What an exciting week it was for fans of European cyclocross, with no less than six races in eight days. Despite the deep fields and crazy conditions though, we saw four different winners in those six races—and only two of them were Belgian. Obviously, the big stories included Lars Boom’s World Cup victory as well as the return to the podium’s top step by World Champion Zdenek Stybar. Sven Nys looked capable of winning all six races, however mechanicals limited him to only one victory. Of them all, Niels Albert came out on top, winning three races in impressive fashion. With many highs and lows throughout one of the most important weeks of racing this season, let’s break things down race-by-race:
1. Things started off the day after Christmas with the sixth round of the World Cup in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium, where Lars Boom picked-up the victory in his only World Cup appearance of the year. Course conditions were the main cause for Niels Albert’s second-place finish, but he did just enough to pad his overall lead. 4-time world champion Bart Wellens rounded out the podium in third.
-Boom’s dominating victory.
-Twitter love between Boom and Stybar. It was awesome—there were emoticons.
-Old on the podium.
-Boom’s Di2 chain drops on bumpy downhills.
-A humbled Niels Albert.
-Radmoir Simunek Jr, breaks his collarbone. He did a lot of work for Stybar last year at Worlds.
2. The next night, everyone headed to Diegem for a nighttime Superprestige event. Niels Albert was able to conquer the frozen, icy conditions, taking the win ahead of Sven Nys who dropped his chain on the final lap, giving Albert the room he needed for victory. World Champion Zdenek Stybar, who marked his return with a first lap crash, was able to ride a solid race and finish on the podium.
-A great race under the lights in downtown Diegem.
-Stybar’s return to racing.
-Nys’ doesn’t win, but nearly locks-up his tenth Superprestige title.
-Nys falls away because of dropped chain.
-Kevin Pauwels seventh-place finish severely damaged his chances for a Superprestige title.
-The next round is over a month away (February 6).
3. Wednesday’s race in Loenhout saw familiar faces at the front once again, as Sven Nys and Niels Albert distanced themselves from the field. Nys’ string of bad luck continued when he fell while pitting on the last lap. The gaffe meant Albert was able to open a gap—he rode to a solo finish while Nys held on for second. World Champion Zdenek Stybar rolled across the line in third.
-Albert picks up another victory.
-Stybar’s impressive return continues with a second podium appearance.
-American Jonathan Page cracked the top-10 with a ninth-place finish.
-Kevin Pauwels’ lead dropped to six points; his grip on the GVA Trophy is gone.
-Nys’s mechanic pulls the bike out from under him, costing the Belgian the win.
-Philipp Walsleben and Pauwels narrowly missed-out on the €1000 prize for the fastest lap—Albert won.
4. The Sylvester Cross on Thursday finally saw Zdenek Stybar return to the top step of the podium in his third race since his return after a month of rest and recovery. Stybar beat-out Sven Nys in a two up sprint after Albert bobbled and was dropped from the lead group. He held on for third. The race marked Stybar’s first victory since his win on Halloween in Zohnhoven.
-Styby wins for the first time in over two months.
-The winner received a scooter, much to Stybar’s delight.
-Probably the best course to watch in the world.
-Albert’s last lap mistake leaves us wondering what if…
-If you’re not Belgian, you’re out. They occupied eight out of the top ten places.
5. On New Year’s Day, all eyes were on the Belgian Champion Sven Nys. Not only was the race in his hometown of Baal, but the event is named after him. Needless to say, he managed to cross the line first, picking up the victory after a crazy pass on Stybar. To no one’s surprise, Albert came across the line in third.
-Nys finally gets a win and showed an incredible amount of emotion.
-Best pass of the season (13:30 of this video).
-Nys now controls the GVA and Superprestige series.
-Stybar played all his cards right, except for the final corner.
-Lars Boom has to bail after a nasty crash while leading the race.
-Stybar and Pauwels blow it when they let Nys gain nearly 10 spots to win an intermediate points sprint.
6. The final race of the Holiday Week saw Niels Albert once again take the top step of the podium in Tervuren. Nys battled his way back from a poor start to finish second, while young Belgian Tom Meeusen used his exceptional technical skills to round out the podium in third. Despite not being a part of a major series, the race enjoyed an extremely strong field a week before Europe’s national championships.
-Belgian domination: they took nine out of the first eleven places.
-Meeusen showed great mental and physical toughness while working for his teammate (and early leader) Rob Peeters.
-Philipp Wasleben’s week ended with another top-10 finish. With a few weeks until World’s, the German is looking very strong.
-Jonathan Page took the hole shot, but faded to twelfth.
-Nys’ improbable comeback was dashed by a minor slip during the final few laps.
-Meeusen’s attire: “Riding in shorts was a mistake.”
So there you have it: a brief run-down of the highs and lows from the Holiday Week of Racing.
Come back soon for updated International Power Rankings and a preview of this weekend’s national championships.
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