By Brecht Decaluwé
The winter in Belgium has not yet arrived, and the sandy course at Koksijde was dry. While dark clouds threatened, no rain fell, leaving the race open to those who love the sand. World champion Erwin Vervecken, a specialist in the sand - called off his participation in this World Cup event due to illness, and until halfway through the race, it was unclear who would be king of the sand.
There were minor early attacks from Bart Wellens (Fidea) and Gerben De Knegt (Rabobank), but when UCI classification leader Sven Nys (Rabobank) steamed through the field, nobody had an answer. "It’s never easy to win a race like this. I made a mistake right after the start on the stairs which resulted in being locked up in the bunch; I waited patiently and moved up when possible," Nys said. "It’s a comfortable situation for me as I didn’t need to win today," added the Belgian, who already won three World Cup races this season (Aigle, Kalmthout and Pijnacker). Today’s winner explained that he was mentally fresh after spending some days in Mallorca together with teammate Sven Vanthourenhout. "I really needed a break like that and on Monday we’re heading for Spain again," Nys smiled.
Bart Wellens won the prestigious battle for second place. "Without doubt the best rider has won again," Wellens said, "to my opinion the real battle is going on behind Nys." The flamboyant Belgian tried something during the first laps but when Nys accelerated he couldn't respond. "I immediately felt that Nys’ speed was too high for me. From that moment on I even needed to pursue on the group with [Gerben] De Knegt," Wellens said.
Despite those tough moments, Wellens managed a good second place, which might have been unexpected looking at his race. Sven Vanthourenhout (Rabobank) finished on a World Cup podium for the first time this season, making it an all-Belgian top three in Koksijde. "I was lacking some confidence as I was afraid to blow up my engine. That’s why I was riding defensively, I want to apologize for that towards my colleagues. If this wouldn’t have been a world cup event I would’ve worked much more. Finishing on or off the podium makes a difference of a 1000 Euros, so I guess it isn’t strange that I started counting," Vanthourenhout said.
Nys continued his string of victories in the Superprestige Series with a convincing win in Gieten on Sunday afternoon. The only two riders who threatened the Belgian superstar were teammate Gerben De Knegt and the up-and-coming Klaas Vantornout (Fidea).
Nys enjoyed a good start (in contrast to the Koksijde World Cup where Nys stumbled at the start), and his early pressure left Bart Wellens (Fidea) chasing to get back to Nys, De Knegt and Vantornout.
Two laps from the finish, Nys launched his ultimate acceleration in a sand pit and rode untroubled towards victory. "On this course it was much harder to ride away from the opposition," Nys said. "Until halfway through the race I was only busy with defending my good position in the Superprestige Series, I would've been happy with a top three spot. When I noticed the others had a hard time dealing with my tempo I started thinking about the victory," Nys explained.
Klaas Vantornout enjoyed a great weekend finishing sixth in Koksijde and third today. Hans Van Kasteren, team manager of the Fidea team will be happy that he has another big gun in his ranks. "Yesterday I dug deep to become sixth, today I was surprised to see I was even stronger. So I learned something at the age of 24, that I don't need more than a day to recover," Vantornout said. "When Nys accelerated I didn't want to blow up my legs, a few moments later I noticed that De Knegt couldn't follow either so Nys was really going fast."