Furious Nijs blames teammates

By Staff and wire reports

Groenendaal showed that some days you're just better off on your own
Groenendaal showed that some days you’re just better off on your own

Photo: Marcel Van Hoecke

In a sport long dominated by a Belgian juggernaut, Richard Groendendaal scored an upset World Cup cyclo-cross victory in front of hometown crowd on Sunday and grabbed the season’s overall title in the process.

By winning the double-point final in the six-race World Cup series in Pijnacker in the Netherlands, Groenendaal unseated former World Cup leader Sven Nijs – his Rabobank teammate – and denied world champion Bart Wellens a shot at scoring cyclo-cross’s “grand slam” (the World Cup title along with the Belgian and world championships). While he rode a strong solo race at the front of the field, Groenendaal’s series win, it seems, was largely the result of infighting within the world’s most powerful national ‘cross squad.

After a long season marked by victories in the opening three rounds of the World Cup – Turino, Italy, St. Wendel, Germany and Wetzikon, Switzerland – Nijs said he started the day feeling “tired and a bit nervous because of that.”

The first break is the one that ultimately counted
The first break is the one that ultimately counted

Photo: Marcel Van Hoecke

Nonetheless, Nijs managed to join an elite group that quickly formed at the front soon after the start of the day’s second lap. Up front were Groenendaal and Belgian trio composed of Nijs, Tom Vannoppen and Sven Vanthourenhout. With an advantage of only about 100 meters over the field, Groenendaal said he tried to recruit Nijs to work with him so that “he could win the World Cup and I could win today’s race.”

Groenendaal said he was surprised when he looked around at the end of the second lap and “I was entirely alone. That was not smart of Sven, but probably he could not do any better at that point.”

Nijs slipped back into the field as the big Dutchman powered ahead on his own.Groenendaal only managed to maintain a small gap by the end of lap three and had a hard-charging Wellens leading a large group of pursuers that included Belgians Nijs, Ben Berden and Erwin Vervecken, along with Christian Heule, John Gadret and a surprisingly strong U.S. champion Jonathan Page.Wellens eventually managed to narrow Groenendaal’s lead to just 15 seconds, but was not able to close the deal, a problem he attributed to a fall in last week’s Superprestige race. in Belgium.

“After my fall in Eeklo I had a lot of problems with a hamstring injury,” he said. “I was tired at the start and that’s why I missed the first break. I guess I can just say that, at this point, I am just happy that the season is almost over.”

Wellens missed his chance at a grand slam
Wellens missed his chance at a grand slam

Photo: Marcel Van Hoecke

By lap five, Nijs tried to close the gap, but remarkably the other Belgians reacted immediately. Vannoppen then launched a charge out of the group that little chance of success, but did add to Nijs’s fatigue. Groenendaal, meanwhile, managed to increase his lead to 56 seconds on a group that had grown to 15 riders, including Page, the Belgians Nijs, Berden, Vannoppen, Vanthourenhout, Wellens, Vervecken and Wesley van der Linden, along with French riders Francis Mourey and John Gadret, the Czech Republic’s Petr Dlask, Swiss champion Christian Heule, Italy’s Alessandro Fontana and Dutch riders Wilant van Gils and Maarten Nijland.

Because of the unwieldy size of the chase group, Groenendaal’s lead suffered little and he crossed the line 51 seconds ahead of the chase group, led by Belgians apparently intent on outsprinting Nijs, who sprinted poorly, finishing in seventh and watching his once-formidable World Cup lead slip from his grasp. Nijs – who would have won the overall series by finishing two spots higher – was furious.

“None of my supposed ‘teammates’ did anything to help,” Nijs said angrily. “Some of them, like Vannoppen, Vervecken and Vanderlinden could not have gained anything in the World Cup standings by finishing well here today, but they all sprinted for the second place. I, for one, will never race anymore for my Belgian ‘teammates.’”

“Only Sven Vanthourenhout had the decency to hold back,” he said later. “I now know whom I will be able to count on in the future and, unfortunately, those who I can’t count on. Thank you Tom Vannoppen and, especially thank you to Wesley Vander Linden. Neither one of those men stood any chance of gaining anything, beyond denying me a chance to tie up the World Cup.”

The dispute is not the first to rock the formidable Belgian team. Four years ago in Sint-Michielsgestel in the Netherlands, Nijs himself refused to chase Groenendaal – his Rabobank teammate – as the Dutchman rode to the World Championship.

Photo Gallery


1. Richard Groenendaal (Nl), 1:01:59

2. Tom Vannoppen (B), at 0:51

3. Erwin Vervecken (B)

4. Bart Wellens (B)

5. Christian Heule (Swi)

6. Wesley Vander Linden (B)

7. Sven Nijs (B)

8. Sven Vanthourenhout (B), all same time

9. John Gadret (F), at 0:57

10. Petr Dlask (Cz)

11. Francis Mourey (F)

12. Maarten Nijland (Nl)

13. Ben Berden (B), all s.t.

14. Wilant Van Gils (Nl), at 1:06

15. Alessandro Fontana (I), s.t.

16. Jonathan Page (USA), at 1:20

17. Enrico Franzoi (I), at 1:44

18. Arnaud Labbe (F), at 2:02

19. Gerben de Knegt (Nl)

20. Beat Morf (Swi), both s.t.

21. Martin Zlamalik (Cz), at 2:37

22. Robert Glajza (Svk)

23. David Derepas (F), both s.t.

24. Vladimir Kyzivat (Cz), at 2:45

25. Vaclav Jezek (Cz), at 3:17

26. Vaclav Metlicka (Svk), at 3:22

27. David Seco (Sp), at 3:30

28. Simon Zahner (Swi), at 3:36

29. David Rusch (Swi), at 3:47

30. Daniele Pontoni (I), at 4:04

31. Jan Ramsauer (Swi), s.t.

32. Mariusz Gil (Pol), at 4:37

33. Kamil Ausbuher (Cz), at 4:51

34. Gusty Bausch (Lux), s.t.

35. Camiel Vanden Bergh (Nl), at 5:36

36. Joachim PARBO (Dk), at 5:40

37. David COLLINS (GB), at 5:56″

38. Maik MULLER (G), at 6:56

39. Marek CICHOSZ (Pol), s.t.

50 starters, 39 finishers

Final World Cup Standings.
1. Richard Groenendaal (Nl), 310 Pts.

2. Sven Nijs (Bel), 299 Pts.

3. Bart Wellens (Bel), 280 Pts.

4. Ben Berden (Bel), 240 Pts.

5. Tom Vannoppen (Bel), 238 Pts.

6. Erwin Vervecken (Bel), 229 Pts.

7. Mourey Françis (Fra), 190 Pts.

8. Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel), 189 Pts.

9. Christian Heule (Sui), 179 Pts.

10. John Gadret (Fra), 169 Pts.

11. Jiri Pospisil (Cz), 140 Pts.

12. Petr Dlask (Cz), 133 Pts.

13. Vaclav Jezek (Cz), 96 Pts.

14. Wilant Van Gils (Nl), 96 Pts.

15. Martin Zlamalik (Cz), 95 Pts.

16. Enrico Franzoi (Ita), 91 Pts.

17. Arnaud Labbe (Fra), 87 Pts.

18. Wesley Van Der Linden (Bel), 86 Pts.

19. David Derepas (Fra), 75 Pts.

20. Jonathan Page (USA), 74 Pts.

21. Michael Baumgartner (Sui), 69 Pts.

22. Dariusz Gil (Pol), 68 Pts.

23. Maarten Nijland (Nl), 62 Pts.

24. Gerben De Knegt (Nl), 60 Pts.

25. Alessandro Fontana (Ita), 54 Pts.

26. Beat Morf (Sui), 35 Pts.

27. Kamil Ausbuher (Cz), 27 Pts.

28. Simon Zahner (Sui), 25 Pts.

29. Ondrej Lukes (Cz), 24 Pts.

30. Robert Glajza (Slo), 22 Pts.

31. Thomas Frischknecht (Sui), 22 Pts.

32. Camiel Van Den Bergh (Nl), 20 Pts.

33. David Rusch (Sui), 20 Pts.

34. David Seco Amundarain (Sp), 19 Pts.

35. Vaclav Metlicka (Slo), 18 Pts.

36. Vladimir Kyzivat (Cz), 14 Pts.

37. Steve Chainel (Fra), 14 Pts.

38. Marco Bianco (Ita), 14 Pts.

39. Radomir Simunek (Cz), 13 Pts.

40. Tadeusz Korzeniewski (Pol), 12 Pts.

41. Jan Ramsauer (Sui), 10 Pts.

42. Thijs Verhagen (Nl), 9 Pts.

43. Matthew Ellis (GB), 8 Pts.

44. Roger Hammond (GB), 8 Pts.

45. Emmanuel Magnien (Fra), 8 Pts.

46. Jens Schwedler (G), 8 Pts.

47. Chevallier Jérôme (Fra), 7 Pts.

48. Minard Sébastien (Fra), 7 Pts.

49. David Rusch (Sui), 4 Pts.

50. Klaas Vantornout (Bel), 3 Pts.

51. Danielle Pontoni (Ita), 2 Pts.

52. Bart Aernouts (Bel), 2 Pts.

53. Derrik Zampedri (Ita), 2 Pts.

54. Jody Crawforth (GB), 2 Pts.

55. Marek Cichosz (Pol), 1 Pts.

56. Reto Matt (G), 1 Pts.