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2008 Cyclo-cross World Championships - CM
Treviso, Italy, January 26-27, 2008
Race 4 - January 27: Elite Men
Boom blasts through Belgian blockade
Dutch gain first World Championship since 2000
By Brecht Decaluwé and Gregor Brown in Treviso
Dutchman Lars Boom broke through the stranglehold which the Belgians have had on the Cyclo-cross World Championships for the past seven years, storming to victory on the La Bandie course in Treviso on Sunday and giving the Netherlands its first championship since Richard Groenendaal won the title in 2000. In an aggressive yet highly guarded race in which every attack was neutralized, the 22 year-old Boom powered to the victory with a well timed attack early in the final lap, staying clear of the two-man sprint won by Czech rider Zdenek Stybar ahead of Sven Nys (Belgium).
Defending World Champion Erwin Vervecken was the only rider who could hold the Dutchman's wheel after Nys marked the attack but faded. When Vervecken couldn't hold on to Boom just before hitting the steep 'Rampa Piscina', the race was over for the Belgians. Boom gave all he had in the ultimate stretches of the course and stormed to his third cyclo-cross world championship title after a junior and under-23 win, and his second rainbow jersey in a year after his victory in the under-23 time trial in Stuttgart.
"I was not feeling super in the race," admitted Boom. "But at the point where I went Sven was going a few laps before. I was strong at that moment, and I did not wait. It was a surprise for some of my rivals. I went full speed from that point on.
"I was good, but since it was my first as an elite I did not think I was the big favourite," he added. "I knew I had to be alert because the group was big, so I stayed near the front and did not waste energy in sixth or seventh position."
In the battle for silver, Stybar sprinted past Nys to take the second step on the podium, while Vervecken trailed in ahead of a group led by Stybar's countryman Radomir Simunek Jr. With three riders under 25 in the top five of this elite race, it seems like the era of Nys, Vervecken and Bart Wellens could finally be starting to crumble.
Asked why he didn't help trade team-mate Vervecken chase down Boom in the finale, Stybar didn't search for an excuse. "I was on my limit, and saved my energy for the sprint, otherwise I wouldn't have finished second. I have to thank Erwin [Vervecken] for his work," confessed the Czech rider.
After some poor performances by his standards during the past two weeks, Sven Nys came to Treviso without much pressure. The Flemish press chose Bart Wellens and Lars Boom as favourites, and thanks to that, Nys rode his first championships in years without carrying the torch of top favourite.
The 31 year-old launched several attacks that hurt the opposition, but not all of them. "Lars [Boom] attacked right after I had attacked. The group came over me and I was boxed in," explained the normally dominant Nys. "I gave all I had to come back and ended up chasing behind Vervecken. He couldn't close it down, and it wasn't up to me to close the gap.
"For me, the technical parts were not technical enough," added Nys. "It would've been better if the race was held in the morning." In the morning the course's frozen top layer started melting, resulting in a slippery course, while later the sun created a dry, fast circuit.
"I tried everything but finishing third is good, more wasn't possible. I didn't jump after Lars since he's a team-mate, but I was on my limit anyway. I focused on the sprint for second place, and you saw that more wasn't possible since I was beaten by Stybar."
Nys said that Boom was a worthy World Champion, unlike 2007 winner Erwin Vervecken, who Nys felt didn't show the rainbow jersey on the podium often enough. "We'll see him again during the coming years, but don't count me out. I'm not getting too old and I feel I can still win the World Championships in the next couple of years."
The North American participants in the race couldn't crack the top-20, with last year's runner-up Jonathan Page as first American in 23rd position. "It was bad, worse than I thought it would go," said Page. "I switched bikes a couple of times and I just did not have very good legs today. It went wrong right from the beginning; I was not right at the front, and I just did not have the power over the steeper hills. I was just mediocre today, and you can't be mediocre at the World Championships."
