Two big races this past weekend in Europe starting with the third World Cup of the season in sandy Koksijde, Belgium and the return of the world champion Marianne Vos (Rabobank Women's Team) on Sunday's Superprestige Gieten in the Netherlands.
The third round in the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup in the dunes of Koksijde proved to be the perfect setting for experienced riders Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony) and Katie Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective) to show the best of their skills. While the rain poured down, Nys gapped world champion Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) in the final lap in an amazing powerful surge. Albert remains leader in the World Cup standings. Compton from her side completed a long solo ride in the women's race and strengthened her World Cup lead.
Reigning American champion Compton stormed away in the first lap of the elite women's race from a select lead group that included European champion Helen Wyman (Kona), Nikki Harris (Young Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team) and Belgian champion Sanne Cant (Veldritacademie Enertherm-BKCP). They all faded when Compton unleashed her power on the tough sandy course. Compton steadily increased her lead over Harris and eventually finished with a lead of 1:27 over her. In the battle for third place Cant overtook French rider Lucie Chainel-Lefevre (BH-SR Suntour-Peisey Vallandry) in the final lap. Wyman finished fifth ahead of Sanne van Paassen (Rabobank Women Cycling Team). USA's Amy Dombroski (Young Telenet Fidea) finished 11th and Christine Vardaros (Baboco Cycling Team) was 31st.
It took some time in the elite men's race for pre-race favorites Nys and Albert to come to the front. The Belgian duo didn't have a great start and were riding outside the top-10 during the first laps. An acceleration from Bart Aernouts (AA Drink-Leontien.nl Cycling Team) with Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor) in the second lap created a first selection but they were joined one the next lap by a nine-rider chase group which included Albert and Nys. Mid-way through the race, Albert took over the front with French rider Francis Mourey (FDJ-Big Mat) and Aernouts. After another acceleration, Albert was solo at the front while Nys caught and dropped Aernouts and Mourey behind. Albert could not keep Nys at distance and together the duo seemed to head for a sprint. Things turned around when Nys managed to ride over a dune where Albert set foot on the ground. Nys won by 14 seconds over Albert. Mourey joined the Belgians on the podium with a strong third place at 19 seconds from Nys. Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor), the former co-leader in the World Cup standings, only managed a 12th place and tumbles to fourth place in the standings. The line American in the race, Jonathan Page finished 32nd.
"I try to win as much as possible races in the next few weeks, a few races that are really nice, For example, Namur is a special one and also Zolder. We'll see but my shape for the moment is really good." Nys told sporza after the race.
"It was a difficult course today, the legs were feeling good. During warm-up I was having good sensations and I tried to have a good race, I tried to accelerate to eliminate as many adversaries as possible. After that, of course with Niels Albert and Sven Nys it wasn't easy but I tried to go for the win and I'm really happy with my podium today." Mourey also commented.
The first race of the day was held for the Junior Men category with some light rain showers coming down. Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) continued his domination and seems untouchable. His first lap in the race was the fastest in all race categories on Saturday. Van der Poel grabbed his third win in three World Cup rounds. American junior champion Logan Owen finished fifth and his compatriot Curtis White was 10th.
A little later the riders in the Men Under 23 category rode their race while more rain came down in Koksijde. Wietse Bosmans (Belgium) sprinted faster than Michiel van der Heijden (Netherlands), stopping the strong comeback race from the Dutchman. American under-23 champion Zach McDonald finished 21st.
Though Sunday's Superprestige race brought the return of Vos from a well earned break, Wyman was definitely the strongest rider at the fifth race of the Superprestige series. With two laps to go, Wyman Wyman pulled away from Vos to solo to the victory. Vos held on for second, crossing the line 38 seconds later. Cant was third. (Watch two minute highlight video from vier.be)
"It's Marianne's first race back and it's a really tough one so I thought if I just keep going, keep going and see what happens." Wyman commented to Vier.be after the race. She added "It's brilliant." when asked about beating Vos.
Halfway through the elite men's race, it became clear that the victory would be fought between three riders, Nys and teammates Vantornout and Pauwels. The three were still together on the final lap with Vantornout setting the pace. Still at the front in the final corners, Vantornout accelerated and took the win ahead of Nys. Pauwels was third. Rob Peeters (Telenet-Fidea) was fourth. Seemingly off his game, Albert finished fifth. American Page has a good ride to claim 15th. After five races, Nys leads the Superprestige series with 74 points, Albert is second with 63 points and Pauwels third, with 61.