Welcome back! The men are about to take to the ice, snow and general yuck out there on the course.
Things will get underway in less than 15 minutes.
Will we see a repeat of last year's podium? It's possible. All three riders are not only here, but favourites. In 2009, Niels Albert (BEL) won ahead of Zdenek Stybar (CZE) and Sven Nys (BEL).
There is at least one rider missing from the start today. Philipp Walsleben of Germany, last year's U23 champion, had to withdraw. He has been suffering from intestinal problems since the middle of the week, and decided it was pointless to try and ride. He left for home this morning.
How many men per national team? That depends on their national ranking from last season. Nations 1-5 may nominate nine riders and start six. That includes Belgium, France, Switzerland, Germany and Italy. The others may nominate eight riders and start five.
The men are getting ready now for the start, taking off their jackets and so on. Our Rich Tyler says there are no clouds, and that the guys will take off under a beautiful blue sky. Still pretty darned cold, though.
There they go!
The light blue Belgian jerseys dominated the front line, and lead the way around.
Problems at the first hairpin curve as too many riders try to go through simultaneously.
We had 65 starters.
Klaas Vantornout got the hole-shot, and Ryan Trebon (USA) didn't have the best of starts and has slipped towards the back half of the field.
The Belgians and Czechs lead the way.
Stybar and Vantornout have a small lead.
They are followed by Steve Chainel (FRA) and Nys.
Belgian got off to a great start, but it is Stybar who is in the lead.
Current World champ Albert is in roughly 15th place, with USA's Jonathan Page on his rear wheel.
Vantornout slips around Stybar and takes the lead.
Vantornout's taken the lead. Stybar is having a lot of trouble getting his foot back into the pedal after pulling it out for a corner. He's slipped to fifth already.
Stybar is in Pit Row looking for help.
Vantornout is first over the start-finish line in 7.49. The rest are about 15 seconds back.
Albert is 14th at 21 seconds, Page still on his wheel. We'll let you know what was up with Stybar's first bike as soon as we can.
Much of the snow is gone from the course by now, leaving a nice mushy mud....
Radomir Simunek has assumed the lead from Vantournout. He's got 10 metres.
Radomir Simunek Jr. (CZE) is perhaps a long shot for the podium here, but he has a special motivation. His dad, Radomik Simunek Sr., won the Worlds title in 1991.
Simounek is out of the saddle, Vantournout has closed on his back wheel. There's a Swiss rider in the top five now, Christian Heule.
Chainel's disappeared from his earlier position near the front. France still has a presence, however, Francis Mourey's up with the leaders.
The Belgian riders are still well represented in the top ten, though.
The Belgian team came to these championships with the goal of three medals. With half of the medals already awarded, the small European nation has none so far. National coach Rudy De Bie has kept a close eye on things and notes that the changing conditions out on the course are the key to success, and that his elite men must be ready to adapt to whatever they face.
Group of six starting to form. Vantornout, Simunek, Nys, Heule, Mourey, De Knegt, Pauwels. Stybar's close.
They go over the finish line with about a 10 second lead.
Six out in front, then a chase group of four. Albert is next over the line in 11th, with the rest of the field on his tail.
Albert was 23 seconds down.
Those of us who live or have lived in cold snowy areas know that sometimes the only way to get around is with studded tires. The guys today won't have that option. The UCI announced earlier this month that they are specifically prohibited.
Sven Nys was testing a Dutch tire called “Diabolo” which had metal spikes in the tread, and they ould said to be very good on an icy course. But neither he nor anyone else will be trying them out today.
Front group: Three Belgians (Vantournout, Nys, Pauwels) two Czechs (Simunek, Stybar) and France's Mourey. We are in the third round.
Albert is leading the main field, which also contains the USA's Page and Tim Johnson.
Simunek changes bikes. Nys and Kevin Pauwels too. Lots of mechanical dramas today, it looks like.
Did we say there is mud? Well, there is, and lots of it. Which means we are starting to see lots of muddy bikes and jerseys and faces!
Who has a clean face? Vantornout, of course, since he is leading!
We have yet another change at the front of the race. Heule (Switzerland) is in charge of the elite men's event for now.
The lead group just went slip-sliding around a corner. Careful, guys!
Stybar has made his way back to the front. He led for a moment before slipping on a corner and letting Heule back through.
Over the years, Belgium has won by far the most medals – not that anyone is surprised by that! It has 25 gold medals and 52 medals all together. Second place in the ranking goes to France, with 10 gold and 34 total. Switzerland is third, with 7 golds and 32 total.
Six laps to go, and Heule leads them over the finish line. This was the fastest lap to date, 7,36.
The four leaders have a 10 second lead over their chasers.
Nys is in the first group of four, but his transponder seems to be faulty. He is not being registered when he crosses the finish line.
Stybar jumps out to a 25 metre lead. Mourey now has to change bikes!
