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2009 Cyclo-cross World Championships - CM
Hoogerheide, The Netherlands, January 31-February 1, 2009
Stage 2 - January 31: U23 Men, 50 minutes
Germans waltz away with medals
By Brecht Decaluwé in Hoogerheide, Netherlands
Philipp Walsleben and Christoph Pfingsten made history in Hoogerheide by taking first and second for Germany. The nation placed three riders in the top five of the Under 23 category. With an aggressive race, Walsleben became the first Under 23 cyclo-cross World Championship gold medal winner from Germany.
Cyclo-cross specialist Walsleben was the first to start the waltz on the Brabant Wall. Walsleben, who is also German champion in the elite men's category, got away during the third lap and was never caught.
Twenty seconds behind him compatriot Christoph Pfingsten joined the party by sprinting past Poland's Pawel Szczepaniak for the silver medal. Another German compatriot, Sascha Weber, surely would have preferred to be on the podium, although his fifth place performance was nothing to be ashamed of; he provided the essential third tone of the German waltz.
Pre-race favorite Walsleben, who lives in Belgium, was pleased with his win even though it didn't come as a huge surprise. He has won everything there is to win in his category and will turn professional as a member of the same team as Niels Albert. "I missed on winning only three races in the U23 category," Walsleben said, reflecting on his results.
Walsleben had attacked with the intention of shrinking the lead group. "I only realized that my gap was big enough for the win during the last two laps because my attack originally was meant to make the [lead] group smaller. It was hard to get away with the wind, but once I had the gap, the wind was probably my advantage. Probably nobody wanted to ride into the wind so that they would maintain their own chances."
During the first lap, a French coalition cornered Walsleben into a defensive position, but last year's Junior World Champion Arnaud Jouffroy and Aurelien Duval were unable to create a gap. One lap later, Walsleben moved to the front and accelerated for the first time. "The two French guys weren't co-operating on the road section, so I waited for another opportunity to attack. I could only create a gap within the field," Walsleben explained.
A group of more than twenty riders hit the third lap, with Belgium's Kenneth Van Compernolle and Italy's Matteo Trentin setting the pace. Walsleben seized the moment and attacked again with local Boy Van Poppel and Trentin trying to stick on his wheel. Both the Dutchman and Italian blew their engines and Walsleben was gone solo.
"I figured I had to be in the front as long as I could. When Philipp attacked I couldn't react. He's too strong," Trentin said.
Jouffroy took over from a gasping Van Poppel and he closed in on Walsleben. "We did what we could. Duval had just come back from the front. I led the chase and almost closed the gap to Philipp. Then I sat back to have the others close the final metres, but that didn't happen. Then he was gone," Jouffroy said.
Meanwhile Walsleben put the hammer down and rolled over the course. The German quickly gathered more than ten seconds. Duval had a hard time dealing with this blow. "Once Philipp was gone, my race was over as I only came here for the victory, not a medal," Duval said.
Other riders thought differently and battled hard for the remaining podium spots. During the fifth lap, Italy's Christian Cominelli and Belgium's only Walloon cyclo-cross rider Quentin Bertholet attacked and got away.
"It was a good opportunity but the Belgian didn't co-operate too well. I gave all I had in the attack, but we were caught back anyway. Then I had nothing left for the sprint," Cominelli said.
The accused Bertholet burst into tears after crossing the finish line. "I was super today. I couldn't follow Walsleben, but I was able to keep up with that Italian guy. He was going very hard, I could barely stay on his wheel. During the last lap, I was out of gas. This was my last race as U23 rider, and I've thrown away all my chances," a devastated Bertholet said.
During that last lap, three guys bridged up towards Cominelli and Bertholet. Pfingsten eventually won the final sprint and grabbed silver. At first the German thought he had finished third, which was the same result he claimed four years ago in the junior category at the World Championships in Sankt-Wendel. When Pfingsten climbed the podium and was told to stand on top of number two he realized he did one place better this year. "I thought that the Polish rider was still ahead of our group. My goal was to finish in the top-10 but this is much more than I had hoped. I had a bad start and was able to bridge up with the chasing group when Philipp was already gone. I defended his lead. This course was perfect for me as it was almost like a road race," Pfingsten said.
Third placed Szczepaniak pulled off the fastest lap of the race in the finale and that brought him the bronze medal. "I was nervous early on as I didn't know how to deal with the tactics in the big group. I worked near the front, but two laps before the end I had a mechanical. I had to hurry to get back to the leaders, but I realized third place was possible. I'm happy with that," Szczepaniak said.
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Images by Riccardo Scanferla
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Images by Dave McElwaine/www.trailwatch.net
Images by Mitch Clinton/www.clintonphoto.com
Images by Tom de Meyer
1 Philipp Walsleben (Germany) 52.48 2 Christoph Pfingsten (Germany) 0.21 3 Pawel Szczepaniak (Poland) 4 Cristian Cominelli (Italy) 5 Sascha Weber (Germany) 0.24 6 Quentin Bertholet (Belgium) 0.25 7 Guillaume Perrot (France) 0.29 8 Ramon Sinkeldam (Netherlands) 0.30 9 Clément Bourgoin (France) 10 Marek Konwa (Poland) 0.33 11 Aurelien Duval (France) 0.34 12 Matteo Trentin (Italy) 0.41 13 Matthieu Boulo (France) 0.42 14 Vincent Baestaens (Belgium) 0.43 15 Arnaud Jouffroy (France) 0.44 16 Kenneth Van Compernolle (Belgium) 0.45 17 David Fletcher (Great Britain) 0.59 18 Marcel Meisen (Germany) 1.09 19 Mitchell Huenders (Netherlands) 1.11 20 Robert Gavenda (Slovenia) 1.20 21 Jiri Polnicky (Czech Republic) 22 Twan Van Den Brand (Netherlands) 1.25 23 Ole Quast (Germany) 1.29 24 Micki Van Empel (Netherlands) 1.33 25 Arnaud Grand (Switzerland) 26 Sylwester Janiszewski (Poland) 1.35 27 Bjorn Selander (United States of America) 1.36 28 Marco Ponta (Italy) 1.41 29 Tom Meeusen (Belgium) 1.43 30 Boy Van Poppel (Netherlands) 1.44 31 Jim Aernouts (Belgium) 2.01 32 Daniel Summerhill (United States of America) 2.09 33 Mattias Nilsson (Sweden) 2.10 34 Alessandro Calderan (Italy) 2.21 35 Jonathan Mcevoy (Great Britain) 2.26 36 Yu Takenouchi (Japan) 2.42 37 Ondrej Bambula (Czech Republic) 2.54 38 Julien Taramarcaz (Switzerland) 3.04 39 Nicholas Keough (United States of America) 3.09 40 Kacper Szczepaniak (Poland) 3.12 41 Pit Schlechter (Luxembourg) 3.26 42 William Dugan (United States of America) 3.41 43 Hikaru Kosaka (Japan) 3.42 44 Lukas Prihoda (Czech Republic) 3.55 45 Elia Silvestri (Italy) 4.03 46 Tomasz Repinski (Poland) 4.05 47 Andrew Thomas (Canada) 4.06 48 Mauro Gonzalez Fontan (Spain) 49 Nicholas Weighall (United States of America) 5.08 50 Romain Beney (Switzerland) 5.15 51 Lucian Logigan (Romania) 5.26 52 Robert Bachraty (Slovenia) 5.30 Behind one lap 53 Brian Robinson (Canada) Behind two laps 54 Timofey Ivanov (Russian Federation) 55 Kyle Fry (Canada) DNF David Lozano Riba (Spain)