Aigle, Switzerland – Czech cyclocross star Zdenek Stybar (Telenet-Fidea) has started the 2010/2011 cyclocross season exactly where he finished last season – out in front and on top. The world champion proudly displayed his rainbow stripes at the front of the race, taking an early lead on the first lap and pushing the pace through the fast, but technical course. Didn’t get to follow our blow-by-blow live race coverage? Relive it here.
Though Belgian champion Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) took the early lead, Stybar quickly capitalized when Nys bobbled on the first trip through the course’s trickiest feature, a sandy off-camber section that caused trouble all day. By the second lap, Nys had rejoined Stybar, and the duo was eventually joined by Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor), Kevin Pauwels (Telenet-Fidea) and Bart Aernouts (Rabobank). Behind them, Frenchman Steve Chainel (Bbox) led a blistering chase that eventually brought together a group that numbered more than 10.
Lingering at the back of the chase, 2009 world champion Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus), who dominated the early season World Cup races last year, rode under the radar, though whether he was suffering under the hot early pace or simply waiting for an opportunity to make a move was unclear. Bart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea), who rode strong early, was the first to fall from of the lead group, losing contact when a dropped chain forced him to dismount and make a quick in-race repair.
Moments later, Chainel came to the front and slowed the pace slightly, and a number of riders relaxed momentarily, most notably Nys, who sat up near the rear of the 10-man lead group. Sensing opportunity, Stybar launched a vicious attack, catching the Belgian champion off guard and blowing the lead group apart.
Only Aernouts and Chainel could match the Czech’s early surge, but the world champion hit the gas again, gapping the remaining leaders and quickly stretching a lead of some 20 meters. Aernouts, who looked destined to race for second at least, was the next frontrunner sidelined by bad luck when a mechanical forced him off the bike, costing him some 20 seconds and any hope of a podium finish.
Meanwhile, while Stybar continued to stretch his lead over the rest of the field, Niels Albert emerged from a broken, slowing chase, attacking hard and quickly earning a gap that underscored the effectiveness of his early, anonymous riding. The Belgian hammered away looking remarkably fresh while the rest of the field looked nothing so much as exhausted. For his efforts, Albert would earn a second place finish, leaving him within striking distance in the overall World Cup title race. Kevin Pauwels claimed the final podium place, holding off Klaas Vantornout, who took fourth.
Jonathan Page (Planet Bike), who was having a respectable early ride, told Cyclocross Magazine that he crashed in the race’s early laps, going over the bars when he ran into a rider who had trouble with one of the race’s many steep uphills. “I’m a little disappointed,” said the American. “I was pretty excited about the race, but I just didn’t have a good start and it was very difficult to move up or know where the traffic was going to go because of all the ups and downs.” Page battled back from his fall to claim 19th, three seconds ahead of countryman Jeremy Powers (Cannondale-CyclocrossWorld). “[After the crash] I made up some ground,” said Page. “I just tried to make the race as positive as possible.”
Power’s teammates Jamey Driscoll and Tim Johnson finished just a handful of seconds behind Page and Powers, claiming 24th and 26th respectively.
Race winner Stybar said after the race that he had poured everything he could into the effort. “It was not easy, it never is,” said the Czech world champion after his sixth straight win, which leaves him undefeated on the season. “At the moment it’s going well with my condition. I keep going flat out, because you never know when it will go down for a while. I still have some reserves. The past few weeks I’ve trained hard; now I’m going to relax a little, because the races are going to add up.”
Check back soon for more from Aigle, including additional rider reactions.