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Cyclo-Cross World Cup #4 - CDM
Koksijde, Belgium, November 24, 2007
Stage 5 - November 24: Elite Men
Thrilling sand race, and in the end Nys takes it again
By Brecht Decaluwé in Koksijde
After a bad start - which is becoming a habit for Sven Nys this season - the Belgian bided his time to slice through the elite men's field and take his third consecutive victory on the sandy Koksijde circuit. One rider who didn't even make it out of the start line was Enrico Franzoi. The Italian champion crashed heavily against the fences. Clearly hurt he was forced to retire with a shoulder injury. While Nys was held up by the field in twentieth position his team-mate Lars Boom had a good start and got away with Klaas Vantornout. The duo was later joined by Bart Wellens, Erwin Vervecken and Sven Vanthourenhout.
The composition of the leading group changed continuously until Belgian champion Bart Wellens escaped on his own halfway through the race. Nys eventually bridged the gap to the second group behind Wellens and with twenty minutes to go there was a leading group of eight riders. Wellens seemed to have some strength left, but whatever he had in mind, it was spoiled by a puncture in the penultimate lap.
Nys ended up riding in front with team-mate Lars Boom and Fidea's Klaas Vantornout. Dutch champion Boom was the first to drop away after a mistake in the sand, and on the final lap Nys powered away from Vantornout on a tough uphill sector.
As the tactical and exciting race reached its climax, the UCI leader had made the fewest mistakes in the final laps and added another World Cup win to his already impressive palmares.
"It's becoming a habit for me to start off poorly, but actually it was my purpose today as there was a headwind in the start line so I searched for some shelter in the group. I got boxed in and I heard riders crashing so I didn't think I was on the right place there," Nys laughed. "I couldn't ride as fast as I wanted because not everybody has the force to ride up where I normally still would be riding. Anyway, I never panicked and once I wanted to be back in front it worked out in one lap," Nys explained. "From then on the selection was done automatically as everybody makes mistakes sooner or later," Nys said.
Lots of riders crashed in the sand and today even Nys fell a number of times when cornering in the sand at the top of the highest dune on the course. "It's something we learnt when we were younger with Eric De Vlaeminck. It's about dividing you weight over the bike, and I was clearly leaning too much to the front. Making that mistake two times is too much of course, but it's my own stupid fault," Nys was critical for his performance in Koksijde.
World champion Erwin Vervecken rode another one of his famous fast last laps and claimed his first podium in a World Cup this season. Unsurprisingly he did it in Koksijde where Vervecken had already won back in 1993. "It's a relief for me as I was feeling better but never managed to do better than fifth place. It's too bad that I got stuck in the sand in the penultimate lap, when the three got away. I don't know if I would've been a threat for Nys but it would've been more exciting for sure," the world champion said after the race.
Young Dutch champion Boom was beaten by the world champion in the sprint, but will be delighted with that as he skips the next World Cup race in Igorre. "I decided to fly into the action right from the start," Boom said. "Eventually I was happy that I could beat Klaas Vantornout in the sprint. I'm satisfied with this result," the Rabobank rider said.
Sunweb's team leader Sven Vanthourenhout answered the criticism he's received this season with a good performance today. The Belgian had a great start and rode in the lead with Belgian champion Bart Wellens until the halfway point. Afterwards both riders dropped back, with Wellens losing every chance of victory when he punctured in the last 10 minutes of the race. "I wanted to enjoy my time out there today and that's just what I did. I didn't want to think about achieving whatever result. I was racing with the top for half an hour and that's moral boosting. I knew that I would be dropping back in the last two laps, but I hope that I can build on this performance for the future," the Sunweb rider said.
US representatives Jonathan Page and Jonathan Baker didn't finish today's event. Page had a terrible start and explained before the race that he wasn't expecting to be back in form right away, after the recent problems with team management.
How it unfolded
A peloton of 47 riders got away from the start line in Koksijde but about hundred meters past the start line Enrico Franzoi crashed, together with some other riders; the Italian had to abandon the race. UCI-leader Sven Nys had a poor start and was back in twentieth position. Out in front was Nys' team-mate and Dutch champion Lars Boom was leading with Klaas Vantornout in tow. Halfway through the first lap the duo had 23" on Nys who was riding in 16th position. In the second lap Wellens, Vervecken and Sven Vanthourenhout joined the leaders, while further back Nys was moving up together with Richard Groenendaal.
In the third lap saw crashes from Vervecken and Klaas Vantornout as they powered through the sand, both crashing on the same corner that would also claim Nys who was chasing further back. Wellens attacked the leaders but was unable to gain a gap as Boom and Vanthourenhout jumped on his wheel. Ten second further back Vantornout was chasing with Vervecken and at 21 seconds Nys was in a group with Groenendaal, Zahner and Aernouts. Towards the end of the lap as small mistake by Boom - clipping out of his pedal - saw him get dropped from the leading trio.