US champion Tim Johnson was set back by a crash halfway through the race. After trying to get back in the main group on his own, he finished in 26th, one place ahead of his young team-mate Jeremy Powers. "I had a crash when I was in the group with Jonathan [Page] - in the lead group, I think," said Johnson, who actually recorded the fastest lap time on lap seven. "I crashed on the long uphill on the backside here [kilometre five - ed.]. I had a bike change, and then I crashed again, and I lost track of where I was."
However, the 30 year-old recognised the race was better than he had thought it would go. "I said this morning that I was not going to do that well, so then in that respect I was very satisfied with my race."
How it unfolded
Top favourite Lars Boom took the hole shot and stormed down the first hill with Zdenek Stybar and Bart Wellens on his wheel. The other big guns all started well, with only Page and Enrico Franzoi back in about 20th position. Going into the first corner, Wellens almost pushed the Dutch ace into the barriers, but Boom managed to stay on his bike and regain composure.
On the tough 'Rampa Piscina' section, Boom, Francis Mourey and Marco Aurelio Fontana managed to ride up the steep climb, while the rest of the field had to run. French champion Mourey took over from Boom and only Fontana and Klaas Vantornout were able to join this group. Stybar, Simunek and Wellens were chasing closely behind these four riders.
After some soft-pedalling up front everything was back together on the second lap, with Page in 15th position. Fontana and Simunek led the bunch and pressured their rivals on the 'Rampa Piscina' again, but by the lap's conclusion Christian Heule led the field with no-one expending too much energy for now.
Going into the third lap, a group of 30 riders approached the 'Rampa Piscina', and Nys stormed forward for the first time. The UCI leader upped the tempo sending several riders into difficulty, but Mourey, Wellens and Fontana all looked strong.
The crowds got a scare when popular Nys stumbled on the stairs after missing a step. And when the speed dropped away shortly after the incident, Boom jumped away with Wellens on his wheel. But the speed dropped again when hitting the fourth lap, and the leaders re-grouped once more.
Zdenek Stybar now led for the first time and pulled the bunch over the first sections of the course. Page and Johnson were about 16 seconds behind the leaders, with Powers moving up to 30th position. Fontana started to feel the pain and almost crashed on the 'Rampa Piscina' where no real attack came this time. Sven Vanthourenhout tried to jump away, but he wasn't allowed to get far.
At half distance, 14 riders were leading the race and the group with Page came back to 12 seconds. Johnson was no longer featuring in this group after a crash at the end of lap four.
Local hero Enrico Franzoi caused some damage on the fifth lap when riding up the 'Rampa Piscina', but still 22 men were riding at the front, with Page off the back in this group. A cease-fire of sorts took place and Mourey led the big group along the Le Bandie lake.
With four laps to go Page was elbowing his way up in the group where Nys and Boom were leading; Wellens was back in 15th position just before the 'Rampa Piscina'. Boom jumped away here but Mourey and Fontana climbed their way back to the leader, with Nys and Wellens watching each other a little further back.
Stybar then saw his chance and attacked before the end of lap five, creating the biggest gap of the race so far. Page was still in the first chasing group, riding in 17th position. One minute later Stybar's lead was neutralised and John Gadret took over in front.
Mourey then saw his rainbow dreams shatter when he crashed on a descent, taking a bunch of other guys with him. Klaas Vantornout then tried an opportunistic move, but Boom, Stybar, Simunek, Nys, Gadret and Fontana were on his wheel.
Just before the penultimate lap Gadret and Simunek jumped clear, while the chasing group caught the remaining four riders. Page was off the back in this huge group while US champion Johnson was working his way back to the front on his own. Gadret got dropped and Simunek continued solo. Nys then launched a counter attack towards the Czech rider in front with Gadret, Boom and Fontana on his wheel. Wellens was sitting too far back by this point, and had lost his chance of victory.
Nys attacked again and this time only nine men could follow, with defending champion Erwin Vervecken still there without riding a metre on the front. Veteran Richard Groenendaal launched an attack across the start/finish line on the last lap, with Boom elbowing Stybar aside to give himself some space.
