tim Johnson was way up near the front, hovering around near the top ten, leading Kevin Pauwels. As they went through the pits for the first time, a group of five led, including Mourey, Vantornout, Rob Peeters (Fidea-Telenet), Elia Silvestri and Bart Aernouts (Rabobank). But the long run-up brought the race right back together, and it looked like the off-camber would decide things again. Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) managed to ride the whole section and found the front of the race as his award. Vantornout, Mourey and Aernouts stuck to his wheel, and then Radomir Simunek Jr. (BKCP-Powerplus), Sven Nys, Zdenek Stybar (Quickstep) and Niels Albert followed, although the racers were packed so closely together that the running order was constantly in flux.
At the beginning of the second lap, a full twenty riders could be said to be in contention, the heavy mud keeping things slow and tightly packed. World Champion Zdenek Stybar and World Cup leader Kevin Pauwels lurked around 12th and 13th place, farther back than their normal places, but certainly still in the race. Meeusen continued to ride the deadly off-camber, and his abilities kept him at the front of the race. Lars Boom rode the section, too, but was well back in the race by the middle of the second lap. Stybar and Albert had moved up inside the top ten, and Rob Peeters (Telenet-Fidea) was having an excellent day. Bikes started changing on this second lap, the shuffling further compounding the compression of the race.
Mourey seemed to love the opening climb to each lap, stringing the field out as he attacked the long ascent. His effort began to crack the leading group, bike-length gaps appearing between the riders. Kevin Pauwels continued to ride up to the front of the race, making it into the group of six leaders after the off-camber. Nys stayed tucked onto Pauwels’ wheel. A new rider, Aurellian Duval (U.V. Aube), came to the front to attempt his best result ever, making a group of five with five laps to go: Meeusen, Albert, Duval, Vantornout, and Pauwels.
Albert used the group for a springboard, attacking that first climb and putting his competitors into difficulty. His efforts created the first real lead group of the day, from which Duval had been dropped. Pauwels rode in fourth, on his teammate Vantornout’s wheel. Behind, Nys, Mourey, Stybar and Duval continued to linger. While Albert struggled with the off-camber, Meeusen attacked, and Nys rode through seven other riders, grabbing the second spot in the race.
With four laps to go, that lead group had shrunk to three: Nys, Meeusen, and Vantornout. Mourey led the next group of four, with Albert, Pauwels, and Stybar on the Frenchman’s wheel. The Namur World Cup was shaping up to be a true battle of all the big names. Soon Meeusen couldn’t hold Nys and Vantornout, fading back to the chasers, who were now a group of five. The off-camber section continued to shuffle the field, with Stybar charging up to the front group. Nys dropped back a bit, and Vantornout suddenly found himself with a gap at the front and the Czech rider trying to close that gap. As the leaders went across the start/finish, it was Vantornout, Stybar and Pauwels, the two Sunweb-Revor riders displaying more of the tortoise than the hare, letting the other riders attack and then suffer for their efforts. Stybar wanted to push, however, and put all the chasers into difficulty. Albert and Meeusen responded, by Stybar’s effort dropped Pauwels from the front group of five.
Beginning lap six, the running order went Nys, Stybar, Vantornout, Albert and Meeusen. Pauwels dangled about five seconds behind that group, trying to stretch his legs and back. Down the off-camber section, all the front riders made mistakes except for Pauwels, who rejoined the lead pack for a moment before giving time back to the lead group. Stybar, like Vos before him, seemed to gather strength from his World Champion jersey, constantly pushing the pace at the front. Every single one of the leaders took a bike before the start-finish and the bell.
The group spread out across the line and Albert took the bait, attacking. Albert made it to the top of the first climb at the front of the group. The acceleration shed Meeusen, making the front group four. Stybar may have put out too much power on the penultimate lap, as he was soon five seconds behind the leaders. The last trip through the off-camber, surely, would decide the race. Albert had a gap of about a second going into it, and Nys came around Vantornout just before the stretch, clearly hoping to have clear road in front of him through the toughest part of the race. Albert managed to stay on the bike, while Nys was the one who struggled. With just a few turns remaining, however, Nys returned to Albert’s wheel, and went right past as they passed the pits. Albert put his head down in despair, ceding another win to the great Sven Nys. Vantornout took third, with Pauwels fourth and Meeusen fifth.
Results follow gallery.
Elite Men Gallery
|11||Gerben DE KNEGT||NED|
|19||Thijs VAN AMERONGEN||NED|
|21||Twan VAN DEN BRAND||NED|
|41||Javier RUIZ DE LARRINAGA IBANEZ||ESP|
|50||Patrick VAN LEEUWEN||NED|
|56||Eddy VAN IJZENDOORN||NED|
|60||Emil Arvid OLSEN||DEN|