2003 World Cyclocross Championships - CM
Monopoli, Italy, February 1-2, 2003
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Complete Live Report
Welcome to Monopoli for the Elite Men's event of the World Cyclo-cross Championships,
the final event of the weekend. Last year's national champion Mario de Clercq
will be looking to defend his title, but he's facing plenty competition, particularly
within his own Belgian team. A quick start will be crucial for compatriots-
and race favourites- Sven Nys and Bart Wellens, to avoid getting stuck in a
support position for de Clercq, known for his fast finishes. Dutchman Richard
Groenendaal is also a favourite, and the key to stopping him may be a unified
Belgian team, which is not a foregone conclusion.
The weather in Monopoli is chilly, with a strong wind and grey skies. Conditions
are indeed rather Belgian! The wind has dried out the course a bit from yesterday's
rain, but heavy mud is all around and will be factor.
Erik de Vlaminck (Belgian coach last season) said before the start, "Mario
(de Clercq) is the oldest with his 36 years, but Wellens and Nys are the strongest.
Ben Berden is the surprise this season."
Concerning the course conditions, de Vlaminck added (not surprisingly), "That
slippery parcours is not so good for Richard Groenendaal, and better for Mario."
The race is underway. Four Belgians are in front, including Mario de Clercq,
Van Noppen and Berden. Sven Nys is around 10th position, while Italian Daniele
Pontoni is behind in the peloton.
Nys is on the wheel of Richard Groenendaal, while the other five Belgians
are in front.
Wellens leads after the 1st lap, with a gap of 6 seconds.
1st lap - 6.15"
3 de Clercq
4 Gil (Pol)
Groenedaal is not in this lead group.
Sure enough, there are now six Belgians in front. Gil has had mechanical problems,
and the conditions may mean a lot of action in the pits today. Nys has moved
quickly up into second position, four seconds behind Wellens.
2 Nys at 4"
3 Vervecken 6"
4 Berden 9"
5 de Clercq 16"
Wellens has a flat! He's had to ride 600 meters with a flat front wheel to change
Sven Nys leads after Wellens' flat, with Vervecken on his wheel. Wellens has
dropped to third after a bike change. After this lap there are seven to go.
At the barriers:
4 de Clercq
After the second lap, Nys is still leading with four other Belgians. Pontoni
is still in fighting shape, no sign of Groenendaal.
Lap 2- 6.30"
4 Berden (he will likely bring de Clercq back to the front)
5 de Clercq
6 Daniele Pontoni (Ita) with a group containing one belgian: Vannoppen
Pontoni's group is at 28 seconds, while up front Bart Wellens is beack in the
lead. Nys is 3" back, de Clercq 7", Vervecken and Berden are at 10"
Bart wellens is riding away! The Pontoni group is now at 45 seconds. Dutch favourite
Richard Groenendaal follows at 1.20"!
Lap 4 - 6.14"
1 Wellens 25.35"
2 Nys at 9"
3 de Clercq
4 Berden 15"
6 Gerben de knegt (Ned) leads Pontoni group
Bart Wellens leads with 12" back to Nys and de Clercq and 20" to Berden
and Vervecken. Pontoni is in the fence and Gerben de Knegt just fell over his
Bart Wellens is looking strong today. Mario de Clercq has moved ahead of Nys
in the standings, but both are at the same time, 18" back from Wellens.
It's shaping up like a Belgian championship... The last lap time was 6.10".
1 Wellens 31.47"
2 de Clercq at 18"
4 Vervecken 25"
6 Pontoni 1.16"
Groenendaal at 1.40", looks like the Dutchman is not flying today.
Wellens looks to be slowly pulling away from his compatriots Nys and de Clercq.
Lap time: 6.12"
2 de Clercq at 21"
Sven Nys isn't looking strong enough to follow defending champion Mario de
Clercq. Meanwhile, Wellens is flying, with 2.5 laps to go.
Bart Wellens is on fire today. Former Belgian coach Erik de Vlaminck comments
that "Bart can become world champion this way. Nys isn't good, he's even
had let Mario go. He needs some help, it's too much stress for him."
Vervecken has now moved into third spot, passing a fading Sven Nys. Mario de
Clercq is 31 seconds behind Wellens.
Ben Berden has had a flat. With two laps to go, here's how it's shaping up:
1 Wellens 44.02"
2 de Clercq at 33"
3 Vervecken 54"
4 Nys 1.00"
5 Berden 1.21"
Bart Wellens is in the home stretch- one lap to go! He's already lapped several
riders on his storming ride.
Lap time: 6.11"
1 Bart Wellens 50.13"
2 de Clercq at 40"
3 Vervecken 1.13"
4 Nys 1.20"
Belgian coach Rudy de Bie is getting optimistic, looking at "a top five
and maybe even a top six for us. Great show by Bart Wellens."
Ben Berden is at 1.38" and Francis Mourey (Fra) is at 2.10", so we
can expect a top 5 for Belgium.
Winner: Bart Wellens has done it, finishing a fantastic ride to become World
Champion ahead of his star-studded Belgian teammates.
Winner Bart Wellens had enough time in hand to change his bike in the last
section so he could finish on a clean machine. The 24 year old Wellens now becomes
World Champion for the 3rd time, after two world titles in the espoir ranks.All
6 Belgian riders finished in the top 8.
Wellens summed it up at the finish: "I started badly with the flat. But
I was able to came back quickly. I kept riding and was strong, so after two
Final results (provisional)
1 Bart Wellens in 56.43"
2 Mario de Clercq 38"
3 Erwin Vervecken
4 Ben Berden
5 Sven Nys
6 Francis Mourey (Fra)
7 Daniele Pontoni (Ita)
8 Tom Vernoppen
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