Nys has closed the gap, and we now have eight riders giving chase to Stybar, who looks to be pulling away.
Right now we have Stybar, then Vantornout, Heule, Nys, Martin Bina (Czech Republic).
Stybar appears to have chosen his moment. He hits the stairs with an eight second margin over Heule.
The Czech fans are going bananas for Stybar, as you would expect.
The gap is stretching, we'll get a time gap when they cross the start/finish shortly.
Stybar, of the Czech Republic, is 24 years old. He won three World cup races this season on his way to taking the overall title.
Stybar crosses the line. Five laps to go. Nys leads the chasers over, 18 seconds later.
Mourey, Simunek, Zlamalik (Czech Republic) are six seconds behind the Nys group-
Here's how it stands at the moment: Stybar sole leader. Nys, Heule, Vantornout, Bina. Then Mourey, Simunek, Zlamalik
Nys, at 33, is the oldest of the three favorites.
Bart Wellens and Gerben De Knegt are the next riders on the course.
Nys shows his class, hopping the barriers. Cyclingnews checked them out this morning - they're not small and the riders hit them going uphil.
It has been a three-way duel all year between Stybar, Nys and Albert. Stybar won three races, with Albert taking four., and Nys only one. However, Nys has to be ranked at the top today. He does especially well in this kind of weather.
Nys may be impressinve, but what Stybar's doing is even more impressive. He looks comfortable out in front.
Heule's dropping off the pace now. Nys is closest to Stybar, with Vantornout and Bina next in line.
Heule's about to trade places with Mourey, who'll assume fifth position.
Stybar zips over the finish line, with no one near him.
Nys has now lost ground. He went down on a corner but is going again and making repairs on the fly.
Stybar resembles Vos in the women's race this morning. He's pedalling at a furious cadence.
Vantornout's finally starting to display a little bit of mud now as he trades turns with Nys and Bina.
Nys shows less enthusiasm at the hurdles this time, he dismounts and hops them on foot.
Yes, there are doping controls here at the Wolrds. The UCI “vampires” paid a visit to the Belgians last night, taking samples from Albert, Nys and Klaas Vantornout.
Stybar keeps building up his lead, quite a performance by the young Czech rider.
Stybar's getting more and more efficient. He's got most of the corners dialled in.
He just finished his sixth lap in 7:36. Nys checks that Vantornout and Bina are still there as he leads the trio over, 30 seconds behind Stybar.
We had 66 riders sllated to start in the race today, from 22 different nations, ranging from the traditional 'cross nations of Belgium and Netherlands, to such exotics as Mongolia and Israel. Both Belgium and the Czech Republic have seven riders each in the race.
The men's 'cross world championships have been held since 1950. If we use all our fingers and toes and borrow some from the cat, we think that comes up with 60 years now.
The two Belgian rider lead a furious chase.
There's no stopping Stybar -- he keeps on going and going, as strong as ever.
Stybar has hit the line again, and is only two laps away from claiming the world title.
Vantornout's now in pursuit solo, still some 30 seconds adrift. Nys leads Bina across the line, 10 seconds further back-
Obviously anything could still happen, but we think Stybar is a good bet to take the title here in his homeland.
Looks like Nys had some problems climbing the stairs, possibly he slipped.
Vantornout is definitely looking quite mud-splattered now.
Nys has dropped Bina, but now he stumbles on the barriers. He looks tired.
Our situation now: Stybar, clear leader. Vantornout. Sven Nys. Martin Bina. All have varying gaps between them
Nys and Bina are back together, it look's like they'll sprint for third and fourth.
Stybar heads to the finish line once more, with a commanding lead.
The bell lap for Stybar!
Vanturnout has cut the gap to 20 seconds, but has he left it too late? Can he catch and pass the leader?
Bina has now moved ahead of Nys.
Bina is doing his best to get rid of Nys, but now the Belgian is fighting back. He turns it out and picks up a five metre gap.
The real fight of the day here is for bronze. Bina and Nys are really going at it!
Looks like all top four positions will be in Czech and Belgain hands!
Stybar's powering, he doesn't want to give Vantornout any hope of coming back at this stage.
Stybar raises his arms in happiness and shakes his head in disbelief as he soloes across the finish line. Yes, you are World Champion!
Vanturnout takes second and Nys is third.
Here are our top five:
1 Zdenek Stybar (Czech Republic)
2 Klaas Vantornout (Belgium)
3 Sven Nys (Belgium)
4 Martin Bina (Czech Republic)
5 Francis Mourey (France)
Stybar beams through the mud encrusting his face.
Another exciting solo winner this afternoon! And a hometown hero, to boot.
Congratulations to our podium, and of course, to everyone who took to the course today!
And our condolences to those who now face the unpleasent task of washing those mud-covered clothes.
That's it for today, and that's it this year for the 'cross Worlds! Thanks for joining us, and be sure to check back later in the year for some excting road action.
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