With Vervecken clinging to his wheel, Boom laid all his cards on the table early in the final lap and the Dutch ace was gone. On the 'Rampa Piscina' Vervecken, Nys and Stybar were already 7 seconds back. Nys wouldn't work with Vervecken - perhaps because Boom is his team-mate at Rabobank - and Stybar couldn't help the 35 year-old defending champion either.
Boom held strong on the uphill finish while Stybar sprinted past Nys for the silver medal. Vervecken had to be satisfied with fourth place ahead of Simunek. Fontana finished as first Italian rider in his best race of the season, with Heule, Gadret and Vantornout rounding out the top-10.
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Roberto Bettini/www.bettiniphoto.net
Images by Gregor Brown/Cyclingnews.com
1 Lars Boom (Netherlands) 1.05.27 2 Zdenek Stybar (Czech Republic) 0.05 3 Sven Nys (Belgium) 0.06 4 Erwin Vervecken (Belgium) 0.09 5 Radomir Simunek (Czech Republic) 0.10 6 Marco Aurelio Fontana (Italy) 7 Sven Vanthourenhout (Belgium) 8 Christian Heule (Switzerland) 0.12 9 John Gadret (France) 10 Klaas Vantornout (Belgium) 11 Kevin Pauwels (Belgium) 0.18 12 Richard Groenendaal (Netherlands) 13 Enrico Franzoi (Italy) 0.19 14 Bart Aernouts (Belgium) 0.20 15 Bart Wellens (Belgium) 0.21 16 Simon Zahner (Switzerland) 0.22 17 Gerben De Knegt (Netherlands) 0.27 18 Marek Cichosz (Poland) 19 Milan Barenyi (Slovakia) 0.28 20 Wilant Van Gils (Netherlands) 0.31 21 Marco Bianco (Italy) 0.37 22 Isaac Suarez Fernandez (Spain) 0.40 23 Jonathan Page (United States Of America) 0.41 24 Steve Chainel (France) 0.49 25 José Antonio Hermida Ramos (Spain) 1.00 26 Timothy Johnson (United States Of America) 1.02 27 Jeremy Powers (United States Of America) 1.11 28 David Derepas (France) 1.19 29 Pirmin Lang (Switzerland) 1.26 30 Dieter Vanthourenhout (Belgium) 1.37 31 Malte Urban (Germany) 1.51 32 Kamil Ausbuher (Czech Republic) 2.07 33 Alessandro Gambino (Italy) 2.24 34 Robert Glajza (Slovakia) 35 Luca Damiani (Italy) 2.30 36 Javier Ruiz De Larrinaga Ibanez (Spain) 2.34 37 Marcel Wildhaber (Switzerland) 2.41 38 Finn Heitmann (Germany) 2.52 39 Maros Kovac (Slovakia) 3.24 40 Magnus Darvell (Sweden) 3.25 41 Nicolas Bazin (France) 3.36 42 Gusty Bausch (Luxembourg) 3.46 43 Julien Belgy (France) 4.02 44 Thijs Al (Netherlands) 4.09 45 Michael Müller (Switzerland) 4.20 46 Mariusz Gil (Poland) 4.21 47 René Birkenfeld (Germany) 4.32 48 Mike Garrigan (Canada) 4.33 49 Johannes Sickmüller (Germany) 4.36 50 Vaclav Metlicka (Slovakia) 4.45 51 Robert Jebb (Great Britain) 52 Paul Oldham (Great Britain) 4.54 53 Fredrik Ericsson (Sweden) 5.10 54 Joachim Parbo (Denmark) 5.20 55 Unai Yus Kerejeta (Spain) 5.57 56 Aaron Schooler (Canada) 6.45 57 Keiichi Tsujiura (Japan) 7.16 58 Jens Westergren (Sweden) 7.39 59 Osmond Bakker (Canada) One lap behind 60 Zdenek Mlynar (Czech Republic) Two laps behind 61 Martin Vestby (Norway) Three laps behind 62 Masanori Kosaka (Japan) DNF Francis Mourey (France) DNF Maarten Nijland (Netherlands)