Posted by Editoress on 01/28/06
UCI CycloCross World Championships Zeddam, Netherlands
Zdnek Stybar of the Czech Republic took his second straight world title in the Espoir category at the Cyclo-cross World Championships, outsprinting Lars Boom (Ned) and a bitterly disappointed Niels Albert (Bel), the favourite going into the race. U.S. Espoir champion Troy Wells went down in a crash at the start of the race, cutting open his forehead and nose. He finished a lap down. The top U.S. finisher was Jesse Anthony in 41st place. The lone Canadian entry, Ryan Hopping, was 46th.
This was expected to be a race between Stybar, Albert and Boom, and they did not disappoint. Albert opened a lead in the first half lap on the downhill, and had a 10 second lead over Boom and Stybar by the end of the lap.
Albert explained that the lead wasn't intentional: "Boom was so fast that I did not think I could attack. But I had a gap at the bottom of the descent, and they told me at the start line that it was 10 seconds, so I realized that I had to keep going."
The other two reeled him in over the next two laps, and the trio then worked together until the final lap. Stybar had a scare with a lap and a half to go, when his front wheel slid out on a patch of ice, sending him to the ground, but he was able to rejoin the other two by the start of the final lap.
Stybar tried an attack on the descent, but couldn't get clear. Then Albert hit a spectator shortly after the main stair run, losing a few seconds on the other two, which he had to struggle to close.
"The spectator wasn't trying to hit me, he just had his arm out to take a photo, but I lost a few seconds there. It is a great pity to lose the world championship because of something like that."
Once over the stairs and the climb, there was nothing left to separate the leaders, and the speed was too fast for a breakaway, according to Boom: "It was so hard, there was never a moment of rest during the race, and no time to think of strategy. You just had to go."
While the speed may have been high, one rider was thinking - Zdnek Stybar. "I tried one attack before the finish, on the downhill, but it was not possible to get away. So, I decided at that time to go for a long sprint."
Stybar had an added concern in the last half lap - after his attempt to get away, he discovered that he had a flat tire (front). "I thought 'now I will lose the race'. I didn't think I could win, Albert was so strong, so I didn't believe I could win until after I crossed the finish line."
Stybar started his sprint nearly 400 meters from the finish line, as the riders came through the final left hand turn onto pavement. From the right hand side of the road he drifted across to the left fence, up the false flat to the finish line. Boom was on his wheel, with Albert a couple of meters further back, but neither could make up any ground on the Czech, who had time to look over his shoulder, sit up and throw his arms in the air.
- Troy Wells was the last finisher in the race, pulled with one lap to go after he was lapped. The gash on his face was opened up in the first few meters of the race. "There was a crash at the start and someone hit me, sending me into the fence."
- The crowd favourites were the Zimbabwe cyclo-cross team. Five riders in total, they rode together all race, eliciting cheers of encouragement all around the course. All five finished, a lap down on the winners.
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