Hoogerheide, Netherlands – Heading into today’s World Championship race, reigning World Champion Sven Nys told reporters that the rider he was most worried about was ’crosser-cum-roadie Zdeněk Štybar, perhaps remembering the power of Štybar in 2011, when the Czech rider bested the Belgian at the world championships in St. Wendel. That prediction proved accurate, as the two world champions gave us one of the most exciting championships of years past, establishing an early lead, shedding the rest of the best, and then trading heavy blows back and forth for the duration of the race.
With three to go, the two racers looked like late-round boxers, evenly matched, and it became clear that this would be either a race won by errors, or by a sprint. A crash by Štybar looked to make the decision, as Nys capitalized and opened a significant gap, only to lose his advantage when his bike disappeared from him on a tight 180-degree turn.
In the bell lap, Štybar threw a final attack, and Nys bobbled twice in his bid to respond, forced off his bike as Štybar accelerated away. Though Nys put on a display of technical mastery as he chased Štybar, there was not enough trail left to catch the impressive, powerful Czech – who only decided to race the event in the past week – as he stormed his way to his third World Cyclocross Championship.
“It was a very hard race,” said Štybar. “I crashed one time and I thought it was over. From the beginning I thought, let’s race hard, I have nothing to lose. Now I have to go, I have to give it everything. I was fourth line, I had to brake full gas on the start and come back, which was a big effort for me. We were three, then two and then I thought we were just going to fight for the podium.”
“It’s different when you have pressure, when you’re a full-time cyclocrosser. But for me, I was just coming to cyclocross to do one race. I didn’t feel like it was a World Championship, though I enjoyed the crowds. I was just looking at it like a race.”
And how does this win stack up to his previous two? “The first one, there’s nothing to compare it to, it was in front of my home crowd in Czech Republic. This is really very nice,” he said, noting the importance of a third title, “I really appreciate being World Champion.”
“I thought it was possible,” said Nys, “two or three laps before the end. I pushed a little bit harder and then I saw that he had trouble following, and that it was possible to win. Then I made small a mistake after the tree where he crashed and got on my wheel. I waited half a lap, recovered a bit, and hoped that I could do something in the last lap.”
The Space Behind the Leaders
The race for bronze was between Lars van der Haar, Klaas Vantornout, and Kevin Pauwels, with Pauwels taking the podium as Vantornout shed Van der Haar for fourth after the three fought it out for nearly the entirety of the hour long race.
On the American side, Jonathan Page took top honors with 18th place, while current US National Champion Jeremy Powers took 24th. Ryan Trebon, despite receiving a deep gash on his calf in the first lap, finished in 31st but would likely require stitches. Krughoff rolled in at 48th, right in front of Canadian Mike Garrigan. Tim Johnson, with a possible broken arm, and Zach McDonald, both did not finish the race.
“I got off of the starting straight OK,” said Page, “but then a couple of guys came down in the first mud pit. So I thought, OK, stay calm and go again. Then, someone crashed on the bridge and I got caught behind one of the Czech guys, but I felt good so I went on. I came back strong and picked off guys one by one.”
Read on for a full blow-by-blow report of the race.