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Jaarmarktcross Niel - C2
Belgium, November 10, 2007
Old school mud fight between the Low Countries
By Brecht Decaluwé
It was an old-fashioned cyclo-cross course in Niel where the weather gods decided that riders would run rather than ride on the flooded course. "Only one rider can ride behind the dyke, the rest need to run, it's too narrow there," complained Richard Groenendaal before the race. "There's not much I can do besides move the posts myself," the experienced Dutchman joked.
Eventually Groenendaal didn't have to move the posts himself since his request was heard by the organisers, and an hour before the elite men's race the 3km long course was broadened on the Rupel-dyke. What followed was a great spectacle between the cyclo-cross champions from the so-called Low Countries - Belgium and Holland - featuring experienced Bart Wellens (Fidea) against the young and talented Lars Boom (Rabobank).
After an epic 'cross where the race situation turned around dramatically in the final laps, Wellens emerged from the mud as winner in Niel, repeating last year's success where he benefited from Sven Nys' misfortune. By winning the second GvA-race, Wellens becomes the new leader in the GvA-trophy with a seven-point gap to UCI leader Nys.
With one lap to go it seemed like Dutch all-rounder Lars Boom would spoil the Belgians' party in Niel, but a flat tyre for Boom and the 'grinta' from Wellens turned things around. "This is my most beautiful win ever in Niel," four-time winner Wellens told Sporza TV. His win today was reminiscent of last year's Belgian championships in Hamme-Zogge, where he captured the national title in similar conditions, albeit without much competition.
"It was very hard today and Lars [Boom] was a very strong opponent," said Wellens of his Dutch rival - even though the two had been teasing each other this week in the Flemish press. The flamboyant Belgian then explained what happened in the penultimate lap. "Accelerating half a lap resulted in a blow during the other half of the lap, and I had just ran along when Boom attacked. I didn't panic and suddenly I noticed he was without speed on the bridge," said Wellens. "It was hard to stay focused since we were all worn out, but you had to focus to avoid mistakes and that's what I did; I think we were both equally tired."
Runner-up Boom explained why he couldn't continue his winning move on the last lap. "I lost speed due to a flat tyre," a disappointed Boom said. "Of course Wellens noticed this and that's how he could get away." The U23 time trial world champion wasn't as excited about the course as one hour earlier, when he showed a big smile before smashing into the mud. "It's still a nice course," he smiled. "This performance is nice. After the Koppenbergcross I knew that I wasn't in perfect condition. I didn't race this week and it worked well for me."
As expected before the race, Sven Nys was in trouble on a course where riders had to run more than actually ride their bikes. Eventually Nys did well with a third place after narrowly beating Richard Groenendaal in a hard-fought sprint. "It just didn't feel right today, and I couldn't do anything else other than limit my losses," explained Nys. "In the last lap I went all out and I could come back to Groenendaal by skipping the pit lane."
When asked if he felt this was a 'cross rather than a cyclo-cross, Nys didn't agree. "It's a nice course even though it was very tough, it wasn't over the top. Knowing that I wasn't good today I'm hoping that I'm not having another bad day tomorrow because otherwise I'll be swimming in Pijnacker," he joked.
World champion Erwin Vervecken was the favourite before the race since he is known to be the best runner around. The 34 year-old Belgian started well but was simply not good enough to keep up with Wellens and Boom. Eventually Vervecken finished fifth on a course where he usually makes the podium.
Another older rider who was expected to do well in Niel was Richard Groenendaal. The 36 year-old was in contention for the win until halfway through the race, but then had to let go of the Wellens-Boom duo. "The best rider won today," Groenendaal said. "I fell short in the running sections to keep up with them. I was out of luck when Nys got back to me in the last lap. It's too bad I'm not finishing on the podium because that's what you need to fight for the overall win in the GvA-trophy."
The next event in the GvA-trophy is on November 17 in Hasselt, where Gerben De Knegt won last year. Tomorrow the riders head for the third World Cup event in Pijnacker where similar conditions can be expected.
How it unfolded
Among the cyclo-cross peloton at the start was one road rider, Kevin De Weert, who probably regretted signing on for this race. A surprising non-starter was Klaas Vantornout; the Belgian has laryngitis and is on antibiotics. Despite recently signing a deal to take part in every race of the GvA-trophy, he decided to skip today's race and take part in tomorrow's World Cup.
The best start in Niel was for youngsters Niels Albert, Lars Boom and Zdenek Stybar, but when the ploughing started the young Czech dropped back, while his older compatriot steamed forward. Behind these three riders, world champion Vervecken, Jan Verstraeten, Stybar and Wellens kept contact while Nys was further back outside the top-10 due to a flat tyre. By the end of the first lap, Wellens jumped away with Boom and Dlask on his wheel, they had 12 seconds on seven chasers including Nys.
Dlask led the three men early on in the second lap, until Groenendaal literally ran forward towards the leaders, leaving behind Vervecken and Nys who emerged as the first chasers. On the Rupel-dyke section, Wellens attacked the leaders where Dlask was having trouble to stay on the ideal line. Nys tried to close the gap to the four leaders on his own but he fell short.
Dutch champion Boom joined Belgian champion Wellens in the lead and behind this duo Groenendaal left Dlask behind to get back towards the leaders. The leading duo didn't sprint for the bonus points in the intermediate sprint after two laps; Wellens grabbed three points, Boom two and Groenendaal captured the remaining point.
During the third lap Dlask chased the leaders at 11 seconds while Nys was struggling in the mud at 22 seconds with Vervecken on his heels; Sven Vanthourenhout, Albert and Gerben De Knegt were keeping sight of the world champion. Nys was taking back time on the Rupel-dyke, but back in the mud he lost it all on the running sections; Nys was 28 seconds down halfway through the third lap.
In front, Groenendaal had trouble keeping up with the national champions but he tried to keep them in sight at 12 seconds. By the end of the lap Dlask was trailing at 28 seconds from the leaders with Nys bridging up to the Czech giant. Vervecken, Sven Vanthourenhout, De Knegt, Albert and Aernouts were playing in the mud at 40 seconds.
At half distance the average speed dropped below the 20 km/h mark as the course got more and more soaked; only six laps would be ridden today. Wellens tried to break down Boom by accelerating in the pit lane - without success for now. Several riders offered great spectacle for the beer drinking fans along the course by smacking into the mud after making a wrong step - Niels Albert being one of them. Meanwhile Nys got rid of Dlask and set his sights on Groenendaal who chased the leaders at 17 seconds.
Boom slipped away on a ramp in the fifth lap and Wellens didn't hesitate a moment to create a 5-second gap. Boom didn't give in though and steamed back towards the Belgian champion on the fast subsoil of the Rupel-dyke. Nevertheless, the Dutch champion made several more mistakes and this time Boom had to work his way back to Wellens in the muddy whey.
Boom kept bouncing back from his mistakes and when he got back to Wellens he attacked himself. The Belgian champion couldn't respond and Boom immediately had 10 seconds on Wellens. By the end of the extremely fast penultimate lap (9'03 against 9'19 in lap four) Lars Boom was hitting himself as if he was physically encouraging himself to keep going. Boom had 12 seconds on Wellens; Groenendaal was at 49" with Nys at 10" from the Dutch veteran.
During the last lap Wellens clearly regained strength and just as the Belgian seemed to come back on the young Dutch champion he made a mistake on the same slippery bridge where Boom had slipped previously. On the dyke Wellens came back in no time and he immediately attacked the rooted Dutch champion.
Halfway through this last lap Wellens had 13" on Boom and this time the race was decided for good. Coming into the streets of Niel, Wellens clenched his fist after a great comeback, knowing a fantastic victory was his. The 29 year-old captured his second win of the season and beat the surprisingly strong Dutch champion Lars Boom.
In the background Nys battled hard to fight for the third place from Groenendaal, and coming into the streets of Niel, Nys came back in the Dutchman's wheel. Groenendaal led out the sprint but eventually Nys popped ahead to clinch the last podium spot.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Isosport
1 Bart Wellens (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team 55.55 2 Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank 0.12 3 Sven Nys (Bel) Rabobank 1.04 4 Richard Groenendaal (Ned) AA Sport Drinks 5 Erwin Vervecken (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team 1.22 6 Petr Dlask (Cze) Fidea Cycling Team 1.27 7 Niels Albert (Bel) Palmans Cras 2.03 8 Gerben De Knegt (Ned) Rabobank 2.09 9 Bart Aernouts (Bel) Rabobank 2.38 10 Wilant Van Gils (Ned) ZZPR.nl 2.57 11 Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Sunweb Pro Job 3.18 12 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Fidea Cycling Team 3.48 13 Thijs Al (Ned) BeOne CRC Team 3.55 14 Wesley Van Der Linden (Bel) Sunweb Pro Job 4.07 15 Jan Verstraeten (Bel) Sunweb Pro Job 4.15 16 Rob Peeters (Bel) Landbouwkrediet - T÷nissteiner 17 Tim Van Nuffel (Bel) Easypay Cyclocross Team 4.53 18 Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team 5.22 19 Philipp Walsleben (Ger) Heinz von Heiden Focus 5.35 20 Ben Berden (Bel) Revor Cycling Team 6.07 21 Jim Aernouts (Bel) Edegem BC 6.12 22 Tom Meeusen (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team 6.23 23 Tom Van Den Bosch (Bel) Palmans Cras 6.41 24 Quentin Bertholet (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team 6.49 25 Davy Commeyne (Bel) Palmans Cras 7.02 26 Jempy Drucker (Lux) Fidea Cycling Team 7.04 27 Nico Berckmans (Bel) DCM-GB Vorselaar Cycling Team vzw 7.39 28 Arne Daelmans (Bel) Klaipeda - Splendid Cycling Team 8.09 29 Kevin Cant (Bel) AWS Cycling Team Kasterlee 9.01 30 Dries Govaerts (Bel) Scott USA Cycling Team 9.24 31 Maxim Debusschere (Bel) Sunweb Pro Job 9.44 32 Patrick Van Leeuwen (Ned) TWC Het Snelle Wiel 10.04 33 Gianni Denolf (Bel) Palmans-Cras 10.22 34 Dries Dewit (Bel) Scott USA Cycling Team 11.10 35 Stijn Huys (Bel) Palmans Cras 36 Sven Verboven (Bel) Wielerclub Galmaarden Sportief 37 Kenny Geluykens (Bel) Sunweb Pro Job 38 Christopher Jones (USA) Nerac Pro Cycling 39 Torsten Wittig (Ger) BRC Zugvogel 40 Nico Ielegems (Bel) Rupelspurters Boom 41 Kevin De Weert (Bel) Cofidis 42 Hans Van Den Bogaert (Bel) Rupelspurters Boom 43 Rene Mertens (Bel) MD CT Team 44 Steven De Schoesitter (Bel) Rudyco Cycling Team
2006 Bart Wellens (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team