Zdenek Stybar followed up his two wins in his Czech Republic homeland with a win in Namur, Belgium to open up the GvA Trofee series. Sanne van Passen continued her winning ways in the Elite women’s field in a convincing win, while Arnaud Jouffroy put in a convincing performance to take the U23 win.
by Bart Hazen
Elite men: World Champion Zdenek Stybar opens GVA in Namur, Nys abandons
World champion Zdenek Stybar (Telenet-Fidea) has won the opening race of the Gazet van Antwerpen Trofee (GvA) on the Citadelle in Namur. Stybar won it with an eight-second lead over Sunweb-Revor’s Klaas Vantornout. Stybar’s Telenet-Fidea teammate Kevin Pauwels completed the podium. Bart Aernouts and Bart Wellens rounded off the top five. For Stybar, it’s his third win of the season after his two wins on Czech home soil last week in Stribo and Louny. Belgian Champion Sven Nys, who came through at 30 seconds from Stybar after one lap, didn’t finish the race.
From the start Zdenek Stybar took the initiative followed by Klaas Vantornout, Bart Aernouts, Kevin Pauwels and Dieter Vanthourenhout. In the sunny weather conditions, 23 degreee celsius, Stybar pushed the best pace in the first laps of the race, resulting in taking the extra GvA bonus ranking points at the end of lap two. The remaining points went to Pauwels and Vantornout.
Halfway through the race Dieter Vanthourenhout and Bart Aernouts dropped off the back and the two Telenet-Fideas and Klaas Vantornout remained off the front in the lead. In the fourth lap Vantornout attacked and Stybar followed easily while Pauwels dropped off with a flat tire.
Vantornout was putting the pressure on Stybar for the remainder of the race, but the world champion didn’t falter. The two turned into the final lap with a small lead on Pauwels, with Aernouts and Wellens riding in fourth and fifth position, respectively. Belgian Champion Sven Nys abandoned the race with two laps to go and can already forget a good overall position for the Gazet van Antwerpen Trofee series.
In the last part of the final lap Stybar pressured Vantornout, and by the end of the lap Stybar was able to create a small gap on the Sunweb-Revor rider to take his third win of the season. Stybar wsa expressive after the race, saying, “I am very happy, my condition is very good. I’m looking forward to the first race of the Superprestige in Ruddervoorde next Sunday. It was very difficult with temperatures above 20 degrees today.” Then he added, referencing the new UCI rule change for drink hand-ups, “It was nice we were allowed to drink!” With Nys and Albert (still injured) not taking any points, it’s already a good start in the Gazet van Antwerpen Trofee for the Czech rider.
Vantornout, for his part, said that he could not match Stybar’s technical skill in the final lap of the race. “For the moment, my condition is very good. I was riding for the victory, but I’m second today, so I’m not good enough. Stybar was technically a little bit stronger than me, and on the downhill he was a little bit faster. Before the big climb he had 50 meters on me, and it was over. It’s a very difficult parcours, you have the climbs and you have the steep downhill, and that’s very technical, and that’s not so good for me. My technique is good, but Stybar is a little bit better in the downhill.”
Jonathan Page, whose arrival in Europe was delayed, told Cyclocross Magazine he was still suffering from the effects of travel and jet lag. “I’m just tired,” said the American. “I just wanted to finish the race today and not go too incredibly deep. But it’s just hard to ride around on this course; it’s very hard, very steep hills, it’s still muddy, even though it’s a beautiful day.”
Page said that, despite the travel and fatigue, he was happy to be back home in Europe after a solid – if not entirely satisfying – few weeks in the United States. “I’m just happy to be here, to get back to my own routine. There are some really hard races coming, and I usually feel better as they go.”
[Full Results and Photo Galleries below]
World Champion Arnaud Jouffroy dominates U23 race in Namur
World Champion Arnaud Jouffroy (BKCP-Powerplus) won the U23 race in Namur. The 20 year-old French dominated the race from the beginning to win with a 25-second lead over Rabobank-Giant off-road rider Joeri Adams. Belgian Champion and BKCP teammate Jim Aernouts finished in third. Kevin Eeckhout (Sunweb-Revor) and Lars van der Haar (Rabobank-Giant Offroad) rounded out the top five.
