Niels Albert made good on his promise to go hard and see what happens at the fourth round of the GVA Trophy in Essen. Albert’s move looked solid as he rode away from the field with Bart Wellens in tow. Only Sven Nys was able to come across the gap and join the two leaders. A few laps later, as Albert began to fade, Nys took complete control with two laps to go. A mechanical with one lap remaining cost Nys a certain victory and allowed Wellens to pick up his biggest victory in years. Wellens’ victory marks his fourth win in Essen in the past decade.
Kevin Pauwels, who dominated the first three rounds of the GVA Trophy rolled across the line in fourth, putting more distance between the rest of the field and himself. World Champion Zdenek Stybar finished a dismal 14th and had begun to question if his cross season may be over. Rob Peeters had one of the surprise performances on the day, crossing the line in third place. Finally, Gerben de Knegt, who hasn’t come close to the form he had last season, showed some signs of life with a ninth place finish.
Cyclo-cross International Ciudad de Valencia (C2)
José Antonio Hermida soloed to victory against a solid Spanish field on Sunday in Valencia. Hermida crossed the line 27-seconds a head of Oscar Vazquez Crespo and Issac Suarez Fernandez. The only non-Spaniard in the field, Belgian Matthias Ongena finished over six minuets down in 22nd place. This was one of the few races in Spain this season, where a contingent of young Belgians didn’t make the trip, allowing the Spaniards to shine on home soil.
World Cup Round 5 – Namur (CDM)
Perhaps the most exciting race of the season took place on Sunday around the citadel in Namur, Belgium. The challenging course was made even tougher as days of rain and snow turned the course into a muddy mess. In the end, Sven Nys showed that he was the strongest man on the day, bettering Niels Albert in the final few hundred meters to take the win. Klass Vantornout came across the line in third place after becoming detached from Nys in Albert during the final lap. Kevin Pauwels, who was leading the World Cup, overcame a flat front tire in the final laps of the race to finish fourth. He now trails Nys by five points in the overall.
World Champion Zdenk Stybar, who proclaimed he was close to ending his cross season on Saturday, finished fifth in Namur and was satisfied with his performance. One of the more interesting stories of the day was former World Champion, Lars Boom, who made his debut in Namur. The Dutch National Champion looked extremely solid and nearly made contact with the lead group. He would eventually fade dramatically and wound up 28th.
Beyond the Belgian battle up front, the French had a surprisingly strong showing in Namur. Francis Mourey continued to show his strength by taking control of the race early on. He would hold on for a solid seventh place finish just a head of surprisingly solid Aurelien Duval. John Gadret finished tenth, putting three Frenchmen inside the top-ten.
As previously mentioned, Nys now takes control of the World Cup with a five-point lead over Pauwels. Zdenk Stybar sits third in the standings, 60 points behind Nys. Vantornout and Meeusen are fourth and fifth respectively, nearly 100 points behind Nys. With three rounds remaining, it has quickly become a two-man battle between Belgiums two best riders this season.