European cross racers have faced more rain, mud, and nasty conditions than anyone would ever want to see in December. When they arrived in Rome for the next stop on the World Cup circuit, they faced a pleasant surprise of temperate weather, and a dry, fast course.
The men’s race started with Mr. Holeshot himself, Lars Van der Haar (Rabobank-Giant) taking the lead. Sunweb-Napoleon Games teammates Kevin Pauwels and Klaas Vantