This small, non-televised UCI C2 race featured perhaps the most surprising finish of 2011 as Jan Denuwelaere out-sprinted World Champion Zdenk Stybar on Thursday in Bredene, Belgium. Dieter Vanthourenhout rolled across the line in third place, 12 seconds back. Niels Albert, who has been sick all week finished a disappointing fourth. While Stybar has been beaten regularly in sprints this season, it has usually been by riders with names like Nys and Pauwels.
So, who exactly is Jan Denuwelaere? The 24-year-old Belgian sits just outside the top 100 in UCI points and really hasn’t had much success this season. His best result before Thursday was a second place finish at the first round of the Toit Toi Cup. Interestingly enough, he lost that race to Stybar. Denuwelaere primarily races the GVA Trofee races and some smaller Belgian races. He finished tenth last year at the Belgian national championships and could better that result this upcoming weekend.
Fidea Cyclocross Lueven (C1)
The showdown expected in Lueven on Thursday was for not as as several riders pulled out at the last minute due to illness. This left the door wide open for Sven Nys to dominate the new race on a very tough course in Lueven. Nys quickly made it into the lead group and took his time riding away from everyone, including Rob Peeters, who finished second, 55 seconds down. French National Champion Francis Mourey slowly made his way through a couple of chase groups and wound up third, about 20 seconds behind Peeters. Two riders who generated great interest for opposite reasons were Lars Boom, who finished a distant 15th and American Jonathan Page, who finished 7th.
As previously mentioned, the Nys show came courtesy of several last minute withdrawals. Kevin Pauwels, Niels Albert, Tom Meeusen and Klaas Vantornout have all had to cancel their appearances. Pauwels has some sort of intestinal bug Thursday night and didn’t want to take any risks by racing on Friday. Albert, who lives 20km from the course also opted not to start due to a week-long cold. Meeusen, who rides for the race’s title sponsor has came down with the flu and Vantornout also opted out because of a bad cold.
Memorial Romano Scotti (C2)
As predicted, Marco Fontana picked up the victory in Rome on Friday. As part of a two-day festival, the Memorial Romano Scotti featured Italy’s top cross racers as they gear up for nationals. Fontana won last years title on this same course. The surprise came from Cristian Cominelli, who finished second, seven seconds behind Fontana. Luca Damiani finished third in a sprint against Elia Silvestri and Fabio Ursi. The top-five was separated by less then ten seconds and all five are considered favorites for next weekend’s national championship.
GVA Trophy Round 6 – GP Sven Nys (C1)
Sven Nys took a dominating victory on New Years Day in his hometown of Baal. It marks Nys’ eleventh win in his namesake event and his sixth straight. Nys simply rode away from the competition on a muddy course spending the last five of seven laps out front by himself. Kevin Pauwels was one of several riders who battled it out in a chase group and managed to get rid of the rest finishing second a head of Bart Wellens. Zdenk Stybar finished fourth, which means Pauwels extended his lead in the overall. Meanwhile, American Jonathan Page finished 10th, showing some great form.
As always, the first race of 2012, provided a chance to see riders in their 2012 teams and kits. Nobody was more sought after then World Champion Zdenk Stybar, who was seen riding a pink Specialized, a pink helmet and a new team-kit from Omega Pharma-Quickstep.
The battle for the GVA Trophy seems to finally be over after Pauwels managed to gain a few more points over Stybar. Stybar now sits 16 points behind Pauwels, with Nys a distant third, 28 points behind. As is tradition, the GVA Troffe will take a break until February and will wind down the season with the final two rounds taking place during the last two weeks of racing.
GP Hotel Threeland (C2)
With just one week before defending his national title, Francis Mourey suffered something rarely seen this season, a loss to a fellow Frenchman. The French dominated the races in Petange, Luxembourg, with John Gadret picking up his fourth victory in Petange, a head of Francis Mourey and Nicolas Bazin. Mourey rolled across the line 34 second after Gadret, while Bazin was over two-minutes behind the winner. As predicted, Gusty Bausch was the top rider from Luxembourg, finishing 15th, nearly six minutes down.
Cyclocross Bussnang (C2)
Christian Heule delivered a solid victory in Bussnang, Switzerland on Monday. The Swiss champion gained a lot of confidence as he tries to defend his title next weekend. The predominately Swiss field saw some familiar faces in the lead group, that eventually became a two man race between Heule and Simon Zahner, who finished second, four seconds down. Marcel Wildhaber finished third a head of Lukas Fluckiger, who had finished second the past three years and was considered a favorite for victory.