Don't miss a moment from Paris-Roubaix and Unbound Gravel, to the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a España, and everything in between when you join Outside+.
(Photo Gallery below)
By Chris Milliman, Special to VeloNews.com
In light of his recent domination of the sport, Sven Nijs might have expected he’d have an easier time of things in Sunday’s UCI World Cyclo-cross Championships in St. Wendel, Germany; but if the 28-year-old’s winning ride wasn’t easy, it was certainly thrilling.
Nijs led home yet another Belgian sweep of the elite men’s podium after a last-lap attack freed him of countrymen Erwin Vervecken and Sven Vantourenhout, good enough for Nijs’ first elite title after a series of past frustrations.
Many figured Nijs would ride off the front early, as he had in many recent wins, but after a fast first lap with the Belgians leading the charge a large lead group came together, numbering nearly two dozen riders for the opening half of the race.
Overcoming his third row starting position, American Jonathan Page rode to the front of the pack on the beginning of the third lap and set the pace for half of the course, which had been made slick by morning snow showers.
“I just wanted to stay out of trouble,” said Page, who went on to finish 14th after flatting with three laps to go. “I was trying to ride my race and I figured I’d let the other guys crash behind me.”
With such riders as France’s Francis Mourey, Italian Enrico Franzoi and the Czech Republic’s Petr Dlask taking turns at the front in the first five laps, it looked like the race might tilt towards an underdog and not the five-rider Belgian armada that powered up the lead group.
But as the pace remained high, and with Nijs taking hard pulls at the front, the list of potential winners got progressively smaller with each lap.
Despite his strength, Nijs could not rid himself of Vervecken, and Vanthourenhout, until the first half of the final lap. Nijs attacked going into the course’s first slight uphill, a long drag that favored sheer strength and allowed the two-time former U-23 champion to open the accelerator to full.
A full knowledge of where he was fast on the race course gave Nijs all the confidence he needed to make the lead stick.
“I thought I was the best in the race and then I had a flat tire about 200 meters before the pits,” explained Nijs. “I dropped back to 11th place, but I was very fast and I got back to the front of the race. Then it was three, four and five times I attacked. I saw that I was the best in the last 500 meters of each lap. But I didn’t want to wait for the last 500 because I knew Vervecken was very fast also. So I attacked before the climb and got 20 meters straight away. Then I saw Vervecken come back a little bit, but I knew with my technique I could stay 20 meters ahead. It was enough to win the race.
“The only guy I knew who could beat me was Vervecken. I knew it would be difficult to win in the last lap, but I’d had some races this year where I did win on the last lap, so I was confident. I was very nervous, but I think every rider in the last lap of a world championship is nervous.
“This, for me, is the biggest result of my career,” continued Nijs. “It was the only big result I did not have, so to win it, I don’t even have words to describe it.”
Having medaled at each of the six elite women’s World Cyclo-cross Championships ever held, Hanka Kupfernagel was well prepared for winning a third rainbow jersey. The 29-year-old German from Werder took a popular win in front of countrywoman Sabina Spitz, whose early pace making opened the door for Kupfernagel’s solo dash to gold.
Spitz set a furious pace right from the first lap, leaving pre-race favorites including the Dutch duo of Daphny van den Brand and Mirjam Melchers the unenviable task of trying to match the former mountain bike world champ’s speed. Kupfernagel sat in and waited for a lull in the action, and with three laps to go she sprang away from Spitz, former world champion Laurence Leboucher of France and her countrywoman Maryline Salvetat.
Kupfernagel’s gap grew quickly, and with Spitz slowing the pace of any French assault the gold medal was nothing short of a formality. An emotional Kupfernagel admitted after the race that periods of doubt, and the tremendous pressure to perform on home soil, had weighed heavily in the days before the race.
“This win for sure is the best of the three, because I could do it in front of Germans,” said Kupfernagel. “When I had doubts my coach (and boyfriend, former men’s champion Michael Kluge) taught me not to doubt myself, to look inside myself and get through the difficult parts. But for sure, having Sabine make the pace early in the race took a lot of the pressure of my shoulders. Without that I’m not sure I could have won.”
Spitz soloed in for second while Melchers stormed the final lap to pass the French riders and get third. American Ann Knapp got off to a slow start, due in large part to her poor starting position and the fast opening lap, but finished in seventh.
After the first lap I could see the race was over as far as medaling,” said Knapp. “I’d have to spend a lot of time over here to get enough UCI points to get in the front row and my life just won’t allow me to do that. So this is how it goes I guess.”
Keep an out on eBay over the next few days. Kupfernagel’s winning bike will be auctioned on-line with the money going to a tsunami relief fund.2005 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships
St. Wendel, Germany. January 30
1. Hanka Kupfernagel (G), 41:42. (23.016 kph),
2. Sabine Spitz (G), at 0:28
3. Mirjam Melchers (Nl), at 0:32
4. Laurence Leboucher (F), at 0:32
5. Maryline Salvetat (F), at 0:32
6. Daphny Van den Brand (Nl), at 2:02
7. Ann Knapp (USA), at 2:16
8. Anja Nobus (B), at 2:24
9. Marianne Vos (Nl), at 2:25
10. Nadia Triquet (F), at 2:47
11. Birgit Hollmann (G), at 3:06
12. Wendy Simms (Can), at 3:06
13. Hilde Quintens (B), at 3:06
14. Paola Bortolin (I), at 3:55
15. Claudia Marsilio (I), at 4:10Other Americans:
19. Sarah Kerlin (USA), at 4:33
24. Josie Beggs (USA), at 5:01
25. Rhonda Mazza (USA), at 5:23
26. Barbara Howe (USA), at 5:43Men
1. Sven Nijs (B), 1:01:34.
2. Erwin Vervecken (B), at 0:02
3. Sven Vanthourenhout (B), at 0:13
4. Francis Mourey (F), at 0:31
5. Davy Commeyne (B), at 0:32
6. Tom Vannoppen (B), at 0:32
7. Petr Dlask (Cz), at 0:42
8. Enrico Franzoi (I), at 0:42
9. Michael Baumgartner (Swi), at 0:42
10. Wilant Van Gils (Nl), at 0:43
11. Arnaud Labbe (F), at 0:45
12. John Gadret (F), at 1:01
13. Martin Zlamalik (Cz), at 1:02
14. Jonathan Page (USA), at 1:03
15. Ryan Trebon (USA), at 1:05
16. Richard Groenendaal (Nl), at 1:15
17. Maarten Nijland (Nl), at 1:33
18. Zdenek Mlynar (Cz), at 1:40
19. David Derepas (F), at 1:41
20. Gerben De Knegt (Nl), at 2:02
21. Bart Wellens (B), at 2:18Other Americans
30. Barry Wicks (USA), at 2:50
45. Eric Tonkin (USA), at 6:18
Ben Turner (USA) at one lap