Sunday, February 2, 2014

Perfect timing.

Steebs had enough time to make out with his Crux and still give the classic victory salute as Sven rues his last lap slip ups from behind.
Zdenek Stybar had the cyclocross world wondering all season what his plans for the world championships were. He played coy throughout the season as to whether or not he'd be racing in today's big race in Hoogerheide. He had ridden well in a number of world cup races many times playing the aggressor, but seemed to be having more fun doing supercross style jumps than racing for wins. When he finally announced the week before last that he would indeed make an appearance in the big race it set the cx world abuzz. You see, since he turned his focus on road racing and a pursuit of spring classics glory and cut back on his CX ambitions things just haven't been the same. His classic battles with Belgians Sven Nys and Neils Albert are the stuff of legend were sorely missed...until today.

That's all she wrote for Sven - Stybar stayed on and Nyes had to dismount, he never got close after that.
The racing was vicious and just over half way through the race it became apparent that our prayers were going to be answered and we were going to be treated to another battle royale between Nys and Stybar. They traded places at the front a number of times - sometimes on purpose and sometimes on accident. Heading into the last lap the crowd was at a fever pitch and Sven led them through the start/finish line with Stybar hot on his tail.  About a third of the way though Stybar powered through on Nys' left and put the current champ in discomfort to say the least. Sven was having trouble getting back on his wheel but was still within reach until the turn shown above. It was a muddy, sweeping, slightly off camber left that Stybar was able to ride through and Sven - very uncharacteristically - took a bad line in his haste to close the gap. He had to dismount and by the time he righted the ship Stybar was gone and had time to prepare his victory salute. 

SC WC Podium - Stybar, Nyes, Pauwels.
It was a great race with Pauwels coming in a solid third and filling out the Belgian contingent on the podium. Nys as always was gracious in defeat and Stybar was a deserving winner and looked great in his 3rd rainbow jersey in the last 5 years. 

Lucky folks in the crowd. 
All in all it was a great race as expected. All the best were there and the two (arguably) best CX racers in the last decade gave the crowd, and the rest of us, a true treat. Stybar is looking strong and it bodes well for his chances in the spring classics in the coming months. Here's hoping he can improve on his 6th place in last years Paris-Roubaix and the rest of the monuments this spring.

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