With the first two gold medals of the 2010 International Cycling Union's (UCI) World Cyclo-cross Championships having been claimed by outsiders, expectations have been raised of similarly unpredictable results in Sunday afternoon's elite men's event.
Witness to the victories of Czech rider Tomas Paprtska in the junior men's race and Pawel Szczepaniak's triumph in the under 23 title race, Belgian national coach Rudy De Bie told Cyclingnews that the elite riders would need to be ready to adapt to rapid changes in conditions.
"The first two laps are super important. All the small gaps that are created then can be crucial later on in the race," said De Bie. "The circumstances are quickly changing and every race is different. It was already more of a water soaked course for the under 23 riders. God knows what we're going to get tomorrow. For the riders it is important that they can deal with the changes."
The UCI's mid-week efforts to clear the course of snow were assisted greatly by favourable weather conditions on Saturday. The absence of further snow saw underlying dirt revealed for the first time throughout much of the course.
Despite the dramatic change from what had previously been a thick base of snow, the division of races between the morning and afternoon showed the dramatic effect the change in temperature could have come Sunday.
The junior race ended with none of the top-five riders from their World Cup series making the podium today. Runner-up Julian Alaphilippe (France) proved adept at reading the effect the icy conditions were having on World Cup champion and race favourite David van der Poel. "I was keeping an eye on him but I noticed he made a lot of mistakes so I realized I had to get past him," said Alaphilippe at the post race press conference.
Dutchman Van der Poel admitted with hindsight that his tactic of running many sections of the course had backfired. "During one lap I crashed twice, which is too much on this course. As I said before the World Championships are always a special and looking at the names in front this is proven once again. They're surprising names, but obviously they were just stronger than me today. I think they were more focused on this single race; being a local like [race-winner Tomas] Paprstka helps to give that little extra, too, of course," Van der Poel told Cyclingnews.
Belgian Gianni Vermeersch, who finished fifth, added an element of youthful credence to De Bie's day one assessment: "I do have to say it was better to ride in front than to stay on the wheels because it's easier to find the right track."
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