HOOGSTRATEN, BELGIUM: On a challenging course lined with snow and thick with leg-sapping mud, Sven Nys (Crelan-Euphony) took his first win in his newly won World Championship jersey, and the 60th Superprestige victory of his career. In fact, the race took shape much like that in Louisville, as Nys traded blows with Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Napolean Games) until the finishing straight.
Though Vantornout was arguably the stronger rider of the day – continually shutting Nys’ moves down, holding the lead position despite Nys appearing to want it, and rocketing by Nys in the final mud/grass straight before the finish – his legs left him in the final meters and he was no match for Nys on the pavement, conceding the race after only a handful of pedal strokes. Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napolean Games), who again got in his own way by crashing in the pits early on, spent the race chasing and clawed his way up to third. Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus), clearly tired after his long solo win yesterday, never factored in the race but managed sixth. American Jonathan Page rose to the challenge of the difficult course and finished tenth.
In the women’s event, Belgium national champian Sanne Cant (BKCP) took a solo win ahead of Ellen van Loy and Sabrina Stultiens. American Amy Dombroski continues to ride well, taking 5th, and Cyclocross Magazine correspondent Christine Vardaros – who brought us coverage of the Belgian reactions to Louisville Worlds – took fifteenth. Wietse Bosmans won in the U23 category, and Mathieu van der Poel continued his dominance in the juniors.
The day was sunny but cold, with snow lining the course and thick puddles of half-frozen mud on top of slick ground that took many of the day’s riders down. Noticeably missing from the start line was Lars van der Haar, whose spectacular barrier-crash forced him to abandon at yesterday’s Bpost Trofee race in Lille. As the Elite men kicked off the line, Radomir Simunek took the hole shot ahead of Thijs van Amerongen (AA Drink). The stars and stripes of Jonathan Page were visible on the outside line, and the new American Champion slotted into a top-ten spot.
World Cup Hoogerheide winner Martin Bina traded leads with van Amerongen as the racers struggled across the first lap, the course clearly challenging the racers’ ability to put down power as they slogged through soaked grass and deep mud. Indeed, the course was so difficult that by the second lap the lead group had already been whittled down to eight riders: Klaas Vantornout, van Amerongen, Bina, Swiss champion Julien Taramarcaz, Philip Walsleben, Bart Wellens and World Champion Sven Nys. Page, Kevin Pauwels and Niels Albert were already 15 seconds down, in the first large chase group.
Vantornout Races from the Front
Throughout the race, it was Vantornout who showed he wanted it the most, and he took over at the start of the lap, powering through the muck and stringing out the lead group. A slide out by Taramarcaz further split the group, and with Vantornout driving the pace, the lead was quickly reduced to a group of four – Vantornout, Nys, Bina and Walsleben.
As the foursome pushed across the course, the cameras zoomed back to the pits, where once again Kevin Pauwels was in distress. How it happened was not caught, but Pauwels was on the ground, his bike next to him, and his chances at reconnecting with the leaders again lost.
By the third lap, Walsleben began to crack, dangling off the lead as Bina did his best to assert himself over Vantornout. Nys, for his part, seemed to be more curious about the course than his competitors, and sat comfortably on wheels. As the four leaders went through a lap later, a small string of riders followed—Rob Peeters at thirty seconds, followed by Pauwels, then Jonathan Page and Bart Aernouts together. Niels Albert, looking fatigued and disinterested was over 1:10 back on the pace, riding with Tom Meeusen.
What chances Bina had at contesting the win fell into the ‘what if’ category, as the Czech rider crashed in the mud as Vantornout upped the pace, now with only Nys on his wheel. With three laps still to go, the race was once again a two-up battle between the two champions – would Vantornout again make a small mistake, or would this be his day to reign?
Worlds, Part Deux
What followed was a fantastic duel between the two riders, as Nys continually outsmarted Vantornout on the tricky course, finding the opportune moments and split-second-saving lines to move ahead of the lanky rider. Vantornout, however, proved to have the better legs in the sticky sections and never let Nys hold the lead for long. Neither rider made significant mistakes, and the back and forth – Nys tactically stronger, Vantornout physically – provided a thrilling race for the spectators.
Behind them, the contest for third heated up as Walsleben, Bina and Peeters all came within distance of each other, and Pauwels made significant time gains from the rear.
By the penultimate lap, Pauwels had replaced Bina in the bid for the final podium spot, and up front Vantornout banged his frozen hands on the handlebar, struggling to find some warmth. Jonathan Page continued to get some good camera time as he crossed the line in sixth position. Niels Albert, apparently finally finding his legs, had begun working his way up through the traffic. Bart Wellens, who was in the mix early on, abandoned the race.
With the conditions as difficult as they were, it was only on the seventh lap when the leaders heard the ringing of the bell – as at Worlds, the race would come down to the final few minutes. In a long, muddy straight, Nys punched it and opened up a few lengths, but on the subsequent hill, he didn’t have his customary power and Vantornout shot by him to again take the lead. The drama of the exchanges was palpable: the World Champion wanting to take his first win in the rainbow jersey, the Belgian Champion had the opportunity to undo the mistakes that cost him that jersey. Neither man was giving the other any quarter.
The Final Moves
Nys shouldered by Vantornout right before a muddy down-up-180. The move was clearly premeditated, but short lived as again Vantornout slipped around. Nys again accelerated and moved into the lead in the final muddy grass stretch, both men throwing themselves at the difficult course. Vantornout, however, was simply stronger and powered by Nys, looking to have made the move that would win him the race.
Being stronger in the mud, however, was not enough when there was a long, paved finishing straight to contend with. Whether Vantornout used up all his gas to get the lead position, or if he simply new he couldn’t out-kick Nys, the end result was the same: Vantornout opened up the sprint, Nys took a few pedal strokes to wind up in his slipstream, and then shot by to end the sprint almost as quickly as it had begun. Vantornout sat up and, for the second time in a eight days, had to settle for watching Nys raise his hands in victory a few short meters ahead of him.
Pauwels proved the best of the trio vying for third, and Albert saved face with a sixth place finish. Page wasn’t able to hold on to his sixth position, but nonetheless had a strong second half to finish in 10th.
Bart Hazen Photo Galleries:
2013 Superprestige Hoogstraten Elite Men Results
|7||Thijs VAN AMERONGEN||NED||1:04:16|
|15||Gerben DE KNEGT||NED||1:07:19|
|19||Kenneth VAN COMPERNOLLE||BEL||1:08:23|
|25||Patrick VAN LEEUWEN||NED||1:10:19|
|28||Edwin DE WIT||BEL|
|29||Tim VAN NUFFEL||BEL|
2013 Hoogstraten Elite Women Results
|2||Ellen VAN LOY||BEL||39:57:00|
|4||Sanne VAN PAASSEN||NED||41:07:00|
|9||Margriet Helena KLOPPENBURG||DEN||43:23:00|
2013 Superprestige Hoogstraten U23 Results
|5||Wout VAN AERT||BEL||54:29:00|
|12||David VAN DER POEL||NED||56:43:00|
|13||Yorben VAN TICHELT||BEL||57:15:00|
|18||Matthias VAN DE VELDE||BEL||58:50:00|
|22||Tim DE SCHUYTER||BEL|
|23||Pjotr VAN BEEK||NED|
2013 Superprestige Hoogstraten Junior Men Results
|1||Mathieu VAN DER POEL||NED||41:07:00|
|6||Gianni VAN DONINK||BEL||45:50:00|
|9||Ward VAN LAER||BEL||46:45:00|
|13||Elias VAN HECKE||BEL||47:59:00|
|14||Jelle VANDEN DRIES||BEL||48:12:00|
|18||Brent VAN DEN BOSCH||BEL||49:17:00|
|19||Kyle DE PROOST||BEL||49:31:00|
|21||Koen VAN DIJKE||NED||49:54:00|
|24||Pieter VAN ROOSBROECK||BEL|