The fourth lap saw Nys join the group that contained Vervecken, immediately taking over the command at the head of the group. In front Vanthourenhout was unable to hold Wellens' wheel, sensing that he would eventually be caught by the large chasing group he decided to wait and save his energy. The pace was high now and Wellens showed his power by climbing up a dune that nobody had ridden up before. Never to be out done, Nys showed he was at least as strong as Wellens and did the same thing, bringing the group back on Wellens' wheel. Just as Nys made contact with Wellens, he made the same mistake as the previous lap crashing on the sandy corner. Sensing an opportunity the Fidea riders in the group played the tactical game as Wellens allowed Vantornout to get away.
By the end of the fifth lap Vantornout was caught and eight riders came together at the head of the race. The next two laps saw the pace drop a s the riders were clearly saving the best for last.
The seventh lap saw Rabobank play out some team tactics of their own as Nys allowed Boom to get away. Vantornout reacted with Nys on his wheel while Wellens was in trouble at the back of the group. When Vanthourenhout couldn't follow Nys the three were gone. Groenendaal tried to close the gap on the finish straight, but the U23 time-trial world champion Boom was driving hard on the front and he didn't get any closer.
In the eighth lap Wellens powered forward and the Belgian champion steamed passed a struggling Boom in the sand. Nys kept pulling on the front as Boom got dropped. Bad luck hit Wellens when he punctured and he had to chase at 14 seconds from Nys and Vantornout. In the ultimate lap the group lead by Wellens came back to 11 seconds from Nys, who had dropped Vantornout. Vervecken unleashed his forces with the finish in sight, Boom hooked up on his wheel. Nys finished solo and grabbed his tenth win of the season. Behind him the duo steamed past Vantornout; Vervecken eventually beating Boom to the line.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Luc Claessen/www.ctm-images.com
Images by Brecht Decaluwé/ Cyclingnews
Images by Mark Legg/web.mac.com/markuslegg/Site/Welcome.html
1 Sven Nys (Bel) Rabobank 1.07.37 2 Erwin Vervecken (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team 0.04 3 Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank 4 Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team 0.11 5 Bart Wellens (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team 0.21 6 Richard Groenendaal (Ned) AA Sport Drinks 0.23 7 Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Sunweb Pro Job 0.29 8 Bart Aernouts (Bel) Rabobank 0.41 9 Wilant Van Gils (Ned) ZZPR.nl 0.46 10 Gerben De Knegt (Ned) Rabobank 1.02 11 Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) Easypay Cyclocross Team 1.11 12 Thijs Al (Ned) BeOne CRC Team 1.28 13 Christian Heule (Swi) Stevens Racing Team 1.59 14 Rob Peeters (Bel) Landbouwkrediet - Tönissteiner 2.09 15 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Fidea Cycling Team 16 Marco Aurelio Fontana (Ita) Selle Italia Guerciotti 2.34 17 Philipp Walsleben (Ger) Heinz von Heiden Focus 2.46 18 Jan Verstraeten (Bel) Sunweb Pro Job 2.55 19 Simon Zahner (Swi) Bürgis Cycling Team 3.05 20 Malte Urban (Ger) Heinz von Heiden Focus 3.26 21 Maarten Nijland (Ned) Ruiter Dakkapellen Wielerteam 3.39 22 Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team 3.43 23 Jean-Pierre Leijten (Ned) 3.46 24 Milan Barenyi (Svk) CK ZP Sport a.s. Podbrezová 3.54 25 Václav Metlicka (Svk) Team Kral R.C. Pfeil 4.07 26 Marek Cichosz (Pol) CWKS Legia Warszawa 4.39 27 David Derepas (Fra) VC Roubaix Lille Metropole 4.47 28 Kamil Ausbuher (Cze) Easypay Cyclocross Team 5.26 29 Lukás Kloucek (Cze) Selle Italia Guerciotti 6.04 30 Johannes Sickmüller (Ger) Harvestehuder RSV v. 1909 6.17 31 Marco Bianco (Ita) Arcobaleno Carraro 6.28 32 Robert Glajza (Svk) CK ZP Sport a.s. Podbrezová 6.30 33 Rafael Visinelli (Ita) GS Forestale 6.33 34 Jan Chrobák (Cze) Johnson Controls AS 7.04 35 Gusty Bausch (Lux) 7.08 36 Joachim Parbo (Den) CCV-Cicli Protek 37 David Menger (Cze) Cyklo Team Budvar Tábor 38 Marius Gil (Pol) 7.47 39 Roy Van Heeswijk (Ned) 8.01 One lap behind 40 Robert Jebb (GBr) 41 Ondrej Bambula (Cze) Cyklo Team Budvar Tábor 42 Jan Ramsauer (Swi) Team Campione Celeste - Haba DNF Enrico Franzoi (Ita) Lampre-Fondital DNF Jonathan Page (USA) Sunweb Pro Job DNF Jonathan Baker (USA) Primus Mootry DNF Radomír Simunek (Cze) Palmans-Cras DNF Martin Vestby (Nor) Time - Van Hemert DNS Kevin Hazzard (Can) JetFuel Coffee DNS Isaac Suarez Fernandez (Spa)