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2009 Cyclo-cross World Championships - CM
Hoogerheide, The Netherlands, January 31-February 1, 2009
Stage 4 - February 1: Elite Men, 65 minutes
Complete live report
By Susan Westemeyer
14:19 CET Hello and welcome back to our live coverage of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships. Can the men's race be as exciting as the women's race this morning? And will we see our third Dutch victory of the weekend?
14:21 CET If you are looking for a mud or slush fest here today, forget it! Northern Europe has been having a very cold winter and everything is frozen solid. We have had more than our share of wintery precipitation, too, but fortunately all that nonsense has disappeared (at least for the moment). The juniors and U23s yesterday had beautiful sunshine to ride in, even if it was a bit nippy at 2 degrees Celsius or 36 degrees Fahrenheit. Should be a little colder today, right about at the freezing point.
Things should be getting underway in 10 minutes or so.
14:24 CET The riders are all lined up and ready to go, with lots of light blue Belgian jerseys near the front.
There is proof that things are cold and frozen and not muddy. Check out the photos of yesterday's winners crossing the finish line – you'll see that Philipp Walsleben's pretty white German jersey is "spotlessly clean", as Cyclingnews' Ben Atkins pointed out to us.
14:27 CET The question today is: will a Dutchman or a Belgian win? Frankly, it would be a pretty big surprise if anyone else took the top spot. On the other hand, there's not a lot of love lost between the top riders, so there's always the chance they could all cancel each other out and a dark horse could sneak in for the win.
14:29 CET Nys has his battle face on, looking serious as he prepares to start in a minute.
14:29 CET They're off!
14:30 CET And going full out right from the start.
14:31 CET So who is going to win today? That's a good question and frankly we don't want to try and answer it. Instead we'll have a look at some of the favourites: Sven Nys, Lars Boom, Erwin Vervecken, Bart Wellens, Niels Albert – is that enough? Hmm, all are Dutch or Belgian...
14:31 CET All of the leaders are in Dutch orange or Belgian blue – no surprise there.
14:33 CET There are a lot of hairpin turns here, and one rider just caught himself on the barrier in the middle. No harm done, though.
14:35 CET The blue-orange show continues. It's a little hard to tell who is who, but Klaas Vantournout and Lars Boom seem to be up front.
14:35 CET Wearing number one is Lars Boom, Netherlands, defending World Champion. He is only 23 years old, but has a pretty impressive palmares: 2008 World 'cross champion, 2007 U23 World 'cross champion, and 2007 U23 World time trial champion. Not to mention any number of 'cross race wins.
14:37 CET 6.31minutes/54minutes to go They have crossed the finish line for their first lap of the circuit.
14:37 CET No big breaks yet. The field is strung out with everyone giving their all.
14:39 CET A Belgian rider has built up a lead, with another rider behind him. Then it is 20 metres or so back to the pack. Sorry, it is almost impossible to catch numbers. But it seems to be Niels Albert in the lead.
14:40 CET He is being follow by Steve Chainel of France.
14:40 CET Niels Albert of Belgium is another candidate for a top spot. The youngster missed several weeks of the season after a nasty crash while warming up for the race in Gavere in November. He ended up with a torn spleen and spent a number of days in the intensive care unit. The 22-year-old had been leading the Superprestige series at that point.
14:41 CET He flies down a dirt hill, and now is on the grass. He has built up a slight lead, but Chainel seems to have been caught.
14:42 CET Looks like the field has exploded. There are significantly fewer rider to be seen now.
14:43 CET 12.53minutes/47.47minutes to go Albert has about a ten-second lead as they hit the finish line again.
14:44 CET Lars Boom is leading the chase,
14:45 CET However, three or four other Belgians have gotten away and are behind Albert. They jump smoothly off their bikes and run up the stairs.
14:46 CET Hoogerheide is famous for hosting a number of 'cross World Cup races, but it is best known for being the hometown of Adrie van der Poel. Of course you know who he is: The 49-year-old was a pro rider from 1981 to 2000, and on the road he had such successes as a Tour de France stage win (1987) and the silver medal in the World's road race (1983). He had a total of more than 100 wins, including the 1996 World 'cross title.
