Tactics turn tide for Al in Zolder

Thijs Al in the setting sun

Thijs Al in the setting sun (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)

The Flemish crowd at the Formula 1 circuit in Zolder, Belgium, witnessed an unexpected situation in the seventh round of the Cyclo-cross World Cup on Friday when the sport's top names neutralized each other and allowed a breakaway to go clear. Emerging victorious was former mountain biker Thijs Al, who snuck away from his companions on the final lap to nab his first ever World Cup victory over Belgians Kevin Pauwels (Fidea) and Sven Vanthourenhout (Sunweb-Projob).

"I can't believe what I just pulled off," Al said. "You know that you're in front with two [potential winners] so I had to do something. I was in a bad position during the last lap, but then I was able to move up and attack the dangerous downhill, offering me a couple of metres. I was able to hold that until the finish line."

Al, Marco Aurelio Fontana (Italy) and Vanthourenhout escaped the field after a crash between Swiss rider Simon Zahner and Palmans-Cras rider Radomir Simunek held up the favorites. Pauwels was the only rider able to bridge across, while Fontana later crashed out of the leading group. The three remaining riders were able to maintain a slim lead over a charging World Champion Lars Boom, who attacked on the final lap to finish fourth. World Cup leader Sven Nys was sixth.

"I was hesitating whether to attack and battle for the victory or focus on defending my lead in the World Cup ranking," Nys said. "Meanwhile Lars preferred to have somebody else win the race rather than having us battle for the win. It was impossible to work together with Boom," Nys said.

Also see the full results, report and photos.

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