During any other season, Sven Nys’ dominant ride at the 2010 Jaarmarktcross in Niel might have stood out, but the muddy, miserable races seem to be the theme of the 2010-11 cyclocross season. And Sven Nys reminding the world’s best racers that there’s nobody better than him when the skies open up is just behind, as Nys took his third straight win in the mud today, claiming victory despite being slowed by a huge mistake by his pit crew.
British champion Helen Wyman (Kona) continued her impressive run by outperforming all challengers on the muddy, technical course. Wyman took third in the European Championships over the weekend, and also won the iconic Koppenbergcross.
Nys may have won the day, but it was two Telenet-Fidea teammates who dominated the early race. Rob Peeters grabbed the lead first, driving the pace through the rain and howling winds and onto the saturated course before former world champion Bart Wellens, storming up on the left side of the course as the race passed through the first pit, took over pacesetting duties. But Wellens, who told reporters later that he may have taken the first lap too hard, surrendered the lead to Nys on the pavement at the end of the lap. Nys, who excels when the weather gets bad, never looked back.
The Belgian champion briefly led Wellens and his teammate, Kevin Pauwels, before striking out on his own midway through the second lap. Nys slowly stretched his lead while behind him another former world champion, Niels Albert, worked his way to the front of the chase. Albert, joined by Pauwels, eventually bridged to Nys, setting up a three-way race, while Wellens continued to chase behind them.
The trio rode together only briefly before Nys attacked again, quickly gaining time on Albert and Pauwels. When Albert responded, Pauwels couldn’t match him and, once again, the race stretched out, each man battling alone, fighting the elements as much as anything else.
The race reached a climax when, with two to go, Nys pulled into the pits only to find that nobody was waiting for him. The Belgian champion pulled up, looking stunned by the absence of both his team and his bike while mechanics scrambled to get him a clean bike. By the time he got moving again, Albert had close the 15-second gap and it was a two-man race again.
“When I got into the pits, I didn’t see anybody there,” Nys told the Belgian TV network Sporza after the race. “Finally one of Sven Vanthourenhout’s helpers got my bike from the stand. I lost a lead of 20 seconds, but fortunately it didn’t cost me the victory. I don’t blame my mechanics. They’ve done good work for me for 15 years, and I was able to pull away from Albert again quickly.”
Nys’ post-race words were as workmanlike as his race, as he immediately opened a lead again, shouldering his bike and running through the mud to regain the lead. Albert made a valiant effort to stay in contact with Nys, but couldn’t match him in the mud. Nys took the bell alone, eventually riding to a 26 second victory.
Behind Nys, Albert had easily wrapped up second, but a battle for the final step on the podium went to Bart Wellens, who recovered from his first lap efforts in time to pull away from his fading teammate Pauwels to take third on the day.
American Jonathan Page (Planet Bike), apparently recovered from a back injury that limited his performance in recent weeks, turned a strong start into a shot at a top-10 finish. Unfortunately for Page, the windy conditions brought down a section of course tape that jammed his derailluer and slowed him down. Nonetheless, the American battled to a solid 14th place finish on a day when many top riders simply pulled out of the race.
Second place finisher Niels Albert told reporters after the race that he was as stunned as Nys by the botched trip to the pits. “I saw Sven stop and was a little shocked,” he said. “How does something like that happen? I don’t know, but I’ve never seen anything like it. And I hope it never happens to me.”
Wellens, meanwhile, who pulled out of a similarly messy race in Ronse this past weekend told reporters that he was much better prepared for the weather this time. “We got a special suit from the team,” he said, “and I had my whole body smeared with Vaseline. I was actually too hot. I’m happy with my ride [today].”
Nys, for his part, was philosophical about the debacle, telling reporters that he would laugh looking back. Of course, now with three wins under his belt, the Belgian champion has plenty to laugh about.
Belgian cyclocross continues with a rare trip to the French-speaking Walloon region, with the Grand Prix de la Region Wallone on Saturday and the third round of the Superprestige Series in Hamme-Zogge on Sunday.
Wyman, clearly buoyed by her recent strong showings, took to the front early on the muddy, treacherous course. The nasty conditions favored those who could mix power with finesse, and Sanne Cant (BKCP-Powerplus) soon led Daphny van den Brand (ZZPR.nl-Destil) and Wyman’s fellow Brit Nicki Harris (APB Cycling Team) to the front, with Wyman latched onto the back of this elite lead group. Van den Brand’s teammate Sophie de Boer later bridged up.
