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Cross Worlds Report (Long)(6 posts)

Cross Worlds Report (Long)Wayne
Feb 11, 2002 8:20 AM
Well, just got back to the states and seeing as no one else has reported from the worlds I thought I would give my impressions. The course did not look overly technical just a couple of steep descents with sweeping sandy turns at the bottom. Two rather longish straight flat sections that seemed to make the course favor group riding. No barriers as the organizers I think were expecting wetter conditions that would have turned a couple of the steep uphills into run-ups, as it was, only one of these was a run-up for everyone (Nijs being the exception when he hit it without any riders in front to slow him down). Saturday was 60 degrees and sunny, so bright that it was hard to see the race on the big screen TV that was not in the shade. I was mostly out on the course and did not get to see the races unfold on the TV. But the US juniors and espoirs seemed to start at the back and stay there, with the one exception being Adam Craig who worked his way up to a nice finish. A Belgium won the juniors and should have one the espoirs, Davy Commeyne was leading the sprint and looked to have it won as he had the Dutch Thyjs Verhagen pinned against the barriers and fearing to try his luck in the small gap, but with less than 50 meters to go, Commeyne drifted away from the barriers and the moment the gap opened the Dutch rider punched it and easily passed the Belgium for the win at the line much to the disappointment of the heavily partisan Belgium crowd. Sunday was a little cooler and cloudy but no rain to toughen up the fast course. Got a good elevated spot to view the whole start/finish strait and watch the race on the TV (cameras covered the entire course). The women started with relatively little interest from the continuously swelling crowd which ended up with a reported 47k spectators for the main event as opposed to 13k for the Saturday races. Contrary to the impression Velonews gave Dunlap started on the front row right next to Kumpfernagel and the other favorites but had a bad start. At the end of lap 1 Kumpfernagel, Van den Brand and Leboucher had already established a large gap, but VdB and Leboucher refused to work with K leaving her to set the pace and do all the work. Dunlap took advantage of the predictable slowing that occured on the tarmac and with a big effort chased back on at the end of start/finish strait only to be popped off again as the main climbing sections came right after. This same scenario happened on 2nd lap and possibly the 3rd, and I believe it wasn't until the 4th lap that Dunlap was able to stay with the 3 leaders following her long chase to get back to them as they slowed on the s/f strait. With a couple laps to go, as they hit the main climb which they were barely riding and often having to dismount, K. fell and Leboucher attacked, VdB was behind K. and Dunlap was further back. That was the winning move as Leboucher's lead steadily grew as she opened the gap to more than a minute on the ensuing couple of laps. Dunlap, K., VdB rode together with no one getting an advantage for the last couple of laps and Dunlap largely sitting on. On the flat grass section just before the turn to the tarmac finish, VdB or K. braked hard and Dunlap somehow ended up on the front. As she slowly rolled down the tarmac, VdB was 2nd wheel, K. third wheel along the right hand barriers. With a couple hundred meters to go, K. opened up the sprint from 3rd wheel, VdB immediately jumped on her wheel, but Dunlap had seemingly fallen asleep on her bike. She hesitated for what seemed an eternity as K. and VdB passed her. I'm sure it was less than a second in reality, but too long to get on VdB's wheel and she was left to sprint on her own about 10 meters behind the other two. VdB came out of K.'s slipstream but ran out of real estate and loss the silver by less than a wheel. Grande had a strong, largely solo effort coming in not terribly far behind Dunlap for 5th.
For the elite men it looked like the top 20 or so riders got call ups and then whole nations were called to the line, I guess by their world ranking. Gullickson was the best place American in about the 3rd row, the others were behind him. The start was fast and furious, about 100 meters after the start Nijs pulled his foot from his pedal and lost ground, Groenendaal did not start well either, the young Italian Vandelli established a couple of bike lengths lead into the 180 degree sweeping turn coming off the tarmac heading into the largely uphill portion of the course. However his glory was short lived as he was swamped as the climb started and he faded to eventually finish in an anonymous place. At the end of the 1st lap a large group of 15+ riders rolled onto the asphalt and mushroomed across the road as no one would set the pace. Within a couple of 100 meters the expected attack came, from who else but a Belgium, Ben Berden stretched the field and got the crowd going. No Americans made this 1st split, Page was probably in the next group, the Mongoose riders in between, and Johnson seemingly way at the back. Page would drift back and Johnson would move up, and only due to yet another flat from his Michelin clinchers miss out on a shot at the top 10. Gullickson and Wells seemed to ride most of the race in a large group that at times was 10+ riders, out of touch with the leaders but forming the main "peloton", as it was. Unlike the other races the front of the this race was continuously being reformed but was always dominated by the Belgiums with the Dutch seemingly hanging on for dear life and the Frenchman Arnold and I think the Czech Ausbuhar also being present early on. But by half-way, it was an all belgium affair and only their infighting, and the dogged dermination of Groenendaal and De Knegt kept them from riding away with it (De Vos had his typical excellent start and then slow drift backwards and appeared to be happy to just hang on). Ben Berden faded somewhat after his early efforts, Wellens was the Dunlap of this race, seemingly always just off the back of the front group and chasing hard to rousing cheers of the Belgiums on the longed tarmac start/finish strait. The MVP award goes to Tom Vannoppen. He attacked out of the lead group about half way through and established the first substantial lead of the race probably stretching to 100 meters. The belgiums had the numbers and Groenendaal and De Kneght seemed to always be chasing to get back, De Vos was hanging on, so the Dutch we're in no shape to chase. No fear though, as Vervecken wasn't going to lose his jersey to team tactics and went to the front and closed the gap on Vanoppen within a lap. But it was not Vervecken's day as he subsequently twice dropped his chain in the same spot on a descent on two successive laps. He made it back to the front after the first one, but shortly after the second one, the TV showed him climbing over a barrier into the crowd his rear derailleur ripped from his bike. I guess he had had enough and a run to the pits was not in the books! This left Vannopen, Nijs, and De Clerq at the front and not really working together, letting Groenendaal stay in the picture (quite literally). At one point he had just caught back on, only to lose his front wheel in one of the sweeping turns at the bottom of a descent and face plant in the soft sand. This of course brought a huge cheer from the Belgiums.
On the tarmac starting the last lap, De Clerq and Vannopen had a little pow wow behind Nijs, again getting the crowd riled up. Was De Clerq issuing some team orders and plotting his revenge for Nijs' treachery at the 2000 worlds? The Dutch were seemingly out of contention. But the Belgium trio seemed to being saving themselves for the sprint allowing Groenendaal to come back at them. On the last climb of the race as the crowd gasped with the prospect of Groenendaal getting back on for the sprint Vannoppen laid down an attack not enough to shake Nijs or De Clerq but enough to lift the pace and keep Groenendaal out of touch. Coming to the pavement Nijs jumped but De Clerq and Vannoppen easily jumped on his wheel and when he hit the pavement without a gap he just wound it up ensuring that Groenendaal could only watch the sprint (perhaps as atonement for 2000?). Nijs sat up with a couple of 100 meters to go, and De Clerq jumped, Vannoppen made the mistake of going to the wheel of Nijs first but once he realized his mistake, it was too late to get back to De Clerq's wheel. They all sat up with 50-100 meters to go and enjoyed their dominant performance in front of the home crowd. Meanwhile Johnson had worked his way up through the groups, had eventually hooked up with Hammond for an effective tandem and the two of them chased up to Frishnecht and Ausbuher for the 10-13 places (there was a large gap to the next rider up the road), but then Johnson was gone from the group and I heard that this was due to puncture. He never got back and ended up 13th. The Belgium faithful rushed the podium stand even as the back markers were finishing, waving their Lion of Flanders flags and singing their songs, which we were told were taunting the Dutch. Really a spectacle, amazing to see so many people who understood bike racing despite not actually being racers. The papers had whole sections previewing and then reporting on the race. Quite an experience!
re: Cross Worlds Report (Long)Setzer
Feb 11, 2002 11:42 AM
Hey Wayne,