Oh yes, and his father in law is Raymond Poulidor, a name with which all cycling fans are of course familiar.
14:48 CET Looks like it is Stybar who is catching up to Albert, with the two other Belgians behind him.
14:50 CET 18.31minutes/41.69minutes to go Looks like our gaps are Albert, five seconds back to Stybar, 10 seconds to the two Belgians and then another 10 seconds to the group of 20 or so led by Boom. All that is very rough, no guarantees.
14:51 CET Albert has pulled away from Stybar and improved his lead. Albert is determined to top off his comeback from his serious injury with a world title.
14:51 CET Boom changes his bike at the pits. Did he have a mechanical problem?
14:52 CET Zdenek Stybar finished second last year in the Worlds. His season got off to a tough start, but he has come roaring back and just might sneak into a top position.
14:53 CET Boom has fallen behind the group he once led.
14:54 CET "I have very good feelings now. I finished on the podium in last seven races," Stybar said on his web site, zdenekstybar.com. "I have big motivation, I can go to the race without stress. When I will make a good result, it will be nice bonus for me. I trained hard, my form should be best on Sunday."
14:54 CET Albert grinds his lonely way to the finish line again. His lead is getting bigger and bigger and the following chase group is getting smaller and smaller, with Boom still hanging on at the end.
14:55 CET 25minutes/35minutes to go Albert about 10 seconds ahead of Stybar, with the chase group some 20 seconds back.
14:56 CET Stybar steers carefully on a patch of dirt combined with a downhill and a tight curve.
14:57 CET Bart Wellens is currently in third place, behind Stybar. Significantly behind Stybar.
14:57 CET The 30-year-old Wellens won the Worlds title in 2003 and 2004. He hasn't had his best season ever, but is determined to help bring in a victory for Belgium, whether it is for him or a teammate.
14:58 CET Wellens had some very good news the middle of January: he and wife Lentel welcomed daughter Lily to the family.
14:59 CET Albert is putting on a pretty impressive one-man show. Stybar is the only who can see him at times.
15:00 CET The wind is very, very cold. Even the Russians are bundled up. The flags are flying in the wind and lots of paper and trash is also flying around, onto the course. At least the sun is out.
15:01 CET Ryan Trebon (USA) pulled out after the second lap. We don't know the reason, but it could have been a mechanical.
15:01 CET 31.13minutes/29minutes to go Half done, now, and Albert has a very very nice lead......
15:03 CET A group of four Belgians has pulled ahead of the following group. Will they try to stop anyone else from getting away and possible endangering Albert's lead?
15:03 CET The course is so tight that shortly after the finish-area the riders behind can see the guys way ahead. In the last lap it was Martin Vestby (Norway) who had the dubious honour of getting a good look on Niels Albert way ahead.
15:04 CET 69 riders took to the start today, from 23 different nations. Cyprus and the Russian Federation are making their debuts in the championships.
23 nations are Netherlands, Belgium, Czech Republic, Italy, Switzerland, France, USA, Spain, Slovakia, Germany, Sweden, Canada, Poland, Great Britian, Japan, Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway, Austria, Hungary, Ireland, Russia and Cyprus.
15:05 CET Jon Page (USA) is in 42nd... Jeremy Powers is currently the best US rider. He has had a time of it this year, with a bit of a scare about a missed doping test at Koksijde the end of November. He missed the test, and the UCI said he was not eligible for Worlds, but luckily for Page, he was cleared of any wrongdoing and added to the roster at pretty much the last minute.
Page, 32, finished second in the Worlds in 2007 – which makes him the only American ever to medal in the men's elite category!
15:07 CET 27.33minutes/32.67minutes to go Albert and Stybar have just lapped a rider. Once more over the finish line.
15:08 CET Looks like Boom has lost contact with the chase group. Apparently changing his bike a while back just cost him too much time.
15:10 CET We are currently in lap seven of ten. Based on that we think Albert has very good chances.
