KOKSIJDE, BELGIUM – As the rain fell on the sands of Koksijde, Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) again showed why he has dominated the sport of cyclocross for so long, winning in spectacular fashion after spending the race slowly overcoming a poor start that saw him on the back side of the top twenty for much of the early laps. Nys never panicked, using the sand to his advantage and hanging back even when he’d made contact with the lead group that contained Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus), Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor), Klaas Vantournout (Sunweb-Revor), Francis Mourey (FDJ), and Bart Aernouts (AA Drink).

It was a wet day at Koksijde © Thomas van Bracht

It was a wet day at Koksijde © Thomas van Bracht

Sunweb-Revor’s luck continued to be poor, however, as in the same lap both Pauwels and Vantornout crashed out of contention. Nys waited for the final two laps to make his move up to Albert, bridging a sizable gap in the sand so quickly that Albert could only shake his head in disbelief. The World Champion then unleashed a flurry of attacks, trying to put the Belgian champ in danger – and at one point nearly succeeding – but his efforts ultimately came to naught as Albert slipped on the same patch of slick mud that took out Pauwels. Albert did not go down, but was forced to drop a foot, giving Nys the lead heading into the second stretch of sand on the final lap. A short, aggressively steep popper guarded the entrance to the long, sandy straight, and Nys threw everything into it, riding the hill while Albert had to dismount.

“It was like a dream coming true, [riding] perfectly over it,” said Nys. “You arrive at the foot with the idea of trying it. Right away I felt ‘I can ride up this thing’. Then you get the adrenaline boost and you don’t feel anything. It’s one to review several times on TV,” Nys said.

That was all Nys needed, and the Cannibal was gone. Nys’ attack was so powerful and his gap so immediate that Albert visibly gave up, pausing to remount his bike, the fight clearly gone out of him. Albert’s concession nearly cost him silver, as well, as Frenchman Francis Mourey, who’d ridden much of the race at the front, was in striking distance of the World Champion. Albert shook off his disappointment enough to hold off the charging Mourey, crossing the line only a few short bike lengths ahead of the clearly happy Frenchman. Bart Aernouts continues to ride well this season, and crossed the line in fourth, followed some time later by Klaas Vantornout, then Rob Peeters (Telenet-Fidea), Dieter Vanthourenhout (BKCP-Powerplus), Thijs van Amerongen (AA Drink), and Lars van der Haar (Rabobank). That, however, was all long after Sven Nys had crossed the line, hands raised in salute,one more victory added to his string of wins in 2012.

“During the world championships my form was at 100 percent, now I was at maybe 95,” Albert said. “Back then making the lines in the sand went unnoticed but now I felt it. I’m glad to be the leader in the World Cup but nothing’s won so far. Of course I’ll defend my lead.” Albert leads with 215 points to the 185 of both Nys and Vantornout.

In the Junior field, American Logan Owen rode well in the sand, taking fifth place as World Champion Mathieu van der Poel rode solo for the win. American Curtis White took 10th. In the U23 race, Belgium’s Wietse Bosmans took the win.

Elite Men: Old Guard, Fresh Faces Animate the Front

As is his wont, Klaas Vantornout took the holeshot and led the early race, staying at the sharp end until halfway through the second lap. Perhaps motivated by his wife’s stellar performance in the women’s race, Steve Chainel (FDJ) slotted into second wheel, with Pauwel, Aernouts, and Radomir Simunek (BKCP-Powerplus) close behind. Far behind the lead, both the world champion and Belgian champion colors could be made out amidst a tightly packed throng of riders.

On the pack half of the first lap, Chainel was the first to discover the slick patch of mud that would later end Pauwels chances of contention, and Albert’s of the win, as he slid and did a full 180-degree turn, facing a string of racers barreling toward him. As Chainel found his way forward again, Bart Wellens hit the slick and slid out, hitting the deck and sprawling across the course. He was not quick to remount.

As Vantornout continued to press the lead, now with a small gap as Aernouts chased, Albert began to make his way toward the front group. Nys, however, was still far back, sitting in 17th. Nys had said earlier this week that he was feeling the effects of travel and his double wins last weekend at GvA Hasselt and Superprestige Gavere, and was worried illness was coming on – perhaps his pour showing was a result of this.

At the front, Aernouts began trading leads with Vantornout and Mourey, as Dieter Vanthourenhout, Simunek and Thijs van Amerongen all kept themselves in contention as the sand began separating riders into groups. By lap three, Albert had connected with the leaders, while Nys was still far back, in the third chase. As Vantornout and Pauwels took over the lead, Aernouts threw up his hand in frustration – the in-form Belgian had flatted his front tire. Aernouts rode on the flat, and made it to the pits in time to keep from falling off the lead, but the effort clearly cost him.

