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By Jason Sumner, VeloNews.com
Following a week of back-and-forth banter in the Belgian dailies, Sven Nys used his legs to win the war of words.
The cyclocross superstar attacked out of a five-rider breakaway on the penultimate lap of World Cup No. 2 in Tabor, Czech Republic, and easily held his advantage to the line. Countryman Klaas Vantornout (Fidea) was second, at 0:13, with Dutchman Lars Boom (Rabobank) completing the podium on a cool gray Saturday in this small city an hour south of Prague.
“They tried to make me nervous,” said Nys referring to accusations made by rival Fidea team manager Han van Kasteren, who claimed that the reigning World Cup champion had lost a step after Nys finished second behind Czech Zdenek Stybar at the series opener last Sunday in Kalmthout, Belgium. “But I have enough confidence in myself that it’s not a problem for me. [Van Kasteren] can say whatever he wants. It’s not going to bother me.”
Indeed, after Tabor, van Kasteren may have to reconsider his tactics. Despite putting three riders in the decisive early move, the Fidea trio couldn’t shake Nys, settling for Vantornout’s second plus a fourth and fifth for Bart Wellens and Stybar respectively.
“The last two laps were very difficult for me,” admitted Wellens, the reigning Belgian national champion. “By the third lap I knew that Nys was the strongest because whenever he took the front, the pace was much higher. At the end I was totally dead. Boom dropped me on the last lap. Fourth was the max for me today”
Early in the race Stybar was the aggressor, bunny hopping the twin barriers on the back side of the twisting course set up in a park bordered by a cluster of aging apartment buildings and a bustling strip mall. On the second of 10 laps, Stybar used his aerial act to crack a small gap, but Nys, Vantornout, Boom and Wellens all bridged across.
Behind the final five, the field was completely blown apart. American Jonathan Page was among the casualties, crashing twice on his way to a 23rd place finish. Afterwards the Sunweb-Pro Job rider offered little more than a long sigh when asked for an explanation.
“It just wasn’t my day,” said Page, who had a long stream of blood dripping down his left knee. “There’s not much else to say.”
Fellow American Jonathan Baker was 18 spots back of Page. Baker’s 41st place finish in Tabor was 10 better than his result in Kalmthout when he finished second to last and got lapped by the leaders.
“I felt a lot more comfortable out there today,” said Baker. “I’m getting a little better each race.”
Reigning world champion Erwin Vervecken (Fidea) was also a non-factor, finishing 11th.
Back at the front, it was Nys first over the double-barrier on lap 3, showing that he could bunny hop with the best of them.
“Each time Nys and Stybar jump over the obstacle they get about 50 meters,” said Wellens. “It was very hard to chase back.”
That fact was not lost on Nys, who said he used the first half of the race to assess the competition, then attacked when the moment was right.
“In the beginning I tried a few short attacks,” the 2005 world champion explained. “Wellens was immediately in trouble, but the other two Fidea riders were very good. So I decide to wait until near the end to try something else.”
That something else was a sharp burst halfway through the second to last lap that no one could match. Nys led by 10 seconds when he heard the bell signaling one lap to go, and stretched that advantage even further during his final turn around the Tabor course.
“No doubt Nys had the best legs today,” said Stybar, whose fans were out in force, inspired by his round one win. “I could follow him for the first half of the race, but then I started to cramp and was not feeling so good. Of course since this is my home country race I want to be on the podium, but I spent too much power in the beginning.”