by Dan Seaton

Antwerp, Belgium – Forty-five minutes standing around in the coldest conditions Belgium has seen in nearly a year is probably not the ideal preparation for a tough ‘cross race featuring several long, challenging sections of sand. But that’s how the elite men warmed up for Scheldecross, just across the Schelde River from downtown Antwerp, when a dog uncovered a grenade on the beach not far from the course.  Racing in snowy, sub-freezing conditions in the wake of a storm that brought Belgian traffic to its knees yesterday, Sven Nys was undeterred, taking a 13 second victory over Under-23 standout Tom Meeusen. In the women’s race, Dutch Champion Daphny Van Den Brand rode away from Sanne Cant for a 15 second win, with new American arrival, Amy Dombroski, finishing in tenth.

‘Cross fans in Belgium have been treated to a number of unusual sights this season, but perhaps nothing so bizarre as the sight of 50 of cyclocross’s best riders trying to stay warm for 45 minutes while police decided how to deal with a grenade that was found just off the course only moments before the race’s scheduled 3:00 start.

When police eventually surrounded the explosive with a thick wall of sandbags and ruled the race safe to contest and the riders finally took to the course, it was Czech racer Radomir Simunek who, apparently, managed to stay the warmest. He shot off the front, riding comfortably in conditions more familiar to his home in Eastern Europe than relatively mild Belgium.

But Sven Nys, who recently joked that he was becoming an old timer but looked nothing of the sort today, answered Simunek’s attack decisively and quickly took the lead in the race, which was shortened to 45 minutes due to the delay.  In the tough conditions only Dutch rider Gerben De Knegt could match Nys’ surge. Nys, however, quickly made it clear that he wanted no company, powering through the snow and sand to open a substantial gap over the rest of the field.

Nys entered the final lap with a gap of nearly half a minute over the nearest challenger, Meeusen, and rode conservatively, allowing Meeusen and Zdeněk Štybar, who had attacked off the front of a large chase group of some seven riders, back into the race a bit.  But Nys’ lead was secure and the Belgian Champion rolled across the line well ahead of Meeusen, who, in turn, edged out Štybar for second. An American, Brandon Mart, started but finished last in 51st.

In the women’s race, contested earlier in the day, Daphny Van Den Brand rode away from Sanne Cant to take first by 15 seconds, and nearly a minute over third place finisher Sanne Van Paassen.  Four North American women started the race. American Christine Vardaros withdrew from the race after a hard fall early on, Canadian and Cyclocross Magazine contributor Vicki Thomas finished in 20th, while fellow Cannuck Rachael Mirvish finished in 27th. American Amy Dombroski finished an impressive 10th in her first race since coming to Europe following US Nationals last weekend. “Ugly race today…not on the ball and off the wall. Good opener for Kalmthout Sunday, I hope!” Dombroski said via Twitter, then had a laugh about the grenade. “I felt like I exploded!…Anywhere else but Belgium the race woulda been canceled!”

Nys told reporters after the race that, despite several disappointing losses to Niels Albert last weekend, he felt good about his fitness coming into the busy Christmas racing season. “My fitness has been good for weeks,” he said, “And my confidence is good now that I’ve started the Christmas period, which is heavy, with a victory.”  Albert, Nys’ main rival for much of the season, started slow and never managed to break out of the chase group, finishing seventh.

21 year-old Meeusen said he was thrilled to be able to mix it up with the “big boys” of ‘cross. “This track fit me like a glove,” Meeusen said, “and the ‘cross was fifteen minutes shorter, so it was in my favor. It is super to stand between these men after all the hard work I did in the summer.”

Just how a grenade came to lie on the beach during a major ‘cross race or what happened to it after the race remains unclear.  Nonetheless, barring additional unplanned excitement, racing in Europe picks back up with the World Cup in Kalmthout on Sunday.  Stay tuned to for complete coverage.

Brief Results


1Daphny VAN DEN BRANDNED3237:192020
2Sanne CANTBEL2037:341515
3Sanne VAN PAASSENNED2238:111212
4Reza HORMESNED4338:351010
5Hanka KUPFERNAGELGER3639:0988
6Joyce VANDERBEKENBEL2639:1755
7Jasmin ACHERMANNSUI2139:3144
8Nikki HARRISGBR2439:3133
9Sophie DE BOERNED2039:5022
10Amy DOMBROSKIUSA2339:5611
11Helen WYMANGBR2940:28
12Gabriella DAYGBR2641:12
13Veerle INGELSBEL2942:09
14Nicole DE BIE – LEYTENBEL3542:09
15Nancy BOBERBEL3542:09
16Anne ARNOUTSBEL2142:20
17Daniela BRESCIANIITA2842:34
18Nicoletta BRESCIANIITA2443:14
19Nathalie NIJNSBEL1744:17
20Vicki THOMASCAN3844:37
21Katrien AERTSBEL4046:06
23Steffy VAN DEN HAUTEBEL1747:09
24Laure WERNERBEL2947:49
26Marijke DE PAUWBEL2049:04
27Rachael MIRVISHCAN3349:09
28Katrien VAN LOOYBEL21


1Sven NYSBEL3444:156060
2Tom MEEUSENBEL2244:284040
3Zdenek STYBARCZE2544:303030
4Radomir SIMUNEKCZE2744:392525
5Gerben DE KNEGTNED3544:452020
6Kevin PAUWELSBEL2644:501818
7Niels ALBERTBEL2444:501616
8Bart AERNOUTSBEL2844:501414
9Enrico FRANZOIITA2845:121212
10Dieter VANTHOURENHOUTBEL2545:121010
11Vincent BAESTAENSBEL2145:3688
13Martin ZLAMALIKCZE2845:3644
14Christian HEULESUI3545:3622
15Jim AERNOUTSBEL2145:3611
16Marco BIANCOITA2845:36
17Rob PEETERSBEL2545:36
18Thijs ALNED3046:12
19Joeri ADAMSBEL2146:12
20Mitchell HUENDERSNED2246:20
22Philipp WALSLEBENGER2346:54
23Patrick VAN LEEUWENNED2546:54
24Ramon SINKELDAMNED2146:54
25David DEREPASFRA3246:54
26Nico BERCKMANSBEL4146:54
27Geert WELLENSBEL2746:54
28Lubomir PETRUSCZE2046:54
29John GADRETFRA3146:54
31Arnaud JOUFFROYFRA2046:54
32Quentin BERTHOLETBEL2346:54
34Jimmy TIELENSBEL3147:40
35Dave DE CLEYNBEL2247:58
36Wim LEEMANSBEL2347:58
37Jan VAN DAELBEL2347:58
38Ben BERDENBEL3547:58
39Gianni DENOLFBEL2348:19
40Corne VAN KESSELNED1948:30
41Mike GARRIGANCAN2949:32
42Kevin CANTBEL2249:32
43Stijn HUYSBEL2449:32
44Paul OLDHAMGBR3349:44
46Ken smetsBEL2850:50
49Ariunbold NARANBATMGL30
50Robert WATSONGBR19
51Brandon MARTUSA20