Sunweb-Revor’s Luck Continues to Poor Run

With Albert safely ensconced in the lead and the gaps growing, Nys began to make his move, using the sand sections to overtake small patches of riders. Somehow the Belgian champ timed his advancement perfectly, as he overtook Vanthourenhout and latched onto the very tail end of the leaders just as Mourey accelerated off the front and the gap to the next chase ballooned, with riders such as Lars van der Haar never to be seen by the leaders again.

On lap four, Tom Meeusen went down on the slick mud as Albert took over the lead from Mourey.  The lead, driven by Albert, now contained Mourey, Aernouts, Pauwels, Vantornout, and Amerongen. Nys continued to yo-yo off the back, never making full contact with the leaders, but not letting them get too far ahead. Was he too tired to hang, or just watching and keeping his own lines?

As Albert raised the pace with four to go, Vantornout decided he didn’t quite have the legs to hang and began slipping back. Shortly after, Pauwels hit the slick that had already claimed Chainel, Wellens and Meeusen and slapped into the barriers, smacking his hip on the ground and driving his bike beneath the metal fencing. The Belgian limped up, hopping on one leg to his mangled bike. He was slow to realign his handlebars and get back on his bike. The Belgian will surely be happy to put the front half of this season behind him, having crashed out of contention in most races he’s entered.

Less than a minute later, Pauwels’ teammate Vantornout bobbled on a sandy descent and crashed into the barriers. Though he managed to stay upright, the mistake ensured that the lanky rider would never see the sharp end of the race again. Vantornout continued to ride strong, however, and finished the race in fifth place.

The Champions Show Their Cards

Nys, realizing that the loss of the two Sunweb-Revor riders was a sure indication that Albert would press his lead, threw off his yo-yoing game and set about reeling the leaders in. The gap, however, was large, and with Albert on the front on the course that won him the World Championships last year, it seemed there was little to stop the rainbow jersey from taking the win.

Aernouts was the next to fall, and the next to be picked up by Nys. Mourey clung tightly to Albert for another half a lap, but in the sand the Frenchman could not keep up, and soon the World Champion was alone at the front. As Albert rode the sand, Mourey dismounted to run. Nys rode as well, and quickly bridged to the Frenchman, but was blocked by Mourey’s running from making any further gains on Albert. As Nys came around Mourey in pursuit, it seemed to be to late: Albert, who stormed solo to win here at 2012 Worlds, had nothing but sky in front of him and looked to have the race.

But if anyone were to take him down, it would be Nys – not only has he been on near-unbeatable form so far this season, only losing when mechanicals or crashes took him out of contention, but Nys won the World Cup here last year. And in 2011, 2007, 2006, 2005, and 1999. The Cannibal knows how to win on sand. On the penultimate lap, as Albert entered the second sand stretch with an eight second gap, Nys dropped all pretense at illness and flew across the sand as if it were pavement, closing the gap to Albert so quickly that the World Champion was visibly stunned, shaking his head in disbelief. Mourey, who had been holding Nys’ wheel, had no response.

Each time this year that the race has come to a sprint between the two champions, Nys has come out on top. Albert, perhaps because of this, spent the first half of the final lap launching a series of searing attacks at Nys, sprinting hard out of each corner and at one point managing to dislodge Nys after Nys had to put a foot down on a short, sandy rise. Albert hit the gas, and sprinted into the first sand section. The gap didn’t last, however, as Nys showed his prowess in the sand, easily bridging back up to the World Champion. Nys seemed content to keep Albert’s wheel, perhaps confident he would take the sprint.

Then, however, Albert slipped on the slick section of mud, putting a foot down and losing just enough speed for Nys to jump into the lead. Before Albert could get back up to full speed, the duo hit a short, steep sandy popper. Nys sprinted to the top of it, but Albert had to dismount and run. That was all the room Nys needed – the Belgian champ unleashed an explosive attack, all but sprinting across the back sand section, gapping Albert so quickly that the World Champion didn’t even bother to give pursuit, but instead took a long moment to remount his bike, the fight all but gone out of him.

Mourey, seeing that the ghost had left Albert, tried to bridge to second, but Albert found enough to hold the Frenchman off, coming in just ahead of him but well behind the victorious Nys.

