Last week’s silver medalists at the World Cup in Kalmthout moved up a podium step to take convincing wins in Tabor, while last week’s winners had to settle for fourth. Full reports by Christine Vardaros. Video highlights can be seen here.
Men’s Race: Niels Albert (Palmans Cras) takes the win solo
After being outsprinted by a centimeter by Sven Nys (LandbouwKrediet- Tonissteiner)at last week’s World Cup season opener in Kalmthout, Belgium, Albert was keen make good in Tabor. The way he won could be attributed to half luck, half talent. Or, in many fans’ opinions, the outcome of this race could be attributed to one thing only – crashes by Albert and other favorites such as Nys and Bart Wellens (Fidea).
How it played out
With Czech pride in full splendor, local favorite Martin Bina took the hole shot ahead of World Champ Lars Boom (Rabobank.) Within a few minutes, there was a crash that caught both Albert and Bart Wellens (Fidea), dropping them from the lead group of about 15 riders. Without road racing etiquette in place as witnessed in the Grand Tours, the front riders picked up the pace, forcing Albert and Wellens to expend an exorbitant amount of energy to bridge.
During the chase, many of the favorites took turns attacking to force the pace. Boom, Nys and the Czech riders Bina and Radomir Simunek (Palmans Cras) were particularly active. But with none of the attacks sticking, Albert and Wellens eventually made their way back to the action by lap five.
Once there, though, Albert took no more than one lap to recover before playing at the front of the field to test the others. On lap seven, Albert unleashed the most authoritative attack of the day, and nobody could follow. Attacking just after the short staircase on the backside of the course, he chose the perfect spot since the next meters were mostly single file. Sven Nys was reminded of this when he tried to get around French National Champion Francis Mourey, who was in second position behind Albert. When Nys made an effort to get around, Mourey closed the door and Nys rode into his rear wheel and crashed.
With the debacle behind Albert, his gap quickly jumped to ten seconds, as he continued to accelerate up the long gradual uphill just after the stairs. This section ran from the lowest point of the course, under one of the flyovers and over the next. The length of the uphill was about 45 seconds total at top speed – enough room to win some seconds on the chasers. While Albert was off the front, Nys was chasing, making his way back through the field.
The last lap of racing saw Albert hold onto his gap and take the win with an eight second margin, while Nys clawed his way back to the leading group of chasers to finish fourth, three seconds behind local favorites Zdenek Stybar and Bina.
While listening to the announcer as the racers were crossing the finish line, one would have expected Stybar to be the winner. The announcer may have briefly mentioned Albert as he came in for the win, but he screamed for Stybar when he arrived a few seconds later. The crowd’s enthusiasm, however, was easily split down the middle as half the total fans seemingly were from Belgium.
USA had two riders in the event, Jonathan Page ( Planet Bike) and Adam Myerson (Cycle-Smart). Page’s poor start (possibly due to last week’s lingering illness) was further hampered at first a crash, and then later, a broken chain that had him shouldering the bike for half the course, before reaching the pit. He stuck it out for 29th. Myerson kept up his strong effort throughout the race and finished on the leader’s lap for 46th.
Albert took over the World Cup leader’s jersey from Nys.
Video highlights can be seen here.
Women’s Race: Kupfernagel Dominates in Tabor
Hanka Kupfernagel (Focus) bested her 2nd place result at last week’s Kalmthout World Cup opener by taking a convincing win in the Tabor World Cup last Sunday. She crossed the line a full twenty seconds ahead of former World Champ Maryline Salvetat of France. Local Czech favorite Pavla Havlikova came in 15 seconds later for 3rd – her same placing as last week in Kalmthout. Winning the sprint for 4th was Daphny Van den Brand (ZZPR.nl).
How it played out
The start was fast and nervous, causing a crash in the first technical turn early in the lap taking out Belgian Veerle Ingels. Soon after, the groups started to form. The eventual podium spots including Daphny Van der Brand got away from a peloton of five chasers – Sanne Van Passen, Christel Ferrier-Bruneau (Lot-Et-Garonne), Wendy Simms (Kona), Nadia Triquet-Claude (Pro Feminin Les Carroz), and Caroline Mani(Vienne Futuroscope).
With about few laps to go, Van den Brand crashed in one of the technical sections and lost contact with the eventual podium and was picked up by the chasing group. She eventually won the sprint of the bunch for 4th place but lost her leader’s jersey to Kupfernagel.
A few others in the race had some tough times as well. Gabby Day (Team Swift) was having a great race up until the last overpass before the finish when her chain fell off. As she struggled to get it back on, she watched ten gals pass her by. And just when she thought things couldn’t get worse, she was escorted directly to doping control from the finish line. Sitting in a wet chamois while trying to pee while also dehydrated is not particularly pleasurable after a race.
Another casualty was Elke Riedl, who crashed while pre-riding the course the day previous and tore the bursa in one of her knees. She did race but not pleasurably by any means.
The sole American was Cyclocross Magazine columnist Christine Vardaros. She had been in overload training all week to get her fitness level up quickly, but unfortunately, with very heavy, strained legs, her Tabor result suffered, and she was only able to manage 24th. Vardaros said, “It’s unfortunate that my result today took a hit but I’m hopeful that it was worth the potential benefit and that I am back in good form within a couple of weeks.”