Posted by Editoress on 01/31/09
Cyclocross World Championships Hoogerheide, Netherlands
Germany decided to follow the Dutch example of the Junior Men this morning, and finish 1-2 in the 50 minute Espoir race this afternoon. Philipp Walsleben wasn't quite as dominant as Tijmen Eising in the morning, but he still pulled off a convincing win after attacking at the halfway mark of the 8 lap race. His compatriot Christoph Pfingsten won the sprint for second ahead of Poland's Pawel Szczepaniak. Once again, cyclo-cross superpower Belgium was shut out of the medals, with favoured Quentin Bertholet weeping after crossing the line in sixth place. Canada had one finisher - Andrew Thomas, in 47th, with Brian Robinson (53rd) and Kyle Fry (55th) both caught by the leaders on lap seven.
The French team set the early pace, but it was at the front of a long, long line of riders. No one seemed to want to take the first chance out in the wind, until Walsleben jumped away early in lap four. Initially, his lead hovered around 7 to 10 seconds, as a chase group containing Arnaud Jouffroy (France), Szczepaniak and Aurelien Duval (France) tried frantically to pull him back.
The remainder of the front group caught the chasers on the next lap, and now it was over 20 riders chasing Walsleben, who was still holding onto a 12 second lead, but was surely about to be caught? It looked even more like he would be caught on the sixth lap when, after setting the fastest splits in the fourth and fifth laps, Walsleben slowed in the sixth lap.
On what would prove to be the pivotal sixth lap, the chasing group blew apart, as Cristian Cominelli (Italy) jumped clear, followed by Bertholet, who joined him by the halfway point in the lap. With Bertholet gone, the rest of the contenders were even more anxious to bring them back, but also didn't want to bring up German riders Pfingsten and Sascha Weber.
Cominelli slowed in lap 7, and Bertholet didn't seem to have the punch to finally close in on Walsleben, who also picked up speed in response to the closing chasers. As he started the final lap, barring an accident, the German seemed to have the title wrapped up, with his lead back up to 21 seconds over Cominelli and Bertholet, and 14 riders about to catch the two chasers.
Walsleben maintained his 21 second lead in the final lap to roll across the line and claim the world title, as the chase group began jockeying for position in the inevitable sprint for silver. Pfingsten was easily the strongest in the final 200 metres, having time to look over at Szczepaniak and raise one arm in celebration.
- Thomas was disappointed with his 47th place: "I was going for something in the top-30, but there was a big crash right by the pit zone, and I went down, and by the time I got going, I was last. At that point, there was nothing that I could do but just try and pick people off. I'm pretty pleased with how I was riding, and I think without the crash I could have been in the 30s."
- Belgium has now been completely shut out of the medals for the first day of competition, an event which no one can remember having happened before. That it should happen just after the Belgian sports minister announced that cyclo-cross would lose government funding since it isn't an Olympic sport is a double blow to the cycling federation.
UCI President Pat McQuaid was interviewed on local TV about the withdrawal of funding. He commented: "we only just heard about it over the internet, so I can't really say anything at this point. We will sit down with the [Belgian] federation to discuss a response ... but it should also be pointed out, that if only Olympic sports were funded, there would be only 28 sports in the world that received funding, and this would certainly not support the social aspect of sport."
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