The first-ever round of the Patrick UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup raced on the muddy slopes of the citadel in Namur (BEL) offered a great spectacle.
Belgian veteran Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) captured a hard-fought win over Belgian Champion Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) in the Elite Men category. The 35 year-old is the new leader in the World Cup rankings. Dutch star Marianne Vos (Nederland Bloeit) dominated in the women's race, which was raced in snowy conditions. Her compatriot Daphny van den Brand (AA Drink -- Nederland Bloeit) remains overall leader in the World Cup standings.
French Champion Francis Mourey (FDJ), Aurélien Duval (France), Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) and Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor) led a large group through the first laps on the muddy course in chilly Namur. During the fourth of eight laps, Albert accelerated. Nys followed his example with an attack on the fifth lap. Only Vantornout remained on Nys' wheel. A little later Nys flatted and was caught by an unleashed Stybar. The Czech soon steamed through to neutralize Vantornout's advantage. For a brief moment there were six riders in the group, but Pauwels punctured and lost time. Nys seized his moment to take the lead and set the pace up front. Pauwels didn't bridge back up and in the last lap it seemed like Albert was heading for the win. Nevertheless Nys closed the small gap on the Belgian Champion and with a last effort he reached the finish area solo. Albert was runner-up at 5s ahead of Vantornout, Pauwels, Stybar and Meeusen. The fourth place for Pauwels was just not enough to keep his World Cup leader's jersey, which is now in Nys' possession.