|Pic by Renaat Schotte|
That it was and many fell into. Somebody even fell twice. It was a rude race. Very fast and very tricky given the weather condition: the easy route became dangerous because of rain, wet mud and deep pudles. Only few laps and Taramarkaz fell in front of Pauwels forcing him to stop. Vantornout was leading with Peeters and the front group gained a small gap. Few more laps and Nys fell! he went against the foot of a barrier, had to stop and lost positions. Meanwhile Pauwels was back to the front, Around in 4th position. It was fun to see riders jump like rabbits on the green series of artificial hills! less fun to see Tom Meeusen fall against a barrier beacuse of the wet mud. Yes, that race was rude.
Exceptionally cameras were showing the back of the peloton where Nys was fighting to come back. Many riders changed their bike and at the head of the race there were now only three men: Vantornout, Albert and Stybar. Nys fell again!! the big hole of mud swallowed his front wheel and he got thrown over the barrier amongh the people. Surpised, honoured, a little shocked to have the national hero on their feet, they watched open mouth but didn't help. Nys doesn't need help by human beings. In front Vantornout and Albert had dropped also Stybar who was anyway ahead all the rest.
At that point Kevin Pauwels attacked from behinde and was 4th chasing Albert, Vantornout and Stybar. It looked like Vantornout was waiting for him and that's natural for a loyal team mate... even if... Sometimes I wonder if Vantornout should do his own race instead... A mistake by Albert where Nys fell slowed down the group, Pauwels was close but didn't join yet. Then Aernout. Nys fighting behinde. It was a very fast route: no dead points where dropped riders could gain some seconds, they just must push hard and try to be faster.
Three laps to go the three men in front crossed the line together, Vantornout turned to watch where Pauwels was and he was really close now, neverthless failed to join. All the four riders changed their bike, small gaps opening between, and exiting the boxes area Pauwels fell: he slipped in the curve, was standing immediately and back on his bike but Albert and Stybar speeded on and went away together. Only now Pauwels joined Vantornout, but the opposite is also true...
Behinde an amazing Nys was already 6th just behinde Aernouts! In front Stybar attacked. Albert couldn't follow and got dropped. At the last lap Stybar crossed the line solo, Albert slightly behinde, then Pauwels and Vantornout. But with an huge effort Albert caught Stybar. You could see the white Stybar's teeth in his black muddy face while he was furiously trying to resist. Albert eventually passed and even dropped Stybar, avoiding a risky sprint. Behinde the camera showed Sven Nys hit by a bottle thrown by a spectator stopping and going to talk with him passing under a commercial banner! incredible!
So Albert won and Stybar was second. 3rd Pauwels, 4th Vantornout, 5th Peeters. The cameras showed Nys finishing at the back but with honour. 6th was Van Ameroengen and 7th Denuvelaere. Albert interviwed didn't smile as usual and seemed a bit shocked: on the line he celebrated in a very aggressive way looking like a 'Fuck you everybody!' quite unusual for him. I guess the last races have been really frustrating and he really wanted this victory. Moreover I have got the impression that Stybar isn't welcomed by the regular cyclocrossers..Final remark: without Vantornout Pauwels couldn't be on that podium. Klaas deserves a BIG Xmas gift.