By Brecht Decaluwé in Ruddervoorde, Belgium
Top favorite and defending champion Sven Nys grabbed his sixth 'tricolore' jersey at the Belgian cyclo-cross national championships in Ruddervoorde, Belgium this weekend. Though UCI-leader Nys dominated the race, the so-called cannibal of cyclo-cross was threatened by local favorite Klaas Vantornout until he latter crashed out of the race. But Nys said the hometown hero wouldn't have stopped him from winning the championship.
"Klaas was the one who followed me most closely. He was stronger on the climb but I would certainly have gotten back to him and I certainly wasn't scared to head for a sprint with him," Nys said. It didn't come that far, as the crash from Vantornout in the seventh of ten laps offered Nys the gap that led him to the victory. "This was clearly Vantornout's territory and I heard some booing, especially after his crash," Nys said.
Vantornout dreamed of grabbing his first national title in front of a home crowd. "I'm disappointed. This is the biggest disappointment in my career. This race has been going through my mind all season long. For once I had perfect preparation and I was feeling incredibly strong. I didn't give Sven one single meter although he was going flat out.
"The type of course wasn't at all suited to my abilities. It was nothing but technical skills that mattered today. I had more power though and on that small climb I was even better than Nys. Actually I've never seen Nys suffer as much as today. I was as good as, if not better than Sven Nys," Vantornout claimed.
However, after seven laps of racing the sun and the multiple races started to take away the surface layer of soil, uncovering muliple patches ice underneath. In a fast right hand corner the Sunweb-Projob rider slipped away, taking him out of contention for the victory. "I can't blame anybody except myself. My front wheel slipped away and I hit the frozen ground with my hip. It was hard and it was over. I was in a lot of pain. You can't imagine what went through my mind on that moment. ... I should be OK for the World Cup round in Roubaix next week."
"This is a major setback but I'll have to get myself over it and focus on my remaining two goals which are the world championships and the Superprestige Series," Vantornout said. In the Superprestige, the 26 year-old is only trailing Nys by two points with two rounds remaining. "Nys is going to be surprised as I'm going to give him a hard time."
Nys has won the last four editions of the series, adding those to his four other overall victories in one of the most important series in Europe. "The World Cup is no longer important for me as I'm out of contention for a good classification," said Vantornout. If he fails to rack up points in the World Cup he could drop back in the UCI-rankings, but the Belgian wasn't worried about that. "I should remain on the front row at the start line of the World Championships in Hoogerheide, and even from second row I will be able to battle for the victory."