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Azencross Loenhout (Gazet van Antwerpen Trofee Veldrijden #5) - C1
Belgium, December 28, 2007
Race 5 - December 28: Elite Men, 60 minutes
Young wolves take over with a Boom
By Brecht Decaluwé in Loenhout, with additional reporting from Gregor Brown
The younger generation of cyclo-cross racers made a statement today as they managed to take over the podium from the 'old guard' in one of the most renowned cyclo-cross races in Flanders. After taking the three bonus points toward the overall classification on the lap two intermediate sprint, Lars Boom (Rabobank) continued his string of great performances by claiming a sprint victory against Niels Albert (Palmans) and Zdenek Stybar (Fidea).
Boom, the Dutch champion, was joined by Stybar right from the start, and at first Richard Groenendaal, 14 years older than Boom, was there as well. Halfway through the race Niels Albert exploited a failed coup from Nys to bridge up towards the leaders. The 21 year-old Belgian did all he could to drop the other riders, but only Groenendaal became victim of Albert his efforts.
Behind the leaders, Belgian champion Bart Wellens and Nys formed a coalition and together they tried to get back to the three youngsters, Boom, Albert and Stybar, but their efforts proved to be fruitless as the trio sprinted for victory. Wellens evaluated the situation after the race saying, "Those youngsters in front, they just have what it takes, and clearly they didn't wait for us."
Boom led out the sprint into a headwind but nobody was strong enough to come out of the Dutchman's wheel. After taking his first victory in the Gazet van Antwerpen trophy, Boom becomes a serious threat for Bart Wellens' second place in the overall classification. Leader Sven Nys gained a point on Wellens and is comfortably leading the series.
"I attacked early for the points after two laps," Boom explained how he got away so early in the race. "Then I took it easy because I didn't want to blow my engine." The Dutchman had to allow Niels Albert, who tried hard to get away on his own, to come back. "Albert rode stronger halfway the race, but in the last lap I led the race. I noticed Sven [Nys] was coming, so I couldn't drop the pace," Boom said.
Clearly the 20 year-old Dutch champion didn't want to wait on his team-mate and went for his own chance on the win. "I know that I'm not slow as I have beaten a good sprinter like Martijn Maaskant in the Olympia's Tour, but you're never sure as Stybar has a good sprint as well." The Dutch champion turns 21 in two days and he was glad to see the other guys on the podium were young as well. "It's great to have a podium with nobody older than 22. Clearly there is succession for the older guys. For me, I'm in good form and I'm recovering well. I've become a valuable member of the club," Boom smiled.
Zdenek Stybar is known to have a fast sprint, but he fell short against Lars Boom today. "I started my sprint too late and then I ended up having a bad line. Actually I didn't know that Lars was that fast," Stybar admitted to Cyclingnews. "I thought Nys and Wellens would come back, but in the end we could battle for it ourselves." With this strong performance Stybar is bouncing back after some less than satisfactory weeks. "I never thought I could win a World Cup this season and then I took a break. Now I'm coming back to get ready for the Czech championships, where Radomir Simunek will be the main rival, and the world championships."
Niels Albert appeared to be the strongest man in the race, but he couldn't get rid of Boom and Stybar. In the last lap Boom took over the initiative and eventually the youngest rider in the leading group had to settle for third place. "I had a very good day, but in the last lap Boom was going extremely hard. Being beaten in the sprint isn't so bad, and I'm the first Belgian anyway which is promising for the Belgian championships," Albert smiled. Albert has chosen to remain in the U23 category for the World Cups and the world championships, but he will battle against the big guns at the elite level at the Belgian championships in Hofstade.
Former US-champion Ryan Trebon finished 21st after racing together with Jeremy Powers for most of the race. "I will pay for it tomorrow. My head hurts already. I am just feeling sick. The start was okay; I just don't have a lot. It was better getting lapped I guess," Trebon laughed. "I will skip this weekend and race Monday and Tuesday I think... I need to think about it and see how the head feels."
