By Gregg Germer
Hanka Kupfernagel and Lars Boom (Rabobank) won the mud-splashed eighth round of the UCI cyclocross World Cup on Sunday in Hoogerheide, the Netherlands.
Coming just one week before the world championships in Treviso, Italy, the race was an important benchmark for checking who is on form — and two riders definitely not up to snuff were U.S. champions Katie Compton (Spike Shooter) and Tim Johnson (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com). Compton was a non-starter, reportedly suffering from jet lag after returning to Europe. And Johnson was a DNF, thanks to an untimely cold.
A man in fine fettle was Boom — he took the hole shot, and after the first few technical sections he was off with Erwin Vervecken (Fidea), Richard Groenendaal and UCI points leader Sven Nys (Rabobank). Before the end of the lap, Nys, Boom and Vervecken had shed Vervecken, and a chase group of eight formed behind with American Jonathan Page (SunWeb Pro Job) leading the pursuit.
Boom briefly lost his lead after a slip-up on a muddy descent, but quickly charged forward to reclaim his place again at the front of the race. Soon afterward, Sven Vanthourenhout (Sun Web Pro Job) and Gerben De Knegt (Rabobank) joined the lead group, while behind, Bart Wellens (Fidea) had joined Page’s group, moving steadily through the field after a poor start.
Then, with five laps to go, things started to go wrong for Nys. The UCI points leader wasn’t able to match the pace set by Boom, Vervecken and Wellens, who had made it to the lead bunch, and was relegated to the second group of four, chased closely by another group of four that contained Page.
A lap later, Vervecken, Boom and Wellens established a tentative five-second lead over the chasing group of four. Then Boom attacked, and only Vervecken could respond, chasing at just two seconds back. Nys fell back to seventh and Page to ninth with three laps to go.
Boom began extending his advantage, taking 10 seconds over Vervecken as Wellens regained his countryman’s wheel. Groenendaal, Vanthourenhout, and John Gadret ( Ag2r-La Mondiale) were just seconds behind the two Belgians, with Page and Nys a few seconds back.
With two laps to go, Boom had tacked on another five seconds, and Wellens was able to put a similar gap between himself and Vervecken. A minute back, Gadret, Groenendaal and Vanthourenhout were being closely chased by Nys.
As the bell lap began, Boom held 22 seconds over Wellens and 40 seconds over Vervecken. The chasing trio remained together for most of the last lap, though Kevin Pauwels (Fidea) was able to leap in front of the second chase group containing Page and Nys.
At the finish, Boom crossed 36 seconds ahead of Wellens for the victory with Verveken third at 1:12. Page put in a stellar and consistent performance, never leaving the top 10 the whole race and then sprinting his way to eighth place by the finish.
“I feel good,” said Page. “Yesterday was a bit of shock to the system [he took fifth place in the Kasteelcross] and things just weren’t right, but today I feel better and it will be a good test for world’s. I hope I have timed it right.”
His countryman Johnson, meanwhile, was frustrated but striving to look on the bright side.
“Today I’m fighting off a small cold,” Johnson said. “I’m still taking a positive outlook on things. I’ve had a great trip here in Europe since Christmas and have had good feelings since Switzerland. It’s just frustrating to deal with this before world’s.”
Kupfernagel goes from the gun
Reigning German champion Kupfernagel, who won the last time out at Liévin, took the lead at the start of the women’s race, heading a group of seven that included UCI points leader Daphny Van Den Brand, British champion Helen Wyman and Canadian champion Wendy Simms.
Before the first lap was over, Kupfernagel had a 10-second gap over her erstwhile companions and world champion Maryline Salvetat had joined the chase group.
By the third lap, the race had become a chase for second between Wyman and Salvetat, a contest that the world champion had locked up with two laps to go.
1. Lars Boom (Ned), Rabobank, 1:04:43
2. Bart Wellens (B), Fidea, at 0:36
3. Erwin Vervecken (B), Fidea, at 1:12
4. Sven Vanthourenhout (B), Sunweb Pro Job, at 1:22
5. Richard Groenendaal (Ned), same time
6. John Gadret (F), Ag2r-La Mondiale, at 1:34
7. Kevin Pauwels (B), Fidea , at 1:49
8. Jonathan Page (USA), Sunweb Pro Job, at 1:58
9. Gerben De Knegt (Ned), Rabobank, s.t.
10. Bart Aernouts (B), Rabobank, s.t.
1. Hanka Kupfernagel (G), 38:50
2. Maryline Salvetat (F), at 0:57
3. Helen Wyman (GB), Global Racing, at 1:08
4. Stephanie Pohl (G), Team Getränke-Hoffmann, at 1:40
5. Wendy Simms (Can), same time
6. Loes Sels (B), Topsport Vlaanderen, s.t.
7. Mirjam Melchers-Van Poppel (Ned) Team Flexpoin, at 1:43
8. Pavla Havlikova (Cze), at 01:48
9. Nadia Triquet-Claude (F), at 1:51
10. Veerle Ingels (B)