Zdenek Stybar wins the Elite Mens world championships in 2014
A fantastic duel between defending Champion Sven Nys (Belgium) and Zdenek Stybar (Czech Republic) was the apotheosis of a fantastic 2014 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championship weekend in Hoogerheide, Netherlands. The eight-laps long race on a sunny Sunday afternoon had its climax in the final lap when Czech star Stybar exploited a few minor mistakes from Nys to grab his third world title. A few hours earlier it was Wout Van Aert (Belgium) who captured the rainbow jersey in the Men Under 23 category with a long solo effort.
Stybar didn’t hide away his ambitions and despite his fourth-row start position in the group of 61 starters he quickly moved up through the pack. That was in high contrast with outsider Niels Albert (Belgium) who won the World Championships race on the same course in 2009. Albert had a disastrous start despite his front row start position. Francis Mourey (France) took the best start in Hoogerheide and due to a crash from Martin Bina (Czech Republic) right behind him he was handed a small gap. Nys closed that gap and by the end of the opening lap Stybar already attacked and hit the second lap with a small lead; Albert was twentieth.
As Stybar was unleasing his forces few riders were able to match his speed on the technical course. When Stybar looked back he only saw Nys, Mourey and World Cup winner Lars van der Haar. The first chasers were already 13 seconds down on the four leaders. Stybar and Nys exchanged the lead and halfway the race both Mourey and Van der Haar were dropped. Kevin Pauwels (Belgium) and Klaas Vantornout (Belgium) were moving up from the background. Those four riders would battle for third place. In front several attacks were placed by both Nys and Stybar but each time the other rider was able to neutralize the damage within reasonable time. When hitting the penultimate lap it seemed like Nys was winning on points. Stybar crashed on the same fast right-hand corner where Bina had crashed in the opening lap and Nys once again had a gap. Again, Stybar closed it down. Little later Nys rode Stybar out of the wheels and the Czech was nearly bowing his head. That was until he saw how Nys slipped away at the switchbacks. From there Stybar had the upper hand. He put Nys under pressure and in the most muddy section Nys had to run earlier than he wanted. Stybar received an unexpected bonus and increased his running pace. Little later he exploited another minor mistake from Nys and he was gone for good. Stybar had time to celebrate his victory with Nys crossing the line at short distance. Kevin Pauwels won the battle for third place, finishing at forty seconds from Stybar. Vantornout was fourth at a minute from the winner, just ahead of Tom Meeusen (Belgium) and Van der Haar.
Earlier on Sunday there was a local storm raging, called Wout Van Aert. The 19 year-old Belgian rider wasted no time and unleashed his powers on a sloping uphill section. It was the same section where Stybar ran away from Nys. Most riders tried to ride up the slippery path and suddenly Van Aert ran by all of them. Pre-race favourite Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) and other riders with high ambitions were left gasping for air. In no time Van Aert created a sizeable gap and by the end of the opening lap the first chasers were twenty seconds down on the Belgian leader. Van der Poel was unable to set up a comeback, clearly suffering at the back of the five-man chase group. Little later Michael Vanthourenhout (Belgium) escaped the chase group, trying to get back to his compatriot in front. Though the European Champion distanced Van der Poel, Laurens Sweeck (Belgium) and Toon Aerts (Belgium), he didn’t get back to Van Aert who rode around flawlessly. Van Aert would reach the finish line with a lead of fifty seconds on Vanthourenhout.
In the battle for third place the Belgians were well placed at the halfway point. Sweeck left Van der Poel and Aerts behind. One lap later also Aerts dropped Van der Poel and joined Sweeck. A Belgian 1-2-3-4 was in the make. Van der Poel didn’t plan to let this happen and picked up speed. During the penultimate lap he closed the gap on the Belgian duo Sweeck-Aerts and then he simply rode them out of the wheels to take the bronze medal at 1:17 from winner Van Aert. Stybar and Van Aert join Women’s winner Marianne Vos (Netherlands) and Junior Men winner Thijs Aerts (Belgium) as the four newly crowned UCI Cyclo-cross World Champions.
Next year’s they can defend their title at the 2015 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Tabor, Czech Republic.
Rockstar Beskidia Downhill is a fantastic race series in Poland that is fast becoming the biggest alternative competition to the Polish National Cup.
The series has a great organization team, excellent atmosphere, different tracks and eight different categories. The whole series is also easily accessible for all from amateurs to professional.
Beskidia was proclaimed last year by the participants to be one of the best competitions in Poland and also become known as “the small Polish Word Cup”!
Rockstar Beskidia Downhill is also a great event series for those looking to hone their talents with the “ My first run” category specifically aimed at people who are entering a downhill race for the first time.
