French champion Francis Mourey and Czech Zdenek Stybar were among the favorites featuring at the front of the Koppenbergcross race on Sunday near Oudenaarde in Belgium. American Jonathan Page wasn't much further back.
The Française des Jeux rider Mourey managed to stay in the seven-man leader's group for most of the race, but during the final lap he was unable to respond to the attack from eventual winner Sven Nys.
"I finished in sixth place, and I'm very glad that I was able to battle with the best today. This is an all important race for the Belgians, and they're all extremely motivated," Mourey said to Cyclingnews.
"This performance is very promising, and I hope the organization will invite me again for the other remaining events of their competition."
Going into the last lap, Mourey still had the win within his grasp and he even led the leader's group on the first section of the Koppenberg, leaving the pavées and hitting the meadow on the right.
"I was still quite strong but also felt the fatigue in my legs. Most riders live near this course while I traveled six hours in the car. That didn't help me today," Mourey said before heading back to his car for the trip home
Ten seconds before Mourey, Zdenek Stybar (Telnet Fidea) had crossed the line in fifth place, a result that fell short of his aspirations. "I had legs for the podium, and probably even legs to win the race," Stybar said. "All race long I was focused to stay near the front and during the last lap, I lost that focus for one second, dropping into a bad position." That's when Nys attacked.
Much further back was the American Jonathan Page (Planet Bike), who finished 18th at almost two minutes behind winner Sven Nys. Page spent most of the race in the group riding for 10th place.
"It's a tough hill," Page said to Cyclingnews. "I tried to ride a steady race and stay in the groups, but it was always on or off. I'm much more relaxed than before, and I'm riding well. I'm training and resting well and now the form needs to improve in order to get the results going."
One week earlier the American had driven the chase of leader Stybar during the first laps of the second World Cup race of the season in Plzen, Czech Republic. "It was good to ride near the front in such an important race. After a while, I ran out of gas though and dropped back, but it was a good race nevertheless," Page said.
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