Neerpelt, Belgium – Despite a weekend of heavy rain in Belgium, the skies cleared for the Fidea Grote Prijs in Neerpelt as the European cyclocross season entered its second week. Even with the rain, the good drainage on the sandy, wooded course meant a tacky, rather than muddy, track, dominated by a series of steep, loose climbs. And the UCI’s newly relaxed rules about the use of synthetic obstacles like sand pits meant race organizers were free to convert a beach volleyball court into a final test just before the race hit the road for the last lap.
Mathiew van der Poel Takes Third Season Win, Sweeck Takes First
In the Beginners category, Mathieu van der Poel won his third race of the season. The youngest son of former world champion Adrie van der Poel dominated from the start. His compatriot Stan Wijkel finished second with Belgian champion Quinten Hermans in third. Hermans had an inauspicious start with two crashes, but rode a strong race to end up on the podium.
Meanwhile, Junior racer Laurens Sweeck continued to show his growing talent by opening his season account in his first race of the season. From the start it looked like he was going to put on a show with his brother Diether, but the latter one missed a turn and fell back into the field to finish the race in sixth. Michael Vanthourenhout and Daan Hoeyberghs completed the podium.
Van Paassen Rounds Out Perfect Weekend
In a women’s race notable as much for who wasn’t present as who was, with world champion Marianne Vos in Australia for the Road World Championships and Katie Compton making her season debut in the United States, Sanne van Paassen showed that her early season form is for real, taking her second victory in as many days.
The 21 year-old Netherlander rode away from two national champions, the Netherlands’ Daphny van den Brand and Belgium’s Sanne Cant, to take victory. But van Paassen was able to use the sand, and some improved technical skills, to her advantage throughout the race. Cant fell off the pace after a second lap bobble in the sand, and van den Brand simply couldn’t match van Paassen, who went clear near the race’s midpoint.
“Last year I came up a little short in the big ’crosses,” said Van Paassen afterwards. “Especially technically, I was often a little below the top. But I’ve trained hard to [rectify that], and here I made the difference on a technical hill.”
Van Paassen told reporters that she’s hopeful that this will be a breakout season for her. “Starting the season with two wins is great,” she said, “but there’s still important work to do. My hope is to win a World Cup race this season and finish high in that classification.”
Nys Stretches Win Streak to Two
With Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) sidelined by a knee injury and world champion Zdenek Stybar (Telenet-Fidea) racing at home in the Czech Republic, Belgian national champion Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) stood alone as the clear favorite coming into the race after starting the season with a decisive victory last weekend. For Nys, who struggled throughout the first month of racing in 2009, the race also represented a chance to reestablish himself at the top of the sport.
From the gun Nys made it clear he intended to do just that, grabbing the lead and setting a blistering pace that cracked all but four other riders by the end of the first lap. By the time they hit the pavement, only Bart Aernouts (Rabobank), Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor) and Kevin Pauwels (Telenet-Fidea), remained at the head of the race, while Vantornout’s Sunweb teammate Sven Vanthourenhout dangled several meters back.
Behind the leaders, Bart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea) had emerged at the front of the chase effort to bring the race back together, but a major bobble just before the road derailed him, and within seconds he had lost nearly 10 places. The former world champion would never recover from the mistake, despite a valiant solo attempt that brought him to within 15 seconds of the leaders with four laps to go. Wellens, a crowd favorite whose chase injected a bit of drama into an otherwise routine day at the races, would eventually finish fifth.
Meanwhile, up front the four leaders engaged in a mostly tactical battle, each firing shots that wouldn’t stick. Despite the series of short, steep, sandy climbs and the course’s final sandy flourish, the course didn’t appear to pose much of a technical challenge to the four-man lead group; power and endurance were center stage.
Finally, with three laps to go, Sven Nys made the first serious bid to break up the leaders, drilling the pace through the woods and over the little hills, stretching the group farther than anyone yet had. But it wasn’t enough, and the race came back together in time for the riders to see the two laps to go card.
In the end, it was Klaas Vantornout who made the decisive move, running his way to the front on the first climb of the final lap while Nys, either as the result of a minor bobble or just being caught in the wrong gear, struggled to pedal to the top. Vantornout immediately hit the gas and again stretched the lead group briefly. But Vantornout surged a moment too early, and Nys was able to sneak around him on a short, narrow stretch of pavement just ahead of the final trip through the sand.
Even as it happened, the move looked decisive, and Nys pounded it home by stretching his lead to 10 meters in the sand. He rolled across the line alone to score his second consecutive victory of the season, while a visibly frustrated Vantornout had to settle for second, just ahead of Aernouts. Pauwels, who had dangled behind the leaders off and on for much of the second half of the race, couldn’t respond to Nys’ final surge and finished several seconds back in fourth.
After the race, Nys told reporters that he had planned to attack the race from the start. “It was my intention to take control of the race from the beginning”, said Nys. “Due to these efforts you only get better in this part of the season. Last week I was not able to do this. This is how I want to be at this point of the season, but I hope to improve in the next weeks. The sand section was ideal for me. Because of that I could avoid the sprint and made the difference with my technique and power. I think I can say that I rode the perfect ’cross.”
Men’s Highlight Video:
Elite Women – Full Results
|1||Sanne VAN PAASSEN||NED||39:39:00|
|2||Daphny VAN DEN BRAND||NED||40:12:00|
|5||Sophie DE BOER||NED||41:45:00|
|14||Nicole DE BIE – LEYTEN||BEL||45:07:00|
|15||Ellen VAN LOY||BEL||45:49:00|
|23||Steffy VAN DEN HAUTE||BEL|
|25||Marijke DE PAUW||BEL|
Elite Men – Full Results
|11||Thijs VAN AMERONGEN||NED||01:03:44|
|15||Patrick VAN LEEUWEN||NED||01:04:56|
|20||Kenneth VAN COMPERNOLLE||BEL||01:05:09|
|22||Tom VAN DEN BOSCH||BEL||01:05:19|
|26||Micki VAN EMPEL||NED||01:06:05|
|33||David VAN DER POEL||NED|
|35||Dave DE CLEYN||BEL|
|38||Michael (JR) SCHWEIZER||GER|
|39||Egoitz MURGOITIO REKALDE||ESP|
|44||Jonas Schau GUDDAL||DEN|
|46||Daniel RUIZ ECHEANDIA||ESP|
|50||Inigo GOMEZ ELORRIAGA||ESP|
|51||Jon GOMEZ ELORRIAGA||ESP|
|52||ALBERTO CANDELAS CABALLERO||ESP|
Brief Results – Beginners
1. Mathiew Van Der Poel (Ned)
2. Stan Wijkel (Ned)
3. Quinten Hermans (Bel)
4. Gianni Van Donink (Bel)
5. Massimo Vanderaerden (Bel)
Brief Results – Juniors
1. Laurens Sweeck (Bel)
2. Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel)
3. Daan Hoeyberghs (Bel)
4. Daan Soete (Bel)
5. Quentin Jauregui (Ned)