Beskidia also has a teams division which usually turns out to be a great form of rivalry for many contestants.
New this year Beskidia has created a special category dedicated to young people called “Young guns” for ages 12 to 14. This category is for those who want to take their rivalry to the next level and for those that think racing with the “kids” is not enough anymore.
Pinkbike will also be an official media sponsor of Rockstar Beskidia Downhill this year.
Gerrans, Australia and Orica-GreenEDGE take command of UCI WorldTour
Already a winner in 2006 and 2012 in Australia’s top stage race, Gerrans, 33, clinched the six-day Santos Tour Down Under for a third time by just one second over fellow Australian Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team), whilst Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) claimed third, five seconds back.
And just like in 2006, Gerrans had captured the lead on day one – this time when he upped the pace on Menglers HIll, the final climb of the stage from Nuriootpa to Angaston, and then outpowered the sprinters for his first victory.
His National Road-Race victory earlier this month indicated Gerrans was in strong form, but former Tour de France winner Evans made it plain he was not going to give his fellow-Australian an easy run when he took off late on stage three to Campeltown. Winning by 15 seconds on a pack of 12 riders, Evans clinched his first stage in the Santos Tour Down Under since 2002 – and the lead to boot.
However, on Saturday at the race’s one summit finish at Willunga Hill, whilst Richie Porte (Team Sky) secured Australia’s third stage victory, Gerrans zipped away to re-take the overall by the bare minimum – one second. Not much, but just enough to keep Evans at bay on Sunday’s city centre stage in Adelaide, and for Gerrans to claim the outright victory and the UCI WorldTour lead as well.
Describing the last day, a triumphant Gerrans recognised that Sunday had been a “very nervous stage, the race could still be won by a number of different riders so we had to make sure we stayed at the front and out of trouble. I’m really thrilled to get through it unscathed.” “I’ve got my third Tour Down Under win thanks to an outstanding team,” added the 33-year-old. “This is an Australian team, on Australia Day, in a WorldTour event, what else could I ask for?”
In the UCI WorldTour rankings, Gerrans opens up his 2014 account with 114 points over fellow-Australian Evans, who has 88, whilst Ulissi is just five points further off the pace, with 83.
Australia’s impressive all-round showing in their home race also gives the nations lead in the UCI WorldTour by a huge margin: 334 points, almost four times the total of second placed Italy, who have 86. The Netherlands are third, with 43 points.
In the teams classification, Australia have yet another reason to celebrate as their top home squad Orica-GreenEDGE open up the 2014 season with 145 points and in the number one spot. Just like Australia in the nations classifications, Orica-GreenEDGE have a clear advantage, given the next three ranked teams – BMC Racing Team, Team Sky and Lampre-Merida – have 88, 86 and 83 points respectively.
The next round of the UCI WorldTour will be Paris-Nice, running from March 9th – 16th. But with Gerrans’ strong lead and his proven track record in week-long stage racing, it will be no easy matter ousting the Orica-GreenEDGE rider from his overall lead in the UCI WorldTour classification.
The seventh and final round of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup was contested in Nommay, in the East of France. Dutchman Lars van der Haar (Rabobank Development Team) racked up the overall win in the Elite Men category with a fourth place on the demanding Brognard course. In the Women category American champion Katherine Compton (Trek Cyclocross Collective) abandoned the race but she had already secured the overall victory at the penultimate World Cup round in Rome, Italy.
The muddy victories in Nommay on a grey Sunday afternoon were for Belgian rider Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) and world champion Marianne Vos (Rabo Liv Women Cycling Team).
The trio Francis Mourey (FDJ.fr), Philipp Walsleben (BKCP-Powerplus) and Meeusen dominated the race in the Elite Men category. Meeusen already attacked the rest of the field in the first lap. The 25 year-old Belgian created a gap of nearly ten seconds but then German champion Walsleben responded to the attack with Meeusen’s team-mate Corné van Kessel on his wheel. The duo caught up with Meeusen in the second lap.
Meanwhile the rest of the riders were struggling on the muddy course and trailing by nearly twenty seconds. Only home rider Mourey was able to react and he tried to close the gap solo. Two laps later Mourey bridged up with the leaders while Van Kessel fell back. Mourey and Walsleben seemed to have the upper hand as Meeusen always lost touch in the extremely muddy first part of the course. Nevertheless Meeusen managed to hang on and in the final lap he put himself in front of the others in his bad section. Meeusen no longer needed to close a gap and the fast man suddenly had the best card in his hand. Mourey led out the sprint but he was no match for the Belgian rider. Much further back Van der Haar finished in fourth place at a minute from the winner. The Dutchman raised his arms when crossing the line, celebrating the World Cup victory. Czech rider Radomir Simunek (Kwadro-Stannah) made it a very international top-5 by holding off Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games). World champion Sven Nys (Crelan-KDL) didn’t take the start in Nommay.