Trebon's compatriot Powers eventually crossed the line in 23rd position and he knew where he lost time today. "The start was good as I made it somewhere up in the twenties," Powers said. On a course that didn't suit him perfectly Powers tried to make the best of it. "It was a lot of battling and I was losing time while I was running; I am not the best runner. But on the rest of the course I was able to claw my way back on the [asphalt] road here and settle into a groove. It seems like some guys gapped me, but I made up some time," Powers described. "It was a productive race; it was not bad, and I am happy with that. It is a good result due to the guys we are racing with," Powers explained to Cyclingnews. Just like Trebon, Powers will skip some races this weekend to be fresh in the New Year.
Famous road cyclist Philippe Gilbert finished on a good 32rd position and he was glad that he wasn't lapped. "It's good since I had a bad starting position, so I was immediately one minute behind. It's great to ride here in this ambiance, but I will not do any other 'cross races since I will be racing in Australia," Gilbert said to Cyclingnews.
Tim Johnson had a bad start and couldn't bounce back during the race. The US-champion wasn't ranked in the official result and Cyclingnews caught up with him in his camper. "My legs were not there. I hope to be better in the coming races," a disappointed Johnson said.
How it unfolded
69 riders took the start in Loenhout and among them were a few road cyclists like Philippe Gilbert and Kevin De Weert. Three men separated themselves from the main bunch halfway the first lap. Lars Boom, Zdenek Stybar are common quick starters, and today they were joined by Richard Groenendaal. Together they had a good gap on the bunch before the end of the first lap. In the long finishing straight there was a headwind and in the back side of the course, nobody pulled hard enough to close the gap. Sven Nys launched a counter-attack when the bunch hit the field to gain some bonus points at the end of the second lap. The UCI-leader came back, but not close enough to grab them before the intermediate sprint. Boom took the three bonus points before Stybar and Groenendaal.
Albert took the initiative with Nys in the third lap when the gap had grown up to 12", but by the end of the third lap they were back to 8". Dutchmen Van Gils and Al were happy to attach their carriage on the duo.
Halfway through the fourth lap Boom had a mechanical and he dropped back to the Nys group. On a running section Nys decided to keep riding his bike but he got stuck just before the end of the stroke. Albert noticed that Nys wasn't on his wheel and jumped away in front. He was joined by Dutch champion Lars Boom and together they bridged up with the leaders by the end of the fifth lap.
Albert immediately attacked again and only Stybar was able to follow the young Belgian. Boom and Groenendaal had to allow a gap. In the background Wellens managed to bridge up with Nys and together they tried to move forward, they were trailing at 20". Boom closed the gap on the leader on the finishing straight, so we had four leaders after six laps. The two big guns were trailing at twenty second with Thijs Al not too far behind them. A big group with Vervecken and Mourey were more than a minute behind the leaders.
With three laps to go Wellens and Nys both pulled against the wind and it seemed possible they would come back on the four leaders as the gap dropped back to 9". Albert reacted with an acceleration, and Groenendaal decided to wait for Nys and Wellens. The experienced Dutch rider was caught on the exciting BMX-style 'wash board'.
On the long finishing straight nobody pulled in front and the gap from the three leaders on the three chasers was no more than 12". Nys tried to keep riding again in the mud, but he came as close of three metres from the bridge where he could exploit his riding
During the ultimate lap it was Lars Boom who took the initiative and forced the others in a defensive role. He created a small gap on the Albert and Stybar, but he wasn't gone yet. Behind them Nys dropped Wellens and he came within touching distance of the leaders. Boom was caught by Albert and Stybar just before the finishing straight and the leaders were tactically riding from left to right, as the wind was not favouring the man in front. Nys did all he could to come back but just before he came back the sprint for the victory was launched by Lars Boom, with Albert on his wheel and Stybar in third position. The Dutch champion resisted the comeback from both riders and took a narrow, but great victory in Loenhout.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Gregor Brown / Cyclingnews.com
