Though the season started many weeks ago, this was the first race in Europe for the US riders and for many Euro riders as well, like Helen Wyman, Gabby Day or Sanne van Paassen.
The fog was thick and the taxi driver was clueless so the morning was a bit haphazard and I was keen on getting on with the day. I got to the venue a bit late so I only caught the last two laps of the juniors’ race. A familiar sight welcomed me: Mathieu van der Poel was leading the race by a mile. I find it really interesting that the younger a category is, the more dominant one rider could be. I remember when Tijmen Eising won almost every single race three years ago but then faded away when he moved up to the U23 category. Oh, and van der Poel won the race, naturally.
The U23s race seemed to be more open but then Mike Teunissen, once again, ruled the race from the get go. Zach McDonald started from the front row and it soon turned out that that front row place was well deserved. While he couldn’t match Teunissen’s pace, he was in the chasing group until the very end of the race and he was only seconds off a podium place. I remember his last World Cup podium place back in Zolder, last year, I hope this was just the beginning a great season for him.
Another pleasant surprise was Wietse Bosmans. I was glad to see him back at the front and his 3rd place is more than promising. Maybe that bad streak ended finally?
As Marianne Vos was absent and Daphny van den Brand retired at the end of the last season, the most likely outcome was that someone from the Katie Compton, Sanne van Paassen, Helen Wyman trio would take the win. It wasn’t that obvious, though. Compton’s start was rubbish, Sanne Cant was pushing hard and Pavla Havlikova was keen on showing some great riding in front of her home crowd.However, Compton quickly caught up with the front of the race and when her and van Paassen attacked, the others couldn’t follow them. It wasn’t clear who the stronger was and the race was wide open until the last meters, when van Paassen pipped Compton in the sprint. That being said, the difference between her and Compton appeared negligible throughout the race, which is definitely promises a great season for Compton – and some spectacular battles for us.[/one_half] [one_half_last]
The Brits did very well, Helen Wyman was very pleased with her third place, if memory servers well, the last time she stood on the podium was four years ago. Nikki Harris was also strong but she had to settle with a 5th place, however, the podium shouldn’t be out of her reach in the coming weeks. Gabby Day’s 10th place meant that there were three Brits in the top10 – good times.
The elite men’s race was as incredible as always, watching these guys rip up the soil never ceases to amaze me. Three rider’s performances stood out for me. Firstly, Lars van der Haar gave us a glimpse of what the future will be like. Even though he should be still riding with the U23s, he rides with the elite men, riders five or ten years to his senior. He had mentioned at the beginning of the season that he hasn’t got bit expectations, he just wanted to gain experience in his first adult season. Well, finishing second at a World Cup race is quite an experience, especially this young. I wonder if he becomes as dominant one day among the elite men as he used to be among the U23s.
Then there was Sven Nys. The first lap found him in the front but then he fell back. I didn’t know what had happened until he ran up a small incline with his bike on his back, while the others pedalled away easily. At first I thought he had a flat tyre but reviewing the photos it turned out that he snapped his chain. Fortunately, the depo was reasonably close but it only allowed him to control the damage but he was out of the contention for the win. That didn’t stop him and he rode the rest of the race like a man possessed and he managed to finish 5th, only 20 seconds shy of a podium place.
Jeremy Powers is a unique rider who is a great athlete but at the same time he doesn’t take himself too seriously. Top athletes have to be extremely focused to be competitive and one rarely sees this kind of easygoing attitude which is truly refreshing. Jpow didn’t have a good start but he rode hard to catch up with the front of the race and his 7th place was very impressive. I think for him and the other US riders, the Worlds at the end of the season is incredibly important, a bit like the Olympics were for the Brits this year and he seems to be on the right track to do well in Louisville in January.
Wow, this turned out to be an unusually long report – enjoy the photos and stay tuned for next week and the next World Cup in Plzen![/one_half_last]