So you made it aswell. It was a great race to watch both women and men. I bassicly saw what you saw on that big screen, at home on the couch. The belgium started airing the races from 10.30am live till the finish of the men about 16.00 pm.
Anyway haven't seen you around much since you asked about a place to stay in the "Hasselt" post. You said you were also traveling in Belgium/Holland aswell the week after the worlds. Hope you had a great time.

re: Cross Worlds Report (Long)Wayne
Feb 11, 2002 11:50 AM
Ended up staying in Genk which was a short train ride to the Hasselt station. Wish I understood Flemish/Dutch, we saw interviews with De Clerq and Vannoppen that night on TV as well as highlights of the race but couldn't understand a word they were saying!
re: Cross Worlds Report (Long)tayo
Feb 13, 2002 10:02 AM
Just wanted to say thanks for the great post. Haven't seen anything else this infomative online.
were you there?fred!
Feb 13, 2002 10:48 AM
or did you watch on TV? No way you could see all that at a bike race.....
were you there?Wayne
Feb 14, 2002 5:26 AM
Well, you could see that at a bike race if they had giant screen TV's set up, which they did. There were at least 2 of them (I read there were suppose to be 3 but I never saw the 3rd one). The cameras pretty much covered the whole course and they even showed replays during the race. I imagine it was the same feed as was being shown live on Belgium TV.