Elite (68 starters) 1 Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank 1.00.17 2 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Fidea Cycling Team 3 Niels Albert (Bel) Palmans-Cras 4 Sven Nys (Bel) Rabobank 0.09 5 Bart Wellens (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team 0.22 6 Richard Groenendaal (Ned) AA Sport Drinks 0.29 7 Wilant Van Gils (Ned) ZZPR.nl 1.11 8 Thijs Al (Ned) BeOne CRC Team 1.26 9 Bart Aernouts (Bel) Rabobank 2.05 10 Radomír Simunek (Cze) Palmans-Cras 11 Erwin Vervecken (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team 12 Ben Berden (Bel) Revor Cycling Team 2.10 13 Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) Easypay Cyclocross Team 2.13 14 Jan Verstraeten (Bel) Sunweb Pro Job 2.20 15 Francis Mourey (Fra) Française des Jeux 2.46 16 Rob Peeters (Bel) Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner 17 Christian Heule (Swi) Stevens Racing Team 3.01 18 Johannes Sickmüller (Ger) Harvestehuder RSV v. 1909 19 Marius Gil (Pol) 3.08 20 Simon Zahner (Swi) Bürgis Cycling Team 3.15 21 Ryan Trebon (USA) Kona-Your Key Mortgage Team 3.36 22 René Birkenfeld (Ger) Harvestehuder RSV v. 1909 3.41 23 Jeremy Powers (USA) Cyclocrossworld.Com 24 Tim Van Nuffel (Bel) Easypay Cyclocross Team 3.47 25 Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Sunweb Pro Job 3.55 26 Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team 4.01 27 Peter Van Santvliet (Bel) AVB/USspa.be Cycling 4.07 28 Milan Barenyi (Svk) CK ZP Sport a.s. Podbrezová 4.32 29 Marco Aurelio Fontana (Ita) Selle Italia Guerciotti 4.41 30 Tom Van Den Bosch (Bel) Palmans-Cras 4.54 31 Geert Wellens (Bel) AVB/USspa.be Cycling 5.12 32 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Francaise des Jeux 5.15 33 Aurélien Duval (Fra) 5.19 34 David Willemsens (Bel) Sunweb Pro Job 5.24 35 Keiichi Tsujiura (Jpn) Team Bridgestone Anchor 5.40 36 Florian Le Corre (Fra) 5.43 37 Paul Oldham (GBr) Hop Factory Racing 6.05 38 Roy Van Heeswijk (Ned) 39 Robert Glajza (Svk) CK ZP Sport a.s. Podbrezová 6.14 40 Bart Dirkx (Ned) TWC Tempo/BMV 6.24 41 Geert Van Crombruggen (Bel) Royal Cureghem Sportif - Brussel One lap behind 42 Romain Villa (Fra) UV Aube 43 Tristan Schouten (USA) Planet Bike 44 Michael Müller (Swi) Team Empella Suisse 45 Christophe Le Bouedec (Fra) 46 Kevin De Weert (Bel) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone 47 Cyrille Prise (Fra) 48 Sébastien Le Naour (Fra) Intermediate sprint 1 Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank 3 2 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Fidea Cycling Team 2 3 Richard Groenendaal (Ned) AA Sport Drinks 1 GvA standings after round five 1 Sven Nys (Bel) Rabobank 250 2 Bart Wellens (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team 238 3 Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank 233 4 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Fidea Cycling Team 219 5 Niels Albert (Bel) Palmans-Cras 213 6 Richard Groenendaal (Ned) AA Sport Drinks 204 7 Erwin Vervecken (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team 156 8 Wilant Van Gils (Ned) ZZPR.nl 144 9 Bart Aernouts (Bel) Rabobank 140 10 Thijs Al (Ned) BeOne CRC Team 138 11 Rob Peeters (Bel) Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner 125 12 Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Sunweb Pro Job 123 13 Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) Easypay Cyclocross Team 119 14 Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team 118 15 Petr Dlask (Cze) Fidea Cycling Team 110 16 Gerben De Knegt (Ned) Rabobank 107 17 Ben Berden (Bel) Revor Cycling Team 106 18 Jan Verstraeten (Bel) Sunweb Pro Job 57 19 Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team 46 20 Tim Van Nuffel (Bel) Easypay Cyclocross Team 39 21 Marius Gil (Pol) 29 22 Tom Van Den Bosch (Bel) Palmans-Cras 28 23 Radomír Simunek (Cze) Palmans-Cras 21 24 Jan Soetens (Bel) Jartazi Promo Fashion 19 25 Arne Daelmans (Bel) Klaipeda - Splendid Cycling Team 18 Intermediate sprint classification 1 Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank 9 2 Sven Nys (Bel) Rabobank 6 3 Bart Wellens (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team 5 4 Richard Groenendaal (Ned) AA Sport Drinks 4 5 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Fidea Cycling Team 3