Sven Nys claimed his seventh career Belgian 'cross title in a thrilling come-from-behind effort in Oostmalle on Sunday. The Landbouwkrediet-Colnago rider pumped his fists in excitement as he crossed the line three seconds ahead of Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb). Under-23 stand-out Tom Meeusen (Telenet Fidea) salvaged his team's championships with a third place finish ahead of Rob Peeters.
From the gun it was Meeusen and Sunweb's Sven Vanthourenhout who took the fastest start onto a snow covered and icy course in Oostmalle, with Nys and World Champion Niels Albert - the two main favourites - watching each other behind.
Nys made the first blunder, and slid out on the icy course, leaving him chasing at a distance behind the main group of favourites. At one point nearly 30 seconds in arrears, the defending champion did not panic.
"I rode a perfect race after my crash," Nys said. "I had a great day! Even when the gap was 30 seconds, I didn't panic. When I was younger I might have lost, but I rode on pure adrenaline."
Vanthourenhout claimed the lead with Meeusen forming a chase group with teammate Peeters and Vantornout and Nys hot in pursuit of the group of favourites behind. Once in contact, Nys drove straight to the front and went off in solo pursuit of the leaders.
The icy conditions began to play a factor as riders began to fatigue. Vanthourenhout slid out and was caught by the chase of three, and soon Nys was able to make contact. He immediately went to the front to apply pressure and when Peeters, Nys' former teammate, tried to follow, he slid out in a turn and was run over by Vantornout. With that small mistake as an advantage, Nys opened up a gap which never closed.
"It certainly wasn't the easiest one. I planned to ride the first half hour comfortably in the group but due to crashes I ended up chasing and taking risks.
"Of course I want to also win the World Championships, but if I don't my season won't be ruined. I want to dominate all year long."
While Nys was celebrating, Albert was fuming over a crash he claims was caused by Nys' supporters. Albert was in the group of chasers as Nys made contact, but then suddenly vanished from view. Half a lap later, Albert was riding alone well behind the group.
"The game was definitely not over for me until a supporter of Nys pulled me of my bike. I looked back and saw clearly that it was someone from the Nys camp. The people around him even applauded!
"It's a scandalous way to lose a Belgian championship. I'm not saying I would have won, because Nys rode a great race. Hats off to him, he is a deserving winner. People can boo me or throw beer on me, but they cannot touch me - they must not touch me."
Nys agreed that his supporters should not act that way. "That shouldn't happen. I also got hit and had beer poured on me. At the Belgian championships the fans are live wires, but they can't do that."
The Belgian media are calling for race fans to send in any photos or video of the incident since it happened out of view of the television cameras.