Midway through lap number two, Wyman went to the front again and hit the gas. De Boer briefly latched on before she fell off the pace to fend for herself, and was passed by Harris, on her best ride of the season. The two would later rejoin to battle for podium positions, with van den Brand making the junction on the final lap. Mechanical issues with their drivetrains slow the progress of first de Boer, and later Harris, and that was all that van den Brand needed to cruise to second.
At the front of the race, Wyman was putting on a one-woman show through the slop, and would eventually finish with a 42-second gap. De Boer finished just two seconds behind newly re-crowned European champ van den Brand, with Harris another seven seconds back.
Notes: Cyclocross Magazine contributor Christine Vardaros had a very respectable showing to take 14th place, and Canadian Vicki Thomas made her return to Europe after the Canadian National Championships to take 25th.
Elite Men’s Results:
Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus
Bart Wellens (Bel) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team
Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team
Rob Peeters (Bel) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team
Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team
Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor
Thijs van Amerongen (Ned) AA Drink Cycling Team
Gerben De Knegt (Ned) Rabobank-Giant Off Road Team
Kenneth van Compernolle (Bel) Sunweb-Revor
Radomir Simunek Jr. (Cze) BKCP-Powerplus
Enrico Franzoi (Ita) BKCP-Powerplus
Thijs Al (Ned) AA Drink Cycling Team
Jonathan Page (USA) Planet Bike
Tom van den Bosch (Bel) AA Drink Cycling Team
Petr Dlask (Cze) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team
Jan Verstraeten (Bel) KDL-Trans
Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus
Joeri Adams (Bel) Rabobank-Giant Off Road Team
Jim Aernouts (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus
Twan van den Brand (Ned) ZZPR.nl-Destil
Wietse Bosmans (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus
Matthieu Boulo (Fra) Roubaix Lille Metropole
Dave De Cleyn (Bel) AVB Cycling Team
Vincent Baestaens (Bel) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team
Ben Berden (Bel) Qin Cycling Team
Geert Wellens (Bel) Champion System LBS Team
Tim Van Nuffel (Bel) Van Goethem – Prorace
Roy Van Heeswijk (Ned) ZZPR.nl-Destil
Stijn Mortelmans (Bel) Palmans-Cras
Rudy Kowalski (Fra)
Carlos Hernandez Garcia (Spa)
Flavien Dassonville (Fra) Nogent Sur Oise
Alexis Caresmel (Bel)
Jorge Rodriguez Garcia (Fra)
Diego Martínez (Spa)
Daan Bongers (Ned)
Jorge Cantalicio (Spa)
Javier Hernández (Spa)
Manuel Martín (Spa)
Elite Women’s Results:
Helen Wyman (GBr) Kona
Daphny van den Brand (Ned) ZZPR.nl-Destil
Sophie de Boer (Ned) ZZPR.nl-Destil
Nikki Harris (GBr) APB Cycling Team
Sanne Cant (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus
Pavla Havlikova (Cze) APB Cycling Team
Gabriella Day (GBr) The ChainStay-RENNER
Reza Hormes-Ravenstijn (Ned) ZZPR.nl-Destil
Nancy Bober (Bel) Style & Concept Cycling Team
Linda van Rijen (Ned)
Nicole De Bie – Leyten (Bel) APB Cycling Team
Arenda Grimberg (Ned)
Joyce Vanderbeken (Bel)
Christine Vardaros (USA) Baboco – Revor Cycling Team
Nathalie Nijns (Bel)
Céline Wittek (Fra)
Tessa Van Nieuwpoort (Ned)
Katrien Aerts (Bel)
Katrien Thijs (Bel) Edegem Bicycle Club V.Z.W.
Cynthia Huygens (Fra)
Anja Geldhof (Bel)
Karen Verhestraeten (Bel)
Lisa Bogaert (Bel)
Iris Ockeloen (Ned)
Vicki Thomas (Can) Disasterrecovery.Com
Marijke De Pauw (Bel)
Laure Werner (Bel)
Marta Garcia (Spa)
Maaike Lanssens (Bel) WC De Molenspurters Meulebeke