The latest round of the bpbtrofee was held in Essen, Belgium yesterday. The ‘trofee’ is a series of cross races held over the autumn/winter season and most of the top European racers take part. The race welcomed Zdenek Stybar back to the peloton. Stybar is one of the most successful cross racers of recent years, but he has been concentrating on building a road career and this was his first of only a handful of cross races he plans to race in 2012/13.
The race itself was a real humdinger. The course was pretty unrelenting with a few drops and run ups, temporary banking & steps plus the usual hurdles, but the biggest difficulty was the mud. Several sections were so bad that riders were forced to run with their bikes instead of cycling. They may have been better off bogsnorkeling. The riders were soon caked from head to toe in mud and I pity whoever had to do the laundry after this race: they were mawkit! (A good Scottish word for dirty).
The top names were there or there abouts for the whole race, with series leader Niels Albert and his closest rival Sven Nys always at or near the front the full hour. The day had a few surprises in store, such as how Stybar managed to stay in contention for the whole race despite his recent absence. And another how Jan Denuwelaere, a relative unknown, seemed to revel in the conditions and battle his way up to the front group and contest the win.
You can see Stybar first try to ‘close the door’ on Denuwelaere as the Belgian tries to pass the Czech. Stybar then forces Denuwelaere into the barriers and with nowhere else to go Denuwelaere tumbles to the ground and slides over the line in 2nd place. You see this kind of action quite often on road races, but rarely if ever in Cyclocross. Maybe Stybar picked this ‘skill’ up from his time on the road. In the end he was relegated to fourth place and Denuwelaere was awarded the win, only the 2nd of his professional career.
It was a slightly bizarre finish to a great race, but the ‘right man’ won and Stybar will have to wait a while to pick up his first win of the 2012-13 season. His next race will be in the World Cup on Boxing Day, but the other riders will need to take some clean kit to Namur today for the latest round of the World Cup.
Yesterday’s race marked the start of a very busy calendar for top ‘cross riders with six important races over the holiday period, with one being held on Boxing Day and another falling on New Year’s Day. Good luck to them is all I can say.