by Dan Seaton

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.

Elite Men

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.

Elite Women

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:

1Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet1:02:15
2Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus0:00:26
3Bart Wellens (Bel) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team0:01:33
4Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team0:02:13
5Rob Peeters (Bel) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team0:02:40
6Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team0:02:46
7Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor0:03:06
8Thijs van Amerongen (Ned) AA Drink Cycling Team0:03:19
9Gerben De Knegt (Ned) Rabobank-Giant Off Road Team0:03:37
10Kenneth van Compernolle (Bel) Sunweb-Revor0:03:48
11Radomir Simunek Jr. (Cze) BKCP-Powerplus0:04:14
12Enrico Franzoi (Ita) BKCP-Powerplus0:04:22
13Thijs Al (Ned) AA Drink Cycling Team0:04:32
14Jonathan Page (USA) Planet Bike0:04:44
15Tom van den Bosch (Bel) AA Drink Cycling Team0:05:07
16Petr Dlask (Cze) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team0:05:25
17Jan Verstraeten (Bel) KDL-Trans0:05:38
18Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus0:05:48
19Joeri Adams (Bel) Rabobank-Giant Off Road Team
20Jim Aernouts (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus
21Twan van den Brand (Ned) ZZPR.nl-Destil
22Wietse Bosmans (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus
23Matthieu Boulo (Fra) Roubaix Lille Metropole
24Dave De Cleyn (Bel) AVB Cycling Team-1lap
25Vincent Baestaens (Bel) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team
26Ben Berden (Bel) Qin Cycling Team-2laps
27Geert Wellens (Bel) Champion System LBS Team
28Tim Van Nuffel (Bel) Van Goethem – Prorace
29Roy Van Heeswijk (Ned) ZZPR.nl-Destil
30Stijn Mortelmans (Bel) Palmans-Cras
31Rudy Kowalski (Fra)
32Carlos Hernandez Garcia (Spa)
33Flavien Dassonville (Fra) Nogent Sur Oise
34Alexis Caresmel (Bel)
35Jorge Rodriguez Garcia (Fra)-4laps
36Diego Martínez (Spa)
37Daan Bongers (Ned)
38Jorge Cantalicio (Spa)
39Javier Hernández (Spa)-5laps
40Manuel Martín (Spa)

Elite Women’s Results:

1Helen Wyman (GBr) Kona0:36:33
2Daphny van den Brand (Ned) ZZPR.nl-Destil0:00:42
3Sophie de Boer (Ned) ZZPR.nl-Destil0:00:44
4Nikki Harris (GBr) APB Cycling Team0:00:51
5Sanne Cant (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus0:01:22
6Pavla Havlikova (Cze) APB Cycling Team0:01:26
7Gabriella Day (GBr) The ChainStay-RENNER0:01:35
8Reza Hormes-Ravenstijn (Ned) ZZPR.nl-Destil0:03:03
9Nancy Bober (Bel) Style & Concept Cycling Team0:03:27
10Linda van Rijen (Ned)0:03:36
11Nicole De Bie – Leyten (Bel) APB Cycling Team0:03:42
12Arenda Grimberg (Ned)0:04:47
13Joyce Vanderbeken (Bel)0:04:57
14Christine Vardaros (USA) Baboco – Revor Cycling Team0:05:01
15Nathalie Nijns (Bel)0:05:24
16Céline Wittek (Fra)0:05:54
17Tessa Van Nieuwpoort (Ned)0:05:57
18Katrien Aerts (Bel)0:06:50
19Katrien Thijs (Bel) Edegem Bicycle Club V.Z.W.0:07:08
20Cynthia Huygens (Fra)0:07:14
21Anja Geldhof (Bel)0:07:29
22Karen Verhestraeten (Bel)0:08:50
23Lisa Bogaert (Bel)0:09:12
24Iris Ockeloen (Ned)0:09:39
25Vicki Thomas (Can) Disasterrecovery.Com0:10:08
26Marijke De Pauw (Bel)0:10:54
27Laure Werner (Bel)
28Marta Garcia (Spa)
29Maaike Lanssens (Bel) WC De Molenspurters Meulebeke