Thomas van Bracht Photo Gallery:


2012 World Cup Koksijde Elite Men

1Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-KDL0:59:34
2Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP - Powerplus0:00:14
3Francis Mourey (Fra) FDJ-BigMat0:00:19
4Bart Aernouts (Bel) AA Drink Cyclocross Team0:00:33
5Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor0:01:20
6Rob Peeters (Bel) Telenet - Fidea0:01:27
7Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) BKCP - Powerplus0:01:32
8Thijs van Amerongen (Ned) AA Drink Cyclocross Team0:01:37
9Lars van der Haar (Ned) Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team0:01:44
10Philipp Walsleben (Ger) BKCP - Powerplus0:01:55
11Marcel Meisen (Ger) BKCP - Powerplus0:02:01
12Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb-Revor0:02:08
13Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet - Fidea0:02:28
14Niels Wubben (Ned) Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team0:02:33
15Radomir Simunek (Cze) BKCP - Powerplus
16Marcel Wildhaber (Swi) Scott-Swisspower MTB Racing Team
17Simon Zahner (Swi) EKZ Racing Team0:02:45
18Bart Wellens (Bel) Telenet - Fidea0:02:58
19Enrico Franzoi (Ita) Selle Italia-Guerciotti-Elite0:03:13
20Martin Bina (Cze) CEZ Cyklo Team Tábor0:03:15
21Twan van den Brand (Ned) Orange Babies Cycling Team
22Mariusz Gil (Pol) Baboco0:03:44
23Nicolas Bazin (Fra) Auber 930:04:16
24Gerben de Knegt (Ned) Orange Babies Cycling Team0:04:30
25Thijs Al (Ned) Telenet - Fidea0:04:31
26Patrick van Leeuwen (Ned) Orange Babies Cycling Team0:04:34
27Matthieu Boulo (Fra) Roubaix Lille Métropole0:04:44
28Steve Chainel (Fra) FDJ-BigMat0:04:46
29Ian Field (GBr) Hargroves Cycles-Specialized0:04:51
30Martin Zlamalik (Cze) Landbouwkrediet-KDL0:04:52
31Lubomir Petrus (Cze) BKCP - Powerplus0:04:57
32Jonathan Page (USA)0:05:38
33Micky van Empel (Ned) Landbouwkrediet-KDL0:06:21
34Egoitz Murgoitio Rekalde (Spa) Grupo Hiremet Taldea0:06:31
35Isaac Suarez Fernandez (Spa)0:06:47
36Arnaud Grand (Swi) Telenet - Fidea0:07:11
37Robert Gavenda (Svk) Dukla Trencín Trek0:07:20
38Vladimír Kyzivát (Cze) Johnson Controls TJ Auto Škoda0:07:33
39Ondrej Bambula (Cze) CEZ Cyklo Team Tábor0:07:55
40Christoph Pfingsten (Ger) Cyclingteam De Rijke-Shanks0:08:23
41Magnus Darvell (Swe) Team Herbalife 24 Raumerrittet  -2laps
42Christian Helmig (Lux) Elbowz Racing p/b Trisport  -3laps
43Gusty Bausch (Lux)
44Jose Antonio Diez Arriola (Spa)  -4laps
45Lewis Rattray (Aus)
46Alexander Revell (NZl) Revolution Bicycles
47Angus Edmond (NZl)  -5laps
DNFArnaud Jouffroy (Fra) Telenet - Fidea
DNFRomain Lejeune (Fra)
DNFAurelien Duval (Fra) UV Aube
DNFJulien Taramarcaz (Swi) BMC Mountainbike Racing Team
DNSElia Silvestri (Ita) Selle Italia-Guerciotti-Elite
DNSMarco Bianco (Ita)

