The UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup landed at the famous car circuit of Zolder, Belgium, on Wednesday. World Champion Marianne Vos (Rabobank Women Cycling Team) completed a long solo ride to capture her first cyclo-cross victory of the season in the Women’s category. Belgian champion Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony) was the best in the Elite Men category after an exciting duel with World Champion Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus).
Four races were held during a rainy day: the sixth round of the World Cup for the Elite Men and Women, the fourth round for the Junior Men and Men Under 23 category.
The first event of the day was the Junior Men’s race. Unbeatable Mathieu van der Poel (NED) continued his winning streak with another long solo ride in Zolder. He remains unbeaten in the UCI World Cup, with four wins in four races. A long way back from the winner, Logan Owen (USA) won the battle for second place and occupies second place in the World Cup standings behind the Dutch rider.
In the U23 category, Wietse Bosmans (BEL) took his third World Cup win in a row. Both Michael Vanthourenhout (BEL) and Mike Teunissen (NED) were part of the early large lead group but crashed out of the race. Bosmans attacked in the penultimate lap and easily grabbed the win in Zolder ahead of Corne van Kessel (NED) and Wout van Aert (BEL). The Belgian winner extends his lead in the World Cup standings over van Kessel and van Aert.
Marianne Vos impressed with her domination in the Women’s race. In the first lap she was accompanied by Lucie Chainel-Lefevre (BH - SR Suntour – Peisey Vallandry) but it was not long before she distanced the French rider.
Behind the leader, Chainel-Lefevre was joined by Belgian champion Sanne Cant (Veldritacademie Enertherm-BKCP) but the duo didn’t get any closer to Vos. World Cup leader Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective) missed her start and bobbled on the technical course on more than on one occasion. By the end of the second lap, the American champion caught up with the chasing duo and quickly left them behind. She was happy to hold off Cant for second place. Katerina Nash (Luna Pro Team) was fourth ahead of Chainel-Lefevre.
Compton strengthens her lead in the World Cup standings since an ailing Sanne van Paassen (Rabobank Women Cycling Team) didn’t start in Zolder. Nikki Harris (Young Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team) finished sixth in Zolder and moves up to second place in the World Cup standings, a long way off Compton.
Sven Nys’ victory in the Elite Men category came after a long duel with his arch rival Niels Albert. The latter opened the gas on the former Formula 1 car circuit during the second lap and only Nys was able to catch on. The high speed up front made it virtually impossible for the first chasers to continue believing in victory. Among those chasers was Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) who had a bad start but bounced back and led the chase for a long time.
Up front, it became clear that Nys had the upper hand during the second half of the race. Halfway through the bell lap, Nys went smoothly through a tricky off-camber section and powered away from Albert who settled for second place.
"With the rain, every lap is getting harder and harder but I had the good feeling and I try to have a gap before the downhill because the technical zone was in the last part of the track. For me it's better like this then I can do something, then otherwise it's a sprint and normally I can win a sprint against Niels but you never know, it's better to have a gap before the sprint." Nys told sporza about his final lap attack.
Behind the two protagonists Czech rider Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma – Quickstep) rode a smooth last lap and held off compatriot Radomir Simunek (BKCP-Powerplus) and Pauwels for the last spot on the podium. In the World Cup standings Nys gets to wear the World Cup leader’s jersey after coming level with Albert. Pauwels lost a bit of ground in third place.
Can Nys keep his current level of form until the 2013 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Louisville? "I don't know." he replied. "I'm going to try but it's not so easy, the other guys also have good shape for the moment. If I don't get ill or have no injuries, I think it's possible to have good shape at the World Championships but it's still one month to go and we'll try to have good victories the next few days and I will see what happens."
The next round of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup is held in Rome, Italy on January 6, 2013