Grand Prix de la Region Wallonne (C2)
As predicted, the 14th edition of this race in Dottignies, Belgium came down to Belgian National Champion Niels Albert, World Champion Zden Stybar and French National Champion Francis Mourey. Albert was able to slip away from the rest of the competition, beating Stybar by 12 seconds. The real surprise was Radomir Simunek, who finished third, right behind Stybar and in front of Mourey. Mourey once again takes 4th place in an international race, and we can’t decide if his ability to do so is an exciting confirmation of his talent, or if it’s starting to get a little bit boring. We’d love to see him crack a podium in a big race against a bunch of Belgians – will it happen? And lastly, our surprise pick was Rob Peeters, who finished fifth, just 15 seconds behind Albert.
International Radquer Hittnau (C2)
As one of our loyal readers pointed out, our pick for victory, Lukas Fluckiger pulled a fast one on us and headed to the US for the Iceman Cometh MTB race, where he won. Without Fluckiger, Marcel Wildhaber picked up the victory a head of Italians Enrico Franzoi and Cristian Cominelli. A few of our riders to watch included Simon Zahner, who finished sixth and David Casek who came across in sixth place.
International Radquerfeldein Lambach/Stadl-Paura (C2)
Czech Ondrej Bambula rode away from the competition in Stadl-Paura, Austrai en route to his second consecutive victory on this course. He bested fellow Czech Filip Adel and German Helmut Trettwer. The top finishing Austrian was Matthias Brandle who finished fourth. Austria’s National Champion, Peter Presslauer finished sixth, just over two minutes back.
European Championships (CC)
As predicted, the Dutch simply dominated the European Championships in Lucca, Italy. The Men’s Espior race was a very close battle with the top eight riders coming across the line together. Lars van der Haar, winner of this year’s CrossVegas season opener in Las Vegas, led a Dutch sweep with Mike Teunissen and Stan Godrie finishing second and third, respectively. Mathieu van der Pol, the son of Adri Van der Poel (1996 Cyclocross World Champion) and the grandson of Raymond Poulidor, dominated the Junior Men’s race beating the French duo of Quentin Jauregui and Romain Seigle by 34 seconds. Finally, in the Women’s race, Dutch star Daphny van den Brand, who’s been on fire lately, came across the line first. France’s Lucie Chainel and Pauline Ferrand Prevost rounded out the podium. The Dutch took home fourth, sixth and seventh as well.
GVA Trofee – Ronse (C2)
The second installment of the Gazet van Antwerpen Trofee saw Sunweb-Revor rider Kevin Pauwels repeat his first round victory at last week’s Koppenbergcross. Pauwels and World Champion Zdenek Stybar countered an impressive move by an increasingly on-form Bart Aernouts to ride away from the field. In what has become a bit of a routine lately, K-Pau capably powered the lead group away from chasers. Behind, a series of individual time trials played out, with Niels Albert chasing the leading two, and being chased by Tom Meeusen, being chased by Klaas Vantornout, being chased by Aernouts, chased by Sven Nys. Stybar and Pauwels, though, had built up enough of a lead over the course’s rugged terrain and challenging run-ups to stare at each other a little bit on the last lap. Pauwels got the better of Stybar by accelerating on a twisting, technical section just before the pavement sprint, opening up a few bike lengths that Stybar never had a chance to close – but considering Stybar’s inability to lead Pauwels into that section, or his inattention to realizing that he’d need to be in front on the pavement to hold off Pauwels in the spring, one wonders if he thought he had a chance in the finale against the Belgian.
Pauwels has put himself in the drivers seat after his win in Ronse. He now has a commanding lead in the GVA Trofee series after winning round one as well. Pauwels also has a lead in the World Cup, and has expressed his desire to capture the victory in one of those series. While it’s unlikely he’ll be able to maintain this level of dominance all season long, that goal is surely within his capability. Meanwhile, Stybar’s second place is confirmation of a habit he is surely growing uncomfortable with – finishing on the podium of every race he enters, but being unable to reach the top step. For Albert it was an evening-out of some of the ups and downs of his season, but still a ways away from anything resembling top form. Meanwhile, the performance was a disappointment from Sven Nys, who finished 7th.
Bright spots came from Tom Meeusen and Bart Aernouts, both of whom have been building form well over the past weeks. Look for Meeusen to hang with the leaders before too long – we’ll see if he can pick up a healthy couple of wins like he did last season. Aernouts, on the other hand, might have a harder time pulling down wins against fierce competition, but he and Vantornout are constant podium threats.