Home team takes all three podium spots in juniors' race
Czech cyclo-cross fans in Tábor had plenty to celebrate this morning when their countrymen Martin Bina, Radomir Simunek Jr. and Jan Kunta grabbed all three podium spots in today’s junior men’s race. Indeed, Czech riders took four of the top six spots in the race and now added to the home team’s overall dominace of the championships thus far. Of the nine medals awarded to this point, Czech riders have won five.
When the junior men’s team arrived in Tábor to prepare for their world championship event this morning, it looked as though attendance might be a bit on the sparse side. A week of cold weather, snow and now a slight drizzle seemed to have kept fans — especially Czech fans — away in droves.
“I went to the start area and it looked empty,” 17-year-old Simunek, son of the 1991 world professional cyclo-cross champion, said. “I was afraid no one would come.”
Simunek and his teammates needn’t have worried. By the 11:00 start, the fields surrounding this icy 2.8km loop in Tábor were filled with fans from all over Europe and peppered throughout the crowds lining the barricades, hundreds and hundreds of distinct white-red-and-blue Czech flags. The fans were there. The course was familiar and the Czech team was ready.
Forty minutes later, it seemed as every one of those fans was pressing against crowd control barriers to catch a glimpse of the three Czech medalists on the podium.
The team had gotten — and followed — very simple advice from their coach this morning. “Get a good start and stay up front.” It’s often easier said than done, but Simunek and Bina were indeed at the front of the 85-rider field as they charged through the first two turns of paved road and dove into the first stretch of dirt.
“We rode as hard as we could,” Bina said. “We rode hard and when I looked around Radik was ahead and there weren’t that many with us.”
Just Dutchman Kor Steenbergen and Marco Wesseling, followed closely by Switzerland’s Simon Zahner, another Czech rider, Milan Vocaldo, and another rider with a famous last name, Geert Wellens, brother of former world under-23 champion, Bart Wellens.
But it was the Czechs who controlled this event. Up front Simunek encountered a bit of trouble, slowed and was quickly joined by Bina. The two began to build an advantage — with Simunek doing the bulk of the work on the open stretches — that grew to as much as 25 seconds by the fifth lap.
Bina, who said he was “beginning to feel stronger as the race wore on” finally made a strong move and left his teammate behind. Further back, Kunta had worked his way into the first chase group and escaped from his partners at the same time.
The Czech fans, already worked up over the likely two-up win, suddenly realized they had all three podium spots in sight. Horns began to blare, while bells and even a brass band added to the cacophony.
“The crowds were fantastic,” Bina said. “They drove me… all of us on. It added fifty percent to the effort.”
As he entered the second pit area for the final time, Bina finally allowed himself to believe that he had the rainbow jersey in the bag.
“Until that point, I knew that anything can happen in cyclo-cross,” Bina said. “If you start thinking about a win before you have, you can very easily lose it.”
His patience and concentration paid off and as he neared the line, he veered slightly toward the barricade and grabbed a huge Czech flag from a fans grasp and began to wave as he approached the line.
Seconds later, Simunek and then Kunta. A sweep for the home crowd.
Relaxing at the post-race press conference, the young Simunek was asked if he had any advice for his 38-year-old father, who in a couple of hours would be riding in what will probably be his last world championship.
“Well,” he said with a smile, “There’s De Clerq, Wellens, Njis, Vervecken… I’d say watch the Belgians. And Groenendaal… watch the Netherlanders, too.”
Ride fast and stay out front.
1. Martin Bina (Cz), 17.195km in 39:13 (26.522kph); 2. Radomir Simunek (Cz), at 0:19; 3. Jan Kunta (Cz), s.t.; 4. Romain Fondard (F), at 0:40; 5. Pierre Vailant (F); 6. Milan Vocaldo (Cz), both s.t.; 7. Geert Wellens (B), at 0:56; 8. Gil Mariusz (Pol), at 1:06; 9. Kor Steenbergen (Nl), at 1:18; 10. Simon Zahner (Swi), at 1:21.
Others:17. Jeremy Powers (USA), at 2:04; 40. Aaron Bradford (USA), at 3:17; 53. Aaron Menenberg (USA), at 4:13.