2012 World Cup Koksijde U23

1Wietse Bosmans (Bel) Belgium0:52:52
2Michiel van der Heijden (Ned) Netherlands0:00:01
3Wout Van Aert (Bel) Belgium0:00:14
4Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Belgium0:00:41
5Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel) Belgium0:00:48
6Corne Van Kessel (Ned) Netherlands0:01:02
7Tomas Paprstka (Cze) Czech Republic0:01:15
8Jens Adams (Bel) Belgium0:01:24
9Laurens Sweeck (Bel) Belgium0:01:32
10Jens Vandekinderen (Bel) Belgium-B0:01:39
11David Menut (Fra) France0:01:49
12Toon Aerts (Bel) Belgium-B0:02:01
13Mike Teunissen (Ned) Netherlands0:02:12
14Tijmen Eising (Ned) Netherlands0:02:26
15Quentin Jauregui (Fra) France0:02:33
16Clément Venturini (Fra) France0:02:43
17Jakub Skala (Cze) Czech Republic0:02:47
18Diether Sweeck (Bel) Belgium-B0:02:54
19Daan Soete (Bel) Belgium-B0:02:57
20Vojtech Nipl (Cze) Czech Republic0:03:02
21Zach McDonald (USA) United States0:03:24
22Lukas Müller (Swi) Switzerland0:03:29
23Michael Boros (Cze) Czech Republic0:04:00
24Emiel Dolfsma (Ned) Netherlands0:04:04
25Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) France0:04:09
26Kenneth Hansen (Den) Denmark0:04:17
27Michael Schweizer Jr. (Ger) Germany0:04:36
28Yorben Van Tichelt (Bel) Belgium-B0:04:55
29Matej Lasak (Cze) Czech Republic0:05:03
30Floris De Tier (Bel) Belgium-B0:05:20
31Severin Sagesser (Swi) Switzerland0:05:27
32Jonathan Lastra Martinez (Spa) Spain0:05:33
33Inigo Gomez Elorriaga (Spa) Spain0:05:38
34Yannick Mayer (Ger) Germany0:06:02
35Fabian Lienhard (Swi) Switzerland0:06:17
36Jon Gomez Elorriaga (Spa) Spain0:06:32
37Dario Stauble (Swi) Switzerland0:07:53
38Scott Thiltges (Lux) Luxembourg0:08:15
39Kevin Suarez Fernandez (Spa) Spain0:08:32
40Luke Gray (GBr) Great Britain  -1lap
41Hugo Robinson (GBr) Great Britain  -2laps
42Yannick Gruner (Ger) Germany
43Ludwig Söderquist (Swe) Sweden
44Adam Martin (GBr) Great Britain
45Lex Reichling (Lux) Luxembourg
46Johannes Siemermann (Ger) Germany
47Enno Quast (Ger) Germany
48Steven James (GBr) Great Britain  -3laps
49Emil Arvid Olsen (Den) Denmark  -4laps
50Ben Sumner (GBr) Great Britain
51Janos Panyi (Hun) Hungary  -5laps

2012 World Cup Koksijde Juniors

1Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Netherlands0:45:17
2Quinten Hermans (Bel) Belgium0:01:35
3Martijn Budding (Ned) Netherlands0:02:02
4Yannick Peeters (Bel) Belgium0:02:41
5Logan Owen (USA) United States0:02:57
6Nicolas Cleppe (Bel) Belgium0:03:10
7Karel Pokorny (Cze) Czech Republic0:03:33
8Kobe Goossens (Bel) Belgium0:03:36
9Marco König (Ger) Germany0:03:42
10Curtis White (USA) United States0:03:48
11Thijs Aerts (Bel) Belgium-B0:04:25
12Stijn Caluwe (Bel) Belgium-B0:04:43
13Jan Vastl (Cze) Czech Republic0:05:00
14Leo Vincent (Fra) France0:05:15
15Elias Van Hecke (Bel) Belgium-B0:05:23
16Richard Jansen (Ned) Netherlands0:05:41
17Adam Toupalik (Cze) Czech Republic
18Dominic Grab (Swi) Switzerland0:06:14
19Michal Paluta (Pol) Poland0:06:22
20Thomas Joseph (Bel) Belgium0:06:39
21Bjorn van der Heijden (Ned) Netherlands0:07:22
22Ward Van Laer (Bel) Belgium-B0:07:40
23Karel Svrcina (Cze) Czech Republic0:07:50
24Gianni Van Donink (Bel) Belgium-B0:08:08
25Jack Ravenscroft (GBr) Great Britain0:08:19
26Adam King (GBr) Great Britain0:08:22
27Sébastien Havot (Fra) France0:08:39
28Jonas Degroote (Bel) Belgium-B0:09:39
29Simon Vozar (Svk) Slovakia  -1lap
30Lukas Meiler (Ger) Germany
31Kamil Malecki (Pol) Poland  -2laps
32Lucas Wollenhaupt (Ger) Germany
33Valentin Ortillon (Fra) France
34Jake Womersley (GBr) Great Britain
35Sebastian Canecky (Svk) Slovakia
36Ken Mueller (Lux) Luxembourg
37Matthew Hargroves (GBr) Great Britain  -3laps
38Paul Lindenau (Ger) Germany
39Piotr Rzeszutek (Pol) Poland
40Luc Turchi (Lux) Luxembourg
41Manuel Müller (Ger) Germany
42Lukasz Manski (Pol) Poland
43Magnus Skjoth (Den) Denmark  -5laps

Check back soon for results and photos!