In the Women category the much-anticipated duel between World Cup winner Katherine Compton and world champion Marianne Vos didn’t happen. Compton suffered from asthma due to her pollen allergy. The American rider briefly featured in the front of the race but then faded, pulling out of the race in the second lap. As a result Vos found herself without much opposition. The Dutch cycling star overtook fast starter Helen Wyman (Kona Factory Racing) and sped away. By the end of the first lap Vos already had a half-minute gap on Wyman and Compton. On the muddy and hilly course Vos got into a great rhythm. She ended up being the only rider who was able to clock lap times under nine minutes. Though shifting back a little after that blistering first lap Vos kept increasing her lead and at the finish she had a gap of 1:32 on Wyman. The European champion rode a flawless race and held of Italian champion Eva Lechner (Centro Sportivo Esercito). The latter didn’t get away as fast as Wyman and each lap lost a handful of seconds. Behind her Sanne Cant (Enertherm-BKCP) fought her way back into the race after a minor mistake in the first lap. She bridged back up to Nikki Harris (Young Telenet-Fidea) and then left her behind in the final lap. The fifth place from Harris was enough to hold on to her second place in the overall standings of the World Cup. Cant finishes third ahead Vos.
On Sunday morning World Cup winner Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands) was beaten by Wout van Aert (Belgium) in the Men Under 23 category after a race-long duel. Van der Poel was already certain of the overall victory before the start of the race. Adam Toupalik (Czech Republic) finished as runner-up behind Thijs Aerts (Belgium) but ahead of his direct rival Yannick Peeters (Belgium) in the Junior Men category. It was more than enough to grab the overall win in the World Cup.
Next week the UCI Cyclo-cross world championships are held in Hoogerheide, Netherlands.
Now in its sixteenth year, and as the first major race of the season and first chance to take a lead in the UCI WorldTour, it is sure to be as action-packed and hard-fought as ever.
A mixture of sprinters’ stages, hillier treks, city centre racing and an uphill finish at Willunga are all packed into six days of challenging riding. Factor in some highly motivated home side teams and riders, fit and in form from racing through the Australian summer, and it all helps keep the pace high and the foreign UCI WorldTour squads on their toes.
As a way to hit the ground running for the 2014 season, in fact, the Santos Tour Down Under cannot be matched. A 50 kilometre circuit race on Sunday January 19, the People’s Choice Classic, acts as a curtain-raiser before the stage racing itself gets under way on Tuesday January 21st, with a 135 kilometre trek from Nuriootpa to Angaston.
The chances of a bunch sprint, though, are small, given a first category climb, Mengler’s Hill, just eleven kilometres from the finish, as well as a slight rise on the last run-in seems certain to break up the pack.
Stage two’s 150 run from Prospect to Stirling is goes through rolling terrain which has lots of potential for ambushes, whilst stage three once again could see the pack disintegrate on a first category climb the Corkscrew that comes with seven kilometres to go and is followed by a fast downhill all the way to the finish at Campbeltown.
The most decisive stage, as always, will almost certainly be the ascent of Willunga Hill on Saturday after 151.5 kilometres, the race’s longest day in the saddle.
The Tour Down Under’s only summit finish and with gradients touching ten percent in places, riders will have to tackle Willunga Hill twice and the leader at the top is all but certain to be the outright winner too. Sunday January 26th then completes the racing, with a flat, circuit-based 95 kilometre ride through the streets of Adelaide.
In total, the riders in the Santos Tour Down Under peloton will have to complete 875 kilometres of racing.
And of them, which can be expected to make their mark so early? For the sprints, Germany’s André Greipel (Lotto Belisol) will be the benchmark for all the fastmen, given he has won the race twice outright and holds the current record for Santos Tour Down Under stage wins – 14.
However, compatriot Marcel Kittel (Team Giant-Shimano) raised his game enormously in 2013 and will be sure to give him a run for his money.
A fair proportion of local hopes for overall victory, meanwhile, will be pinned on three riders. the recently crowned Australian national road champion, Simon Gerrans (ORICA GreenEDGE) , Richie Porte (Team Sky) and Cadel Evans (BMC Racing). Gerrans, like Greipel, is also a two-time outright victor and heads Australia’s only UCI WorldTour squad, whilst Porte’s recent podium finish in the Australian national road race also indicates rising form. Evans (BMC Racing), a former Tour de France winner who took his first Tour Down Under stage way back in 2002, can also never be ruled out.
All in all, an appropriately star-studded field for the first UCI WorldTour event of 2014.