Sven Nys (Rabobank) notched up his seventh World Cup victory this season by winning the cold and muddy eighth round in Hooglede, Belgium. The World Champion headed home Erwin Vervecken (Fidea) by half a minute with Richard Groenendaal 1'18 back in third.
"This weather is appalling, but that's the same for everyone, of course," said the mud-covered Nys at the end. "It wasn't easy to keep yourself warm: your feet, your hands, your eyes. Because of the mud, I saw nothing, with or without glasses. Actually I was riding just about blind. It was about survival and riding my own race. I couldn't even see the other rivals."
Nys did comment on Erwin Vervecken, who managed to stay in contact until the last lap, when he fell. "Vervecken was definitely strong, but I deserved to win."
How it unfolded
The race got off to a false start, as a commissaire hindered Sven Nys. The field was stopped after a couple of minutes and ordered to restart by race officials. On the muddy parcours, he wasted no time in taking the lead together with Erwin Vervecken (Fidea), Petr Dlask, who will ride with AVB in 2006, Enrico Franzoi (Lampre-Caffita), and John Gadret (Jartazi). Richard Groenendaal was also able to keep in touch with the leaders, riding his usual conservative race in the first half and improving towards the finish.
As Nys and Vervecken pulled away from the rest, with Groenendaal taking third position, Bart Wellens (Fidea) tried to close the gap on his own. He couldn't do it, and had to abandon due to the cold.
At the halfway point, Nys began to put time into Vervecken, but the Fidea rider kept in contact until the last lap when a crash ended his chances of victory. Nys, barely recognisable under the mud, could celebrate at his leisure, while Vervecken rolled in for second ahead of Groenendaal, De Knegt and Gadret.
In the women's race, Daphny Van den Brand (ZZPR.nl) proved that she was the best in the field again, beating Hanka Kupfernagel (Vlaanderen-Capri Sonne-T Interim) and Lyne Bessette (Canada). Van den Brand, the World Cup leader, went solo just before the halfway point, and was never caught. Bessette hung onto second place for a while before Kupfernagel passed here later in the race.
For full results, click here.