Posted by Editoress on 01/29/06
UCI CycloCross World Championships Zeddam, Netherlands
Belgian pride was salvaged at the Cyclo-cross World Championships on Sunday afternoon when Erwin Vervecken led home fellow countryman Bart Wellens to claim the elite men's title. Defending champion and pre-race favourite Sven Nys (Bel) did not finish, crashing on the final lap while in the lead group. Jonathan Page put in a strong performance for the U.S.A., moving up through the field to finish 10th.
The men's 60 minute, 9 lap race was expected to be dominated by the Belgians, but the first half of the race was wide open, with riders from France, Holland and the Czech Republic all coming to the front. The Belgians gradually took control of the race, but it wasn't Nys in charge; Wellens was the rider setting the pace.
"I think Wellens was the best man today, he showed from the start that he was the strongest. Wellens had intention of attacking at beginning, so I could wait, which was ideal for me." commented Vervecken. "It was fortunate that I was also strong at the end!"
"Nys is certainly not as good as at the beginning of the season, and Wellens spent much more time at the front. Plus, normally he (Nys) is much better in descents than me, but that was not the situation today. We learned soon into the race that Nys was not having a good day, so we had to adapt. I have been riding well in the past two weeks, so I felt more confident."
The front group was whittled down until by the start of lap 7 there were ten riders in contention, with Page just behind them and moving up. A lap later and the final selection was made - Nys, Wellens, Vervecken and Francis Moury of France.
As the four began the final lap it looked like the deck was stacked for the Belgians, but then came word that Nys had crashed heavily in the descent while leading.
"When it happened, it was on the descent, and he was in first place" explained Vervecken. "If he was feeling good and hoped to win he would have been second or third. I think that the pressure was very great and maybe he was nervous and that is why he crashed."
Nys didn't get back on his bike immediately - waiting for medical attention - so it was down to three - each would get a medal, but how would it play out?
Vervecken left nothing to chance. "I thought I could win as we went into the last lap - in the last half lap I could see the faces of the others, and that made me more confident. I took 10 metres, but it was only in the last 300 meters that I knew I had won."
Wellen sat on Moury's wheel until the last 150 meters before sprint by to make it 1-2 for Belgium. "I was the strongest" asserted Wellens, "and certainly it was my best race of the season. But when Erwin attacked on the stairs I had to let him go. It was best for the team."
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