Arnaud Jouffroy broke clear from the first lap together with Jim Aernouts, Swiss champion Arnaud Grand, Lars van der Haar and Kevin Eeckhout. In the second lap Jouffroy attacked again. and nobody was able to follow the world champion, who got the world title after Poland’s Pawel Szczepaniak and his brother Kacper tested positive for doping at the Worlds in Tabor last year. Eeckhout quickly followed at 20 seconds while his teammate Aernouts got a flat tire. Van der Haar and Grand were not able to follow.
From that point Jouffroy made it a true one man show, despite not having a great start to the season. In Erpe-Mere he injured a rib, and in Neerpelt he injured his knee. Belgian Joeri Adams, who had a bad start due to a flat tire, was riding an impressive second half of the race and moved up to Aernouts and Eeckhout in the battle for second place, which he eventually snagged.
Jouffroy in his post-race comments said, “I was increasing my lead without riding 100%. Without taking any risks in the second half of the race, I could secure my win. It’s actually a surprise as I didn’t ride much on my bike the past week as I was still suffering from a bruised rib and a painful knee from the previous races. This means my basic condition is very good, but I know I don’t have my top condition yet.”
Elite women: Sanne van Paassen dominates European scene, takes third win in GVA Namur
Dutch Sanne van Paassen (Brainwash) is the best women’s cyclocross rider in Europe at the moment. Van Paassen took her third win of the season in Namur, after wins in Harderwijk and Neerpelt, by holding off Daphny van den Brand (ZZPR) and Sanne Cant (BKCP-Powerplus) by 21 and 49 seconds, respectively. Czech Pavla Havlikova and British Helen Wyman rounded off the top five. Cyclocross Magazine regular contributor, USA’s Christine Vardaros, riding for her new team Baboco-Revor, finished in 17th, 7:36 down from the winner.
Sanne van Paassen broke clear from her competitors from the beginning and rode unthreatened to another victory in the early season. The battle for second between van den Brand, Cant and Havlikova was more exciting. Havlikova was the first one who couldn’t handle van den Brand’s pace and had to drop off with two laps to go. Cant lost contact with Van den Brand in the final lap to finish third. It’s a repeat of the podium in Neerpelt last week.
Van Paassen is more than satisfied with her season start. “My level is much better than last year, I am happy about that. It’s my intention to keep this level during the whole season. I’m aiming for the overall win in the Gazet van Antwerpen Trophee, but the World Cups are important too.”
Van den Brand said afterwards that poor weather in the previous weeks had limited her training and triggered her asthma, which affected her preparation for the race. “The start was a little bit heavy for me, it was a fast start on the stairs. I just tried to ride my own race because my condition isn’t so good. I haven’t trained as well because of the weather and because I had some trouble with my lungs a couple of weeks ago. I’m a little later in form than last year, but maybe that’s better for the end of the season.”
Christine Vardaros told Cyclocross Magazine after the race that, after a sudden change of teams last week, she was satisfied just to be racing and feeling good. “As of two days ago I switched teams, so I went into this race knowing I was emotionally drained,” she said. “I left the last team – it was run by Tim Meeusen of Champion Systems – and I finally decided I’d had enough, that he had no respect for me as a racer or for women in cycling. It’s unfortunate, but I’m thankful that Steven Baeckelandt took me in.”
Britain’s Gabby Day, making her season debut today in Namen, had to abandon the race after what appeared to be a very serious crash in one of the technical but fast descents. Day, who lay face down and in obvious pain on the course for several minutes before being taken from the course on a stretcher, told Cyclocross Magazine later that her injuries did not prove to be serious.
“I am very sore and am disappointed to not have completed my first race,” said the British rider,, “but I have to look forward now and focus on getting myself healed and better ready for the first World Cup in [Switzerland] in two weeks’ time. My injuries will be sore for a few days, but I will be back on the bike ASAP and raring to go again! I have a smart black eye to show off!”