Wow, what a race or more precisely what a duel at the Grote Prijs Sven Nys in Baal. It might even be called epic. The tough course was a combination of deep mud and very cold water making the descents even more treacherous and the climbs even more leg sapping.
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The race quickly came down to a duel between Belgian Champion Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) and World Champion Zdenek Stybar (Telenet-Fidea). The two dueled it out in front of huge crowd which lets face it was pulling for Nys, it is after his hometown race which he had won 10 out of the 12 years of its existence. But neither could drop the other one even though they tried repeatedly until the last lap.
On the final lap, at the bottom of the dangerous downhill, Stybar was at the front and then Nys found what he called the perfect line, came around and shut Stybi down.
“Every space on the track, it is possible to have a gap because it’s so dangerous, there are lot of muddy underground so Stybar is really dangerous to do a sprint with but it was a really hard downhill, Stybar was doing perfect and I must follow and then I had really the perfect line and that was a sign to me that I can win the race today.” Stybar explained.
“It was just too deep, Sven went there and passed me just before the sharp turn and there I knew already that I can’t pass him because I get maybe three, four meters and I couldn’t close it anymore.” Stybar said.
Those few seconds enough as an ecstatic Nys celebrated his victory in front of his town in his race. “Maybe 4 or 5 thousand people are here for me today, it’s my hometown and it’s really important to do a good race here, I have a lot of fans. I gave everything to win this race.” Stybar said. He crossed the line, arms raised to the sky, a big grin on his very muddy face.
“Maybe,” replied Nys when asked if this was the best win of the year so far, “of course I won in Overijse, Asper-Gavere, Koppenberg and this race, they are four, five special victories.”
Stybar was both happy and disappointed after the race. Happy because he is battling with Nys at the top four races after returning from a knee injury, disappointed because he wants to win. “I’m really very happy with it but now of course I stay always very ambitious so when I was so close to the win then I don’t look at the problems I had last month but I look at the really great win I could have had here in Baal because this track I really like it so much especially when I was so close to winning, I’m a little bit disappointed but also really happy that also I could compete here with Sven in front of all the supporters, it’s really an incredible atmosphere here.”
Before the battle started in earnest however first the pair worked together to make sure that chasing Niels Albert (BKCP Powerplus) could not catch them and then once the gap was around 30 seconds, the battle was on. Seeing the gap, Albert decided to save some energy for the upcoming Belgian Championships, a jersey he wants more than the World Championships.
“The day was for me more like, I want to try to be on the podium, the first three or four rounds I try to be in the front but Sven and Stybar were just a little bit better and then I talked to myself and said I think it’s better that you ride for third place, you get to be a little bit rested for next weekend.” a very quiet Albert commented after the race.
How treacherous were the descents? Lars Boom (Rabobank) found out when he crashed hard into the barriers while in the lead on the first lap. With his back hurting he pulled to get it xray’ed and sporza reports no fractures but a hematoma on his lower back.
After chasing back on to the second chase group, American Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) took a tumble into the very cold water and finished 14th.
The Kannibal van Baal, Nys takes over the lead in the GVA series and also leads the Superprestige. “I can win two classification, next week is the Belgian Championships and I’m going to try to win everything but it’s not so easy.” he added with a laugh.
One more race, the Fidea Cyclocross Tervuren before the National Championships, where we will see who is better between Albert and Nys in Belgium.
Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet). “In the beginning I try to have a gap on Niels because when he is coming back with three it’s really dangerous, to sitting in third position. When we have half a minute then it’s try to win to race and you must try to find a place on the track where you are stronger but there were no places where I was stronger and also Stybar was not stronger, you must have the good tactics, I did an acceleration at the back of the track and for me that was an important move but Stybar was also very strong in the box and came back. And then the last climb, really the last dangerous downhill, I did everything wrong but the last two or three corners I felt I can win the race but it was not easy.” (laughs)
About the last lap. “Every space on the track, it is possible to have a gap because it’s so dangerous, there are lot of muddy underground so Stybar is really dangerous to do a sprint with but it was a really hard downhill, Stybar was doing perfect and I must follow and then I had really the perfect line and that was a sign to me that I can win the race today.”
About Sybar and the World Championships. “Now he’s an important guy for the World Championships because you see that he is at every race now, he is racing not one month, he is fresh and he is going to try to win one big title and for him, it’s important that it is the World Championships because the others are gone, World Cup, GVA, Superprestige, so I think he’s an important guy to look at but we’ll see what happens. I can win two classification, next week is the Belgian Championships and I’m going to try to win everything but it’s not so easy.”
About the Belgian Championships. “Maybe my shape is really good and I know what I must do in the last week to have a good feeling in the Belgian Championships so we’ll see what happens. Niels is also a big favorite because he won two races this week and also second in Zolder. It could be Niels but it could be me also, we’ll see what happens and then you have Tom Meeusen, Klaas Vantornout, it’s not only two guys, it’s a special day with a lot of nervous moments so we’ll see what happens but I have the experience and I think I can win again.”
Zdenek Štybar (Telenet-Fidea).”I’m really very happy with it but now of course I stay always very ambitious so when I was so close to the win then I don’t look at the problems I had last month but I look at the really great win I could have had here in Baal because this track I really like it so much especially when I was so close to winning, I’m a little bit disappointed but also really happy that also I could compete here with Sven in front of all the supporters, it’s really an incredible atmosphere here.”
About the result. “I never could expect that I would jump back into the races like this because now I’ve won already my first race and today if I had maybe for one second more luck then I would have won today as well. That’s really very promising for me, I know that I work really hard and now I’m getting back the results and comfortable feeling that I am not far behind in the condition. Also I didn’t start in Zolder but now I have already four races, so the recuperation is really good between the races so that means that I have really good basic condition so that’s really really good for me.”
About his Knee. “I have to knock on my teeth [for good luck] because so far I have not any problems but I don’t want to talk about it too much because what I sad last time when someone asked me how is it with your knee? I say it’s okay, it’s perfect I’m happy that I have no problem and the day after I couldn’t walk. So I’m really very careful because now this weather is really extremely dangerous for the tendon and for the overloading with the cold and water, temperature around zero, yeah that’s really the worst that it can be.”
About not wearing leg warmers. “I had the warm stickers over my knee, I had some oil protection on the knees because when you take legwarmers, it stay cold, it stay full of water and it’s ever cooling more. Now I had cold just the first lap, only when I went directly into water but after that I was not cold at all. I had a lot of doubts as to ride with long pants or not but in the end I say yeah when it stay with water on it’s even colder than riding with shorts.”
Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus).”The day was for me more like, I want to try to be on the podium, the first three or four rounds I try to be in the front but Sven and Stybar were just a little bit better and then I talked to myself and said I think it’s better that you ride for third place, you get to be a little bit rested for next weekend.”
About the Belgian Championships. “Antwerp is not so mud and really fast and sand so for me, it’s better we will see.”
Top 10 Results
1. Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet 0:57:01
2. Zdenek Štybar (Cze) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team +00:10
3. Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus +01:21
4. Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor +01:33
5. Bart Wellens (Bel) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team +01:46
6. Martin Zlámalík (Cze) Sunweb – Revor +01:58
7. Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team +02:02
8. Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team +02:04
9. Enrico Franzoi (Ita) BKCP-Powerplus +02:15
10. Jan Denuwelaere (Bel) Rendement Hypo Cycling Team +02:32
14. Jonathan Page (USA) Planet Bike +03:03
32. Brian Matter (USA) Gear Grinder -2laps
33. Mark Lalonde (USA) Specialized -2laps