by Dan Seaton

November 11, 2009 – If ‘cross racers needed a reminder that small things can make a big difference, today’s Jaarmarktcross in Niel, Belgium, where one tricky corner and a steep blip of a hill proved decisive, was a good one.  In both the men’s and women’s races, a fall by a top contender near the end of the race in a single slippery corner fractured a leading trio and sent those who stayed upright on to victory. In the women’s race, it was American Katie Compton of Planet Bike to slide out, allowing World Champion Marianne Vos to power away to victory ending Compton’s season-long win streak, while in the men’s race a stumble by Zdeněk Štybar set up a tactical sprint between Niels Albert and Sven Nys that Nys won by a matter of centimeters.
Marianne Vos led out the women’s race before a group of four featuring Vos, Daphny Van Den Brand, Sanne Cant, and Katie Compton coalesced at the head of the race. But the group didn’t stay together for long. Cant struggled on a short but very steep climb that would play a pivotal role all day and the other three quickly capitalized and left the Belgian rider behind. The same hill continued to make trouble for the trio out in front when Vos stumbled on her way into the hill. Compton and Van Den Brand briefly appeared to distance the World Champion, but she quickly reconnected with them. Finally, coming into a hard, muddy left turn Compton’s rear wheel slid out and the American rider lost control, tumbling onto her shoulder and back. She was back up and racing quickly, but the damage was done and the pair of Dutch riders managed to open a gap that Compton couldn’t close on the final lap.

In the end, Vos was able to force Van Den Brand to lead out the final sprint on the road, and the World Champion came around her to take a decisive win.  Compton rolled across in third, waving to the crowd as she crossed the line, with Cant about half a minute back in fourth.  Saskia Elemens took fifth.

In the men’s race, a large group, some 30 riders strong, rode together through the first 2.7 km lap, led early by Martin Zlamalik and later by Gerben De Knegt. But the group fractured on the second lap when Thijs Al stumbled behind Sven Nys on the same steep climb that challenged the women earlier in the day. Al’s bobble momentarily blocked the course for the rest of the race, allowing Nys to go free for more than a lap, while Zdeněk Štybar and Niels Albert led the charge to reconnect with the front of the race behind him.

But Albert ran into trouble on the next lap when his teammate Radomir Šimůnek inadvertently cut him off on the same troublesome climb, forcing him into an awkward dismount that brought him to a brief standstill. As Albert chased to regain his teammate’s wheel, Štybar reached Nys and the two rode together. Eventually Albert connected with Šimůnek, who helped bring the World Champion up to the front, making a lead group of four.

The group rode together, trading attacks and taking turns bobbling on the same steep climb. Šimůnek was the first to be dropped, and was being pursued by a chase group of Bart Aernouts and Italian Champion Enrico Franzoi before he managed to connect with the leaders once again.

That same problematic climb injected more  drama into the race when, with six to go, Albert rode Nys into the barriers on the left side of that same problematic climb. The crowd, who clearly thought Albert’s move was deliberate and dirty, responded with a chorus of boos. But the move was all for naught, as the four in front stayed together for another lap until Šimůnek fell of the pace, apparently due to a mechanical problem with his bike.

Nys made sure to put himself in front on the next trip up that critical hill, and Albert made a major error, again being forced to dismount awkwardly and momentarily stop while Nys and Štybar rode away.  Albert was making progress in his pursuit when, on the very same hill, a lapped rider got in his way, forcing him to once again run and lose more time to the two leaders.

But Albert was determined and would not be denied, and managed to reach the leaders with three laps to go.   When the trio came to the hill again, Nys attempted to take a hard line and undercut Albert in the left turn at the top. But Albert didn’t give him an inch and Nys again got hung up on the barriers, dismounting and allowing Albert to go clear. And again the crowd felt that Albert had deliberately run Nys off the course and showered him with boos that followed Albert as he made his way around the course. While Albert charged ahead, Nys and Štybar mounted a furious chase, buoyed on by fans who clearly hoped they would catch the soloist at the front.  When the race converged again just before the bell lap, it appeared to be destined for a three-way sprint for the win.

Instead, Štybar slid out on the same corner that ended Compton’s bid for first, and never managed to reach the two leaders again. The leaders came around two lapped riders as they made their way back on to the pavement that lead in to the homestretch, but then slowed tactically, allowing two lapped racers back into the race. And, for a moment, everyone seemed confused about what to do. But the two lapped racers pulled off short of the finish line and Albert hit the gas as they came around the final turn and the sprint was on. But Albert didn’t quite have enough, and the Belgian champion came around him to take a narrow win. Štybar, who flatted after his brief slip-up, rolled slowly across the line in third, while Šimůnek claimed fourth.

After the race, Nys told reporters that he didn’t think Albert had intended to run him off the course.  “I felt he drove me to the left,” said Nys, “but I do not think he had any malicious intent.”

Albert, for his part, admitted an error.  “I lost my balance and had not seen that Nys was on the inside,” he said. “The crowd turned against me and I responded with a gesture. I shouldn’t have done that, but I would never intentionally interfere.”

Video highlights here.


Jaarmarktcross Niel

Elite (53 starters)
1. Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago) (Bel) 1:00:05
2. Niels Albert
3. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) 0:39
4. Radomir Simunek (Cze) 0:48
5. Bart Aernouts
6. Enrico Franzoi (Ita)0:58
7. Tom Meeusen 1:32
8. Gerben de Knegt (Ned)
9. Philipp Walsleben (Dui)
10. Jan Verstraeten
11. Jim Aernouts
12. Rob Peeters
13. John Gadret (Fra)
14. Thijs Al (Ned)
15. Arnaud Jouffroy (Fra) 1:45
16. Tom Van den Bosch 1:53
17. Petr Dlask (Cze)
18. Françis Mourey (Fra) 2:05
19. Mariusz Gil (Pol) 2:33
20. Marcel Meisen (Dui) 2:51
21. Wilant van Gils (Ned)
22. Kevin Eeckhout
23. Jan Denuwelaere
24. Kevin Pauwels
25. Twan van den Brand (Ned) 3:03
26. Wietse Bosmans 3:07
27. Kenneth Van Compernolle 3:11
28. Jan Soetens 3:21
29. Kevin Cant 3:25
30. Patrick van Leeuwen (Ned) 3:43
31. Tim Van Nuffel 4:09
32. Jiri Polnicky (Cze) 4:17
33. Dave De Cleyn 4:23
34. Javier Ruiz De Larrinaga (Spa) 4:31
35. Lukas Kloucek (Cze) 4:47
36. Flavien Dassonville (Fra) 5:15
37. Sven Beelen 5:52
38. Nico Berckmans at 1 lap
39. Kobus Herygers
40. Stijn Mortelmans at 2 laps
41. Rudy Kowalski (Fra)
42. Alexandre Wypelier (Fra) at 5 laps
43. Ariunboldf Noaranbat (Mon)
44. Naran Khangarid (Mon)
45. Bold-Erdene Bolbaatar (Mol) at 6 laps

Women (25 starters)
1. Marianne Vos (Ned) 38:20
2. Daphny van den Brand
3. Katie Compton (Planet Bike) (USA) 0:12
4. Sanne Cant 0:25
5. Saskia Elemans 0:40 (Ned)
6. Sophie de Boer (Ned) 1:57
7. Joyce Vanderbeken 2:06
8. Nikki Harris (GBr) 2:11
9. Gabriella Day (GBr) 3:00
10. Reza Hormes-Ravenstijn (Ned) 3:26
11. Sabrina Stultiens (Ned) 3:39
12. Nancy Bober
13. Veerle Ingels 4:49
14. Christine Vardaros (Zannata Champion Systems) (USA) 5:01
15. Cynthia Huygens (Fra) 5:10
16. Celine Wittek (Fra) 5:55
17. Karen Verhestraeten
18. Vicki Thomas (Can) 6:03
19. Nicole De Bie-Leijten at 1 lap
20. Ilse Vandekinderen
21. Kim Van Renterghem
23. Marijke De Pauw

Juniors (21 starters)
1. David van der Poel (Ned) 37:31
2. Xandro Meurisse 0:39
3. Joeri Hofman
4. Mike van Aken 1:01
5. Alexis Caresmel
6. Stan Goderie
7. Lorenzo Pepermans
8. Jorn Claes
9. Maxime Huygens 1:52
10. Jelle Cant 2:36
11. Thijs Van Aert 3:25
12. Kris Vermeir 4:03
13. Rob Leemans 5:16
14. Jamie Herremans 5:40
15. Niels Verdijck 5:54
16.Jago Goedefroy
17. Jens Van Ammel 6:26
18. Stef Beyers at 1 lap
19. Ilja Peyffers
20. Joris Van Loock

Beginners (21 starters)
1. Daan Hoeyberghs (Mol) 30:54
2. Quentin Jauregui (Fra) 0:30
3. Matthias Van de Velde 0:49
4. Dylan Kowalski (Fra) 1:21
5. Felix Pouilly (Fra) 1:39
6. Quinten Hermans
7. Kenny Schellens 2:57
8. Jeffrey Jansegers
9. Jelto Veroft 3:22
10. Yolan Brems 4:15
11. Tom Bosmans 4:25
12. Thomas Smans
13. Niels Buysen 4:45
14. Glenn Lens 5:39
15. Onno Verheyen 6:37
16. Van Leyen 6:44
17. Lotto Kopecky at 1 lap
18. Sven Boschmans
19. Dieter Fleurackers
20. Jonathan Van Weverbergh
21. Loni Van den Bosch