Van Amerongen (Netherlands) has just gone down. He doesn't seem to be horribly injured, but on the other hand, he is not jumping up back on his bike, either.
15:11 CET While some riders are making their debut appearances here, one is saying farewell. Richard Groenendaal of the Netherlands, is riding his last Worlds race at the age of 37. He won the title in 2000. In his career he won eight national 'cross titles and won the World Cup four times. Groenendaal is considered to have played a key role in Boom's win last year.
15:11 CET Jeremy Powers of the US is currently in 33rd position.
15:12 CET Albert said beforehand that he didn't see himself as a favorite in the race. After all, it is his first World Championship with the "big boys". He admitted that his bad crash in November threw him back, and now he is concentrating on winning either the Superprestige series or the GvA Trofee. Of course, if he does happen to win today that would probably be all right with him too...
15:13 CET Martin Vestby (Norway) is getting lapped by Albert. Vestby's wife, Emma Johansson (Sweden, silver medal at the Olympic women's road race) is attending the race - in Norwegian outfit!
15:14 CET 43.31minutes/16.69minutes to go Albert has about a 20-second lead over Stybar, with Wellens probably 20 seconds behind him, as they all go over the finish line. Only two laps to go!
15:15 CET Good news: Van Amerongen seems to be OK. He was reported in 59th position, so is still struggling on despite his bad fall on his head.
15:16 CET Well, it looks like that is Sven Nys in third place, and not Bart Wellens.
15:16 CET Powers is riding with Groenendaal. Nice company, but they are a couple of minutes back.
15:18 CET Sven Nys of Belgium, who finished third last year, would seem to be an obvious pick, but admitted last year that it was the one race that he couldn't control, year after year. He won the title in 2005. The 32-year-old has well over 150 wins.
Nys is reigning Belgian 'cross champion and this season won the recent race in Milan to take the World Cup. He is also leading in the Superprestige series and the GvA Trofee.
15:19 CET Nys said he did not come into the race as captain. Belgium has an exceptionally strong team, and each rider will go for himself, until they see who is the strongest on the day. After that it will be "one for all and all for one".
Well, we sure know who turned out to be the strongest today!
15:20 CET 49.43minutes/10.57minutes to go Albert holds on to his big lead over Stybar and Nys.
15:21 CET At this point the three leaders just have to be careful not to crash and they ought to be assured of their medals.
15:22 CET Albert runs up the stairs again, followed by Stybar.
15:24 CET Albert hasn't slowed down in the least. He looks to be going just as hard as ever. And why not? His goal is almost within reach.
15:26 CET 55.02minutes/4.98minutes to go There is of course a huge crowd here. It is in the Netherlands but very near the border to Belgium, so Albert ought to have more than a few supporters in the crowd. And he heads out on his last lap!
15:26 CET Over the first bridge....
15:27 CET Up, out of the saddle, giving his all.
15:27 CET Stybar looks to be riding a bit more carefully. Don't want to lost that silver medal to a crash!
15:28 CET Down a hill for Albert, and then up the stairs for the last time.
15:28 CET Now Stybar takes his bike in hand and runs up the stairs.
15:29 CET Boom is now leading the chasing group, but he (and they) have no chance now.
15:29 CET Another hairpin turn for Albert, and he accelerates out of it.
15:30 CET Down that big dirt-covered hill and through the tight turn for Albert.
15:31 CET He passes the stands to massive cheers and waves to the crowd.
15:31 CET He is not letting up, still going for it. Now he looks back but sees no one!
15:32 CET And an overjoyed Albert raises his arms in victory and throws kisses as he crosses the finish line to become World Champion!
15:33 CET Stybar comes in for second and Sven Nys is third.
15:34 CET Lars Boom leads the remnants of the chase group across the finish line.
15:36 CET So we have a Belgian-Czech-Belgian podium, with Albert taking the title, Stybar second and Nys third.
15:37 CET Congratulations to the winner and all those who participated.
That was it for us today, folks! Thanks for joining us.