by Dan Seaton, photos by Joe Sales
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The clouds cleared and the sun was shining this afternoon on Belgium’s new king, young Niels Albert, in Hoogerheide as a powerful Belgian team worked together to secure victory for the first-year pro. For his part, Albert launched a bold attack during the second lap of the race and simply rode away from the rest of the field. With the Belgians sitting at the head of the main chase group, only the Czech rider Stybar was able to break free to go after Albert. And, for a moment during the next lap of the race, it appeared the two would ride together when suddenly Stybar missed a pedal, and Albert surged again. Stybar said he may have burned one match too many trying to chase again to Albert and after his mistake, never regained contact with the young Belgian. After Stybar’s mistake, Albert simply rode away, looking relaxed and confident, buoyed by the support of an enormous and relatively partisan crowd who celebrated both a Belgian victory and the success of an apparently unified Belgian team.
In the chase group of about 12 the Belgians, Dutch, and, later in the race, the French took turns at the front, with Tijs Al, Sven Nys, and Bart Wellens sitting up front and driving the action. At the end of the fourth lap, Wellens left the group, making an apparent attempt to bring back Stybar, but he was unsuccessful and rejoined the group a few laps later. Meanwhile, defending world champion (and local favorite) Lars Boom, racing on a course many thought would favor him, dangled near the back of the chase group for several laps before a bike change during the fourth lap left him off the back of the main chase group. He never regained the lead group, eventually finishing in a second chase, nearly two minutes down on Albert.
The race for first and second was all but decided with four laps to go, when Belgian champion Sven Nys finally made a move away from the 13-man chase group. Nys rode easily away and into third, but couldn’t make a dent into Albert’s lead, finishing 38 seconds back from him, and 16 seconds behind Stybar. Bart Wellens managed a late surge to take fourth, followed by France’s Francis Mourey, at the head of the main chase group, who took fifth.
Albert told the press that after his serious fall in November in Gavere, in which he ruptured his spleen, he thought there were only two important races: the Belgian Championship and Worlds. Albert overcame an early crash at the Belgian Championships to come within ten meters of taking the victory over Sven Nys, but was disappointed with the second place finish. He told the press that he felt very happy to redeem himself today.
On his second third-place finish in a row, Nys told the press, “It was not my best luck, but after three or four laps I felt really strong. But of course the gap was too big. I think the two strongest guys of the whole race were riding very well.” Nys, who has talked about the need for the Belgians to race together all season, praised the efforts of his contingent. “It is incredible,” he said. “I have raced 10 years with all individual riders who want to win the world championship. Now we want to win also, but it is another atmosphere. Everybody wants to ride for everybody.” He added, “As a team we had done everything possible.”
For the Americans, however, today was less successful. Jeremy Powers, the top American finisher in 35th place, described the race as fast. “It was pretty textbook [after the start], I just kind of went as hard as could throughout the race,” he said. “The hardest part of today was just playing your cards right, not being in the wind a lot, and just watching the acceleration meter.” On his results this season, he told Cyclocross Magazine, “I think it’s my best season, and I managed the amount of racing that I did very well…. I was hoping for better than 35th, but it was a really fast race and I have to be happy with that. It was the best I could have done today.”
American Champion Ryan Trebon had unfortunate luck once again in a big race. The reigning national champion rode solidly in the top 20 as the top American on the first lap on course and conditions perfectly suited to him. But while ascending a steep rise heading up to the second pavement stretch, he suddenly found himself flying through the air. Trebon hit the pavement and landed in a pile of photographers, not even knowing what he had hit.
“I picked myself up off the ground and realized it was the boom for the TV camera that was across the course about 3-4ft high,” Trebon explained. “I don’t know how I was the first one to hit it, it definitely was across a good 60% of the course.”
He would remount his bike, but would only last another lap after landing on a banged-up knee that he hurt when he crashed in pre-riding on Saturday.
Brian Matter, riding in his first World Championship race, said he was happy with his race. “It was awesome, tons of good spectators,” he said. “I was in a group with [Matt] Shriver so we worked together and had fun out there.” He told Cyclocross Magazine that he was also happy with his time in Europe this season and was eager for a return next year. Matter finished 49th, while teammate Shriver finished five seconds ahead in 44th.
Jonathan Page, who, until Friday was unsure if he would be allowed to race due to an accidental missed doping control at the end of November in Koksijde, said he thought the ordeal affected his ability to perform. “I was happy to be starting the race and that was really about it,” he told us. “I never was in the race. I’m just a guy who’s really riding around not myself….unfortunately I’ve just been through way too much.” Page started strong but eventually faded, finishing 52nd.
In an interview after the race, through an occasionally breaking voice, Page thanked the fans who had supported him through his rocky month. “I did my first laps today on the course and a lot of people said, ‘Way to go, Jonathan’ and, ‘Wish you luck,’ and for me that’s amazing. The support of everyone has been extremely nice and that’s why I’m here today…. I can’t say thanks enough.”
Full results below.
|11||22||FONTANA Marco Aurelio||ITA||+01:24|
|16||3||DE KNEGT Gerben||NED||+01:50|
|21||6||VAN IJZENDOORN Eddy||NED||+01:51|
|23||42||HERMIDA RAMOS José Antonio||ESP||+01:52|
|25||5||VAN GILS Wilant||NED||+02:01|
|29||38||ZABALLA GUTIERREZ Constantino||ESP||+02:48|
|30||41||MURGOITIO REKALDE Egoitz||ESP||+02:51|
|32||39||SUAREZ FERNANDEZ Isaac||ESP||+02:53|
|41||40||RUIZ DE LARRINAGA IBANEZ Javier||ESP||+04:26|
|54||51||ST JOHN Derrick||CAN||-1LAP|
|57||7||VAN AMERONGEN Thijs||NED||-3LAP|