Enjoy the Superprestige Zonhoven gallery and race report below. (Word edits by Nicholas Lemke)
Zonhoven and its epic sand pit welcomed thousands of spectators with beautiful sunshine. After Eli Iserbyt attained yet another win among the juniors, the women’s race commenced.
It quickly became obvious that Sophie de Boer wouldn’t be among the main contenders on this day, with her win on the Koppenberg the prior day taking too much out of her. She eventually abandoned.
Another notable name missing from the front was Helen Wyman, who had an early crash and lost too much time to be in contention.
Meanwhile, on the front, Nikki Harris and Sanne Cant fought a tough battle. Both riders were eager to win the race, as the last few weeks saw them both with poor results. Harris started hard and fast, but Cant was right on her wheel. After leading for over two laps of the five lap race, Harris conceded the lead to Cant, who pulled away and created a small but persistent gap. She managed to fend off Harris for the remainder of the race and she won her first race since Gieten, almost a month ago. Though Harris crossed the finish line in second place, the result will give her a confidence boost for the coming European Championships.
By the time the elite men assembled, the famous sand pit of Zonhoven was filled with thousands upon thousands of fans. Each rider’s call-up to the start line was visible on the big screens and deafening roars erupted when favoured riders rolled to their start position. There was one exception, though: poor, poor Jan Denuwelaere. Whether he blocked Sven Nys’ path yesterday on purpose, we will never know, but the aggressive boo-ing that followed him around the course must have been very hard to bear. There were pockets of scattered support for him, but, especially in the sand arena, the antipathy was palpable.
Once the race was underway, the riders, led by Tom Meeusen, cleared the sandy descents safely in the first lap. But the following laps would have their casualties; Tim Merlier and Klaas Vantornout, among others, took a tumble, and the latter was out of contention from then on. Nys decided to take matters into his own hands early in the race. “For three-four laps, I tried to do a higher speed, so all the other riders have to ride at the max to stay with me. But then I had to slow down a bit to recuperate and then, immediately, a few guys were on me”.
Meeusen, Lars van der Haar, and Kevin Pauwels were chasing Nys and as soon as Nys slowed slightly, they closed the gap. In the finale, Nys led Pauwels into the last corner, hitting it at high speed and it seemed that it was going to be another ‘spurtje’ where Nys proved to be the fastest. Pauwels thought otherwise; sitting cleverly on Nys’ wheel for as long as possible, he made a perfectly timed attack to take the win. After the race, Nys reflected: “I did an acceleration in the perfect moment but then I made a few small, tactical mistakes and that cost me the victory today. But that is ok […] I lost to a guy who was a little bit faster than me and that is not a problem”, alluding to the previous day’s events at Koppenberg bothering him because of the manner in which he lost, rather than the loss itself.[quote text_size=”small” author=”Sven Nys”]
I don’t say I could have won but [Denuwelaere’s manoeuvre] cost me the chance to win[/quote]
Lars van der Haar finished third but he said it was planned. “I’ve had a few week’s of training and this was the last block of it, so I knew that this weekend was going to be hard for me. But it was all calculated, so I was happy that today I was still able to do a good job”.
And poor Denuwelaere? A DNF for the unfortunate pariah.
If you haven’t seen it yet, check out my coffee table album about the 2013/2014 cyclocross season. It is an exclusive chronicle of the 13/14 season on 240 high-quality, colourful pages.
Results by cxstats.com[tabs] [tab title=”Elite Men”]
|VAN DER HAAR Lars
|VAN DER POEL Mathieu
|VAN KESSEL Corne
|VAN AMERONGEN Thijs
|VAN DEN BRAND Twan
|VAN LEEUWEN Patrick
|DE CLEYN Dave
|VAN LOY Ellen
|VAN DE REE Monique
|VAN ANROOIJ Lindy
|VAN DEN DRIESSCHE Femke
|VAN AERT Wout
|VAN TICHELT Yorben