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Bayern Rundfahrt
Photo ©: Schaaf

 UCI codes explained

1st GP Eric De Vlaeminck - NE

Zolder, Belgium, August 10, 2003


Happy Birthday Bart

By Jeff Jones

Bart Wellens
Photo: © Luc Claessens

World Cyclo-cross Champion Bart Wellens (Spaar Select) earned himself a nice 25th birthday present by winning today's inaugural Grote Prijs Eric De Vlaeminck in Zolder. Wellens showed excellent form and timing to bridge up to leader Ben Berden (John Saey-Deschacht) on the second last lap, before attacking at the start of the final lap to establish a five second gap that Berden couldn't close. In third place was three time World Champion Mario De Clercq (Palmans), another 10 seconds behind Berden.

For riders used to racing in temperatures 30-40 degrees cooler, the "summer 'cross" was a novel experience in 35 degree heat. One of Eric De Vlaeminck's motivations for organising the race was that for cyclo-cross to be considered as an Olympic sport, it would probably have to be raced as part of the summer games. The circuit used was similar to the World Championship circuit in Zolder in January 2002, measuring 2.85 kilometres per lap, to be completed 11 times.

The dry conditions and the comparatively non-technical parcours saw a fast race, with Davy Commeyne (Palmans) establishing a small gap on the first lap to the rest of the group. Ben Berden, riding in the new colours of the John Saey-Deschacht team, led the chase behind Commeyne, and by the end of the lap a group of nine came across the finish line: Ben Berden and Tim Van Nuffel (John Saey), Bart Wellens, Peter Van Santvliet (Spaar Select), Sven Nijs (Rabobank), Mario De Clercq, Davy Commeyne, Tom Vannoppen (Palmans). Wim Jacobs (Spaar Select) was just behind them, and closed the gap on the second lap.

On lap two, Ben Berden and Tom Vannoppen attacked and put 15 seconds into the chasers by the end of the lap. The chase group had reduced in size to Nijs, Wellens, De Clercq, Commeyne Jacobs, and Van Santvliet. Wellens and Nijs were doing most of the work, with De Clercq sitting on their wheels and the others hanging on for dear life. That's the way it remained for the next few laps, with Wellens looking the most comfortable in the warm conditions. Each rider was taking advantage of the fact that they were allowed to be handed water bottles on each lap.

On the sixth lap, Wellens, Nijs and De Clercq dropped the rest of their group, and closed the gap to Berden and Vannoppen down to 12 seconds. Two laps later, Wellens put in a big effort on one of the climbs to catch Vannoppen, as Ben Berden decided to go solo. By the end of Lap 8, there were four riders (Wellens, Nijs, Vannoppen, De Clercq) chasing Berden at 6 seconds.

Berden increased his lead to 14 seconds by the end of the next lap, and started to look like he could win. However on Lap 10, Wellens attacked and closed the gap to Berden in just one lap, with De Clercq left to fend for himself in third position. Nijs had punctured for the second time in the race, and ended up as fourth.

At the start of the bell lap, Wellens put in a surprise attack on the asphalt, gapping Berden and increasing his lead on the climbs. He made no mistakes and crossed the line with a comfortable lead over Berden, comfortably claiming his first big cyclo-cross win in summer.


Images by Luc Claessens/www.actiefotos.be


1 Bart Wellens (Bel) Spaar Select          58.45
2 Ben Berden (Bel) John Saey-Deschacht      0.04
3 Mario De Clercq (Bel) Palmans-Collstrop   0.15
4 Sven Nijs (Bel) Rabobank                  0.19
5 Tom Vannoppen (Bel) Palmans-Collstrop     0.54
6 Davy Commeyne (Bel) Palmans-Collstrop     1.12
7 Wim Jacobs (Bel) Spaar Select 
8 Peter Van Santvliet (Bel) Spaar Select    1.22
9 Bjorn Rondelez (Bel)                      4.12
10 Tim Van Nuffel (Bel) John Saey-Deschacht
11 Patrick Schurmans (Bel)
12 Karl Pauwels (Bel)
13 Camiel van den Bergh (Ned) John Saey-Deschacht
14 Nico Clarysse (Bel)
15 Kevin Bossaerts (Bel)
16 Pedro Baelen (Bel)
17 Ruud Verbaekel (Ned)
18 Geert Vandaele (Bel)
19 Kris Laperre (Bel)
20 Tim Pauwels (Bel)
21 Bjorn Traen (Bel)
22 Steven De Schoeisitter (Bel)
23 Xavier Vermeeren (Bel)
24 Frederik Dewilde (Bel)
25 Tom Geeraerts (Bel)
26 Matthew Ellis (GBr)
27 Marc Ernster (Lux)
28 Sten Raeymakers (Bel)