Lots of Europe’s best ‘cross riders were hoping to have a break from the Sven Nys onslaught when they lined up for Saturday’s Vlaamse Houtlandcross Eernegem in Eernegem, Belgium. Despite plans to join Rabobank’s Lars Boom and Palmans – Cras’ Niels Albert on their day off before Sunday’s World Cup, Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner’s Sven Nys pulled up to the start line and promptly went to work. Nys won out of a lead group of five following a sprint that seemed to start from miles away. Taking the rest of the lead group by surprise with his long range effort, Nys was able to come home for a comfortable win. Rounding out the podium was Sunweb – Projob’s Klaas Vantornout and AA Drink – BeOne’s Thijs Al.

The race had begun to take shape in earnest by the time the race hit the halfway point. A leading group containing Nys, Vantornout, Al, Dieter Vanthournhout (Palmans – Cras), Kevin Pauwels (Fidea), Enrico Franzoi (Liquigas), Martin Bina (Cyklo Team Budvar Tábor) and American Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) had moved away from the rest of the racers. One had to know that with this much firepower, you were either in this group and in the running, or behind and out of luck. From here it would be a question of who would be dislodged first and who would do the dislodging.

With three laps to go, it was Nys who made things difficult. His attack put Pauwels, Bina and Franzoi out the back of the group, with Vantornout and Vanthourenhout leading the charge back up the Nys. Page and Al were having trouble holding the pace and it looked as if they were not going to factor into the final dash, but managed to claw their way back up to the leaders. A first lap crash for Page meant that he had spent considerable energy in getting back up to the leaders, making holding on to the charging Sven Nys all that much more difficult. Franzoi was chasing along in sixth spot.

Vantornout was the next to play his cards, putting in an attack with one lap to go, in hopes of removing anyone else from the picture. He was successful in shedding Vanthourenhout, Al and Page, but was unsuccessful in removing the man he most wanted to drop – Nys. Having clung to Vantornout’s wheel, Nys waited for the right time to start his sprint. Despite sprinting from a long way off, Nys had enough power to hold off Vantornout for the victory. Al outsprinted Vanthourenhout for third place and the final podium spot, while Page was content to cruise in for fifth. Franzoi maintained his sixth position, with Radomir Simunek (Palmans – Cras) getting past Kevin Pauwels for seventh. Tom Van den Bosch (Rendementhypo Cycling Team) came home just beyond the fading Bina, who clearly paid for his efforts early in the race.

Sven Nys confirmed his status as favorite for Sunday’s World Cup stop in Pijnacker, Netherlands, but it is clear that he will have lots of competition, especially from the likes of Klaas Vantornout, Thijs Al and Jonathan Page.

Elite Men

1 Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner
2 Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb Projob Cycling Team
3 Thijs Al (Ned) AA Drink – BeOne
4 Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) Palmans – Cras
5 Jonathan Page (USA) Planet Bike
6 Enrico Franzoi (Ita) Liquigas
7 Radomir Simunek (Bel) Palmans – Cras
8 Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team
9 Tom Van den Bosch (Bel) Rendementhypo Cycling Team
10 Martin Bína (Cze) Cyklo Team Budvar Tábor
11 Davy Commeyne (Bel) Revor Cycling Team
12 Steve Chainel (Fra) Auber 93
13 Erwin Vervecken (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team
14 Ben Berden (Bel) Revor Cycling Team
15 Tim Van Nuffel (Bel) Easypay Cyclocross Team
16 Wim Leemans (Bel) AVB Cycling Team
17 Gianni Denolf (Bel) Palmans – Cras
18 Marco Bianco (Ita) L´Arcobaleno Carraro Team
19 David Willemsens (Bel) Revor Cycling Team
20 Marco Aurelio Fontana (Ita)
21 Constantino Zaballa Gutierrez (Spa) Povoa Cycling Club
22 Robert Gavenda (Svk) Fidea Cycling Team
23 Geert Wellens (Bel) AVB-USSspa Cycling Team Kasterlee
24 David Collins (GBr) Science In Sport – Trek
25 Dimitri Stevens (Bel) MEZ Team Belgium Snellegem
26 Hugo Martinez Rus (Spa)
27 Jan Denuwelaere (Bel) Adinkerkse
28 Jorge Rodriguez Garcia (Spa)
29 Jerry Kallenfels (Ned) Easypay Cyclocross Team
30 Jeffrey Depuydt (Bel) Jonge Renners Roeselare
31 Tom Desmet (Bel) Asfra Racing Team
32 Javier Heras Salichs (Spa)
33 Steven De Schoesitter (Bel) Rudyco Cycling Team
34 Carlos Hernandez Garcia (Spa)
35 Jurgen Van De Walle (Bel) Quick Step
36 Keith Murray (GBr)37 Bragando De La Fuente (Spa)
38 Dries Cauwelier (Bel) Cycling Team Cauwelier Roeselare