Belgian fights his way back to Under-23 title
It was all a matter of keeping his cool, said Sven Vanthourenhout about winning the men’s Under-23 world cyclo-cross title on Saturday. The 20-year-old Belgian said that when he came to Tabor for the world championships, he was beginning to have doubts about his chances. But it was the pros on the formidable Belgian squad, he said, who told him to relax and convinced him that he could do it.
“I was nervous even when I rode warm-up laps this morning,” Vanthourenhout said. “I wasn’t taking the right lines, I wasn’t keeping my footing….”
But after the start, when he ran into trouble, Vanthourenhout’s kept his head when it counted.
Vanthourenhout got a strong start as the field of 54 riders charged off the line. He stayed close to an early leader, Britain’s Philip Dixon, and when the Brit began to tire, Vanthourenhout moved to the front in the company of Frenchman Francis Mourey. Though matched stride-for-stride, it was then that the Belgian said he was beginning to feel confident.
“I had the feeling that I could beat him on the power sections,” he said. “He was beating me on some of the barriers, but I thought I could beat him when it mattered.”
After about four kilometers, just as two were beginning to develop a rhythm, the Belgian suffered an ill-timed mishap. Dropping his chain over a bumpy stretch, Vanthourenhout fell back, jumped off his bike, forced to fumble with the errant chain. Mourey took advantage and charged and a large group of chasers sped past. But Vanthourenhout stayed calm, jumped back on his bike and chased. By the end of the second lap, Mourey enjoyed a seemingly solid 15-second lead.
Vanthourenhout didn’t see the Frenchman’s lead as solid. Past stragglers and then through heavy traffic, he bridged back to a chase group of five. He didn’t even pause as he rode ahead, keeping Mourey in sight.
By the first run-up, Mourey’s advantage was but a few seconds. Again, the two were together, but soon it was Mourey’s turn to falter and Vanthourenhout scooted past as the Frenchman stumbled at the base of a run-up.
This time Vanthourenhout was on his own to stay. Mourey fell back, joined Tomas Tronscka in a chase and then was dropped again by the Czech. He was then passed by a chase group that included Belgian Wim Jacobs, Czech rider David Kasek, the Netherlands’s Wilant van Gils and Swiss Clerc Aurelien.
Mourey’s frustrations didn’t end. Near the end of the fifth lap, the Frenchman crashed and the mishap seemed to take the fire out of him. He faded back, finishing 4:02 back in the 34th place.
It was a slippery day and the course had not yet claimed its final victim. Nearing the finish, Jacobs, looked on track to take a bronze behind his teammate and the steadily chasing Trunschka. But he, too, suffered a crash and was forced to run the final meters, carrying his bike on his shoulder.
Rounding the final corner Kasek looked ahead and realized that he had a chance to put a second Czech on the podium. He charged, passed him in the final 30 meters. The Belgian realized his lost and just tossed down his bike in frustration. He recovered enough to finish two-seconds behind Kasek, who was already celebrating with a large crowd of happy Czechs.
Alan Obye turned in the best U.S. performance, finishing in 22nd place, 2:42 behind the winner.
“Tough,” Obye said. “It was tough. I stayed up and rode well, but…. It was so tough.”
1. Sven Vanthourenhout (B), 22.895km in 51:55; 2. Thomas Trunschka (Cz), at 0:16; 3. David Kasek (Cz), at 0:36; 4. Wim Jacobs (B), at 0:38; 5. Clerc Aurelien (Swi), at 0:40; 6. Wilan van Gils (Nl), at 0:43; 7. Martin Zlamalik (Cz), at 0:53; 8. Davy Commeyene (B), at 0:53; 9. Josef Soukup (Cz), 0:53; 10. Freek De Jong (Nl), at 0:53.
Others:22. Alan Obye (USA), 2:42; 43. Josh Anthony (USA), at 5:56.