World champion Zdenek Stybar (Telenet-Fidea) dug very deep, plowing his way through the demanding sandy course in Zonhoven, Belgium on Sunday afternoon but the powerful Czech rider had enough strength and speed to secure his eighth win out of nine races this season.
Stybar made the selection during the first lap, quickly leaving only six riders within touching distance of the victory in the natural park of Zonhoven. During the seventh of ten laps Stybar seized his moment and he went clear after tackling the spectacular sand descent and then steep climb that makes Zonhoven course so special.
Teammate Kevin Pauwels (Telenet-Fidea) emerged as the best of the rest, finishing second at seven seconds from Štybar, with Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) showing he is on the way back to his best form by taking third at fourteen seconds.
Thanks to his victory, Štybar extended his lead in the Superprestige standings.
The world champion was in pain after nailing his eighth victory on his palmarès. Normally Stybar would answer questions in Dutch with the Belgian journalists but this time he was too tired to do so, responding in a mix of Czech and English.
“I'm happy that I could win a true Telenet-cross [the race is organized by team manager Hans van Kasteren] but it was the toughest one to win this year. It cost a lot of energy but it was for nothing... I mean not for nothing,” Stybar said, claiming he was too tired to think clearly.
Right from the start of the race, the world champion showed that he wasn't planning to save his legs for the demanding race on the Koppenberg on Monday afternoon.
Sven Nys, Kevin Pauwels and Bart Aernouts all followed the Czech's Wheel, while Niels Albert followed in a second group with Philipp Walsleben, Bart Wellens, Klaas Vantornout, Jonathan Page and the rest of the pack.
After two laps Stybar took his foot off the gas allowing a hard-working Albert to join the front, with Wellens trying to bridge up as well. When there were six leaders, Nys accelerated and the Belgian champion got away with the world champion. The leading duo gained eight seconds on Pauwels and Aernouts, while Albert and Wellens went backwards and the rest of the field was
nowhere to be seen.
After flatting during the fourth lap Stybar and Aernouts changed bikes. The tempo in front dropped back and halfway through the race there were again six leaders with Albert and Wellens re-joining the lead-group. Not for long though, as Nys accelerated again in the huge sand pit which was surrounded by a huge crowd. Stybar and Pauwels stayed on Stybar's wheel while the others quickly trailed by fifteen seconds. It was all in vain because two laps later the six riders were back together.
Key moment in the race
The key moment in the race occurred a little later when the six riders rode towards the sand pit for the eighth time. Stybar led the group ahead of Albert, while Nys dropped back in the group into fifth position. Stybar attacked when leaving the sand pit area and he quickly got a gap on the rest. Going into the last lap Stybar had seven seconds on Pauwels and Albert, with Nys and Aernouts following at ten seconds; Wellens settled for sixth place by that time following at thirty seconds.
Stybar seemed to be cruising to another victory but then an incident almost ruined his day. A couple of drunk spectators only had an eye for the TV-camera and didn't notice Stybar was coming their way. The Czech hit the arm of one, getting a bath of beer and needed some time to get back on track. Nys and Pauwels were coming back within striking distance and in the latter stages of the race Pauwels even launched a solo counter-attack but it didn’t pay off.
“Hindsight is always better than foresight but I should have gone earlier because I came very close to Stybar,” Pauwels said. Eventually he finished second at seven seconds from his teammate, which puts him in fourth place in the Superprestige classification.
“During the race I struggled to stay with the leaders and when I led the group I didn't have the feeling I could make the difference. Second is good but afterwards it could've been better,” Pauwels said.
Third-placed Nys wasn't happy with his result. “Right from the start I felt like I could win today,” Nys said. “I made one mistake and that was when the other three riders bridged back up with us; I ended up riding at the back of the group. I was able to gain time back on Stybar but ended up riding with his free-wheeling teammate on my wheel. It's my own mistake. I should've been more aggressive,” Nys said.
Only twenty-two riders finished in the same lap as winner Stybar and surprisingly riders like Jonathan Page, Sven Vanthourenhout and Klaas Vantornout even ended up abandoning the race. First Anglo-Saxon in Zonhoven was British rider Ian Field (Hargroves Cycles), who battled long for thirteenth place but ended up in seventeenth position.
Now the cyclo-cross peloton heads to Melden, near Oudenaarde, to tackle the famous Koppenberg climb during the second round of the Gazet van Antwerpen Trophy series on Monday after noon. Cross racing never stops in Belgium. The next round in the Superprestige Series is held on November 14 in Hamme-Zogge, Belgium.
|1||Zdenek Štybar (Cze) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team||1:02:34|
|2||Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team||0:00:07|
|3||Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet||0:00:14|
|4||Bart Aernouts (Bel) Rabobank - Giant Offroad Team||0:00:26|
|5||Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus||0:00:44|
|6||Bart Wellens (Bel) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team||0:01:26|
|7||Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team||0:01:58|
|8||Philipp Walsleben (Ger) BKCP-Powerplus|
|9||Rob Peeters (Bel) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team||0:02:30|
|10||Enrico Franzoi (Ita) BKCP-Powerplus||0:02:36|
|11||Gerben De Knegt (Ned) Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team||0:02:51|
|12||Thijs van Amerongen (Ned) AA Drink Cycling Team||0:03:05|
|13||Jan Verstraeten (Bel) KDL-Trans||0:03:29|
|14||Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus||0:03:34|
|15||Eddy van Ijzendoorn (Ned) AA Drink Cycling Team||0:03:38|
|16||Ian Field (GBr)||0:03:43|
|17||Tom van den Bosch (Bel) AA Drink Cycling Team||0:03:50|
|18||Jan Denuwelaere (Bel) Rendement Hypo Cycling Team||0:04:07|
|19||Ben Berden (Bel) Qin Cycling Team||0:04:20|
|20||Kenneth van Compernolle (Bel) Sunweb Revor||0:04:33|
|21||Thijs Al (Ned) AA Drink Cycling Team||0:04:56|
|22||Marco Bianco (Ita)|
|23||Petr Dlask (Cze) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team||0:05:21|
|24 -1 lap||Patrick van Leeuwen (Ned)|
|25||Robert Gavenda (Svk) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team|
|26||Mariusz Gil (Pol) Baboco - Revor Cycling Team|
|27 -2 laps||Kevin Cant (Bel)|
|28||Marek Cichosz (Pol)|
|29||Stijn Huys (Bel)|
|30 -3 laps||Dries Pauwels (Bel)|
|31||Wilant van Gils (Ned) CX Nederland|
|32||Jo Pirotte (Bel)|
|1||Zdenek Štybar (Cze) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team||30||pts|
|2||Bart Aernouts (Bel) Rabobank - Giant Offroad Team|
|3||Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet||26||pts|
|4||Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team||22|
|5||Bart Wellens (Bel) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team||21|
|6||Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus||20|
|7||Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team||15|
|8||Steve Chainel (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom|
|9||Philipp Walsleben (Ger) BKCP-Powerplus|
|10||Enrico Franzoi (Ita) BKCP-Powerplus||11||pts|
|11||Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor||10|
|12||Rob Peeters (Bel) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team||9|
|13||Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor||7|
|14||Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus|
|15||Gerben De Knegt (Ned) Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team||5||pts|
|16||Thijs van Amerongen (Ned) AA Drink Cycling Team||4|
|17||Jan Verstraeten (Bel) KDL-Trans||3|
|18||Jonathan Page (USA) Planet Bike||1|
|19||Eddy van Ijzendoorn (Ned) AA Drink Cycling Team||1|