Posted by Editoress on 02/1/09
Cyclocross World Championships Hoogerheide, Netherlands
Photos to come
Belgian pride was salvaged at the 'Cross Worlds in the Elite Men's race, with Niels Albert winning the title. Zdenek Stybar (Czech Republic) repeated for the silver, as did the World Cup champion Sven Nys (Belgium). Belgium took six of the top ten spots, while host Netherlands could manage no better than 12th for Thijs Al; defending champion Lars Boom could not repeat in front of the home crowd, and finished well back in 20th place. Canada's two entrants - Derrick St John and Aaron Schooler finished 54th and 56th respectively, with St John having to run to the pit after breaking his chain on lap 7.
For the first lap it was a long, long line of riders as the leaders jockeyed for position. Albert attacked early in the second lap as the paced slackened for a second. It was up to the Dutch to close the gap, and they hesitated because their leader Boom wasn't near the front. This was all it took for Albert to get what proved to be the winning gap.
Steve Chainel (France) started the chasing effort, but Stybar soon overtook him to set off in solo pursuit. Nys and Sven Vanthourenhout (Belgium) were at the front of the group behind, but not doing much to encourage the chase in a group numbering some 20 riders. Boom pulled into the pit and changed bikes, but was still going backwards, so the Dutch were in disarray, and the French not capable/willing of towing the group containing the rest of the Belgium team.
At this point it was a two man race between the young stars Albert and Stybar. Stybar appeared to be slowly reeling in Albert, with the gap at a slender 12 to 15 seconds through the middle part of the race. This appeared to make the Belgian team nervous, and they sent Bart Wellens off in pursuit. However, he couldn't close on Stybar, so Nys jumped away, roaring right past Wellens and gaining ground on the leaders, with the fastest splits for laps 7, 8 and 9.
Albert, while losing time to Nys, began gaining again on Stybar, with 19 seconds advantage as he started his final lap, and Nys a further 21 seconds down. Wellens was hanging onto fourth, just in front of the chase group of 11. All four rolled across the finish in this order, with Francis Mourey (France) taking the half-hearted sprint for fifth.
- While St John was disappointed with his mechanical, he took it in stride. "This is the first time at the Worlds for both Natasha [Elliott] and me, so it is a learning experience, and everything that I get out of it is good. Sure, it wasn't great [the broken chain], but by that point in the race everyone had pretty much settled into where they were going to finish, so it only made a little difference. I wish that I had had the legs that I had last week in Milan [at the World Cup], but that is something else I learned in how to prepare."
[It should be noted that St John was listed in the results as 'lapped', but he, in fact, was not actually lapped by the leaders. The officials decided to pull both him and Jens Westergren (Sweden) because they were only a minute in front of Albert's finish when they began their last lap.]
- The final crowd estimate for today was 30,000 (at least a third heavily inebriated).
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