by Dan Seaton

While top American racers were kicking off the season in Washington and Vermont, the European cyclocross season got rolling on Sunday when Belgian Champion Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) defeated a depleted field in Erpe-Mere, Belgium. With world champion Zdeněk Štybar racing at home in the Czech Republic and last year’s winner Niels Albert sitting out with a fever, Nys did battle with Bart Aernouts (Rabobank), Kevin Pauwels (Telenet-Fidea) and a trio of Belgian riders with very similar sounding names – two Vanthourenhouts and one Vantornout.

Nys broke the race open with two laps to go, accelerating away from all but Aernouts and Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor). But Vantornout suffered a mechanical coming out of the woods as the race approached the finish, and Nys outkicked Aernouts in the final meters to take victory. Behind them, Pauwels forged on alone, eventually claiming third ahead of Dieter Vanthourenhout (BKCP-Powerplus) and rising Belgian star Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea), riding in the Elite field after dominating the U23s last year.

Nys, who told reporters a few days ago that he’s looking for solid results to start the season after a rocky beginning to last season, had to be pleased with the first race. And with a win under his belt and a rainy August and September suggesting it will be a season of heavy, technical courses, Nys looks likely to meet his goals.

European cyclocross continues next week with races in Harderwijk, Netherlands, and Neerpelt, Belgium, before the first major race of the season, the inaugural GVA Trofee race at the the Citadelle de Namur, on October 3.

Full Results

1. Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet – 59:59
2. Bart Aernouts (Bel) Rabo – Giant Offroad Team
3. Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team – 00:17
4. Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus – 00:33
5. Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team – 00:39
6. Bart Wellens (Bel) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team – 00:47
7. Philipp Walsleben (Ger) BKCP-Powerplus – 00:49
8. Steve Chainel (Fra) – 01:03
9. Enrico Franzoi (Ita) BKCP-Powerplus – 01:12
10. Joeri Adams (Bel) Rabobank – 01:47
11. Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Sunweb Revor – 02:11
12. Jim Aernouts (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus – 02:21
13. Rob Peeters (Bel) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team
14. Tom Van Den Bosch (Bel) AA Drink Cycling Team – 02:30
15. Ian Field (GBr) – 02:50
16. Arnaud Jouffroy (Fra) BKCP-Powerplus – 03:10
17. Gerben De Knegt (Ned) Rabo – Giant Offroad Team – 03:21
18. Mariusz Gil (Pol) Baboco – Revor Cycling Team – 03:41
19. Kenneth Van Compernolle (Bel) Sunweb Revor – 03:44
20. Jiri Polnicky (Cze) Sunweb Revor – 03:52
21. Jelle Brackman (Bel) MTB dreamteam – 03:57
22. Radomir Simunek (Cze) BKCP-Powerplus – 04:04
23. Jens Adams (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus – 04:07
24. Karel Hnik (Cze) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team – 04:14
25. Ben Berden (Bel) Qin Cycling Team – 04:57
26. Egoitz Murgoitio Rekalde (Spa)
27. Gianni Denolf (Bel) Baboco – Revor Cycling Team
28. Nicolas Bazin (Fra) – 05:00
29. Arnaud Grand (Swi) – 05:37
30. Robby Cobbaert (Bel) SDC – Rogelli Cycling Team – 06:02
31. Vincent Baestaens (Bel) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team – 06:17
32. Kobus Hereygers (Ned) ZZPR.NL – 06:23
33. Micki van Empel (Ned) ZZPR.NL – 06:49
34. Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus – 07:16
35. Tommy Nielsen (Den) – 07:38
36. Geert Wellens (Bel) Scott USA Cycling Team @ 1 Lap
37. Kenneth Hansen (Den)
38. Xabier Garcia Irazola (Spa)
39. Daniel Ruiz Echeandia (Spa)
40. Benedikt Jobb (Ger)
41. Stijn Heyse (Bel) Team CATA bikes bianchi
42. Wim Allary (Bel) Koninklijke Brugse Velosport VZW
43. Alberto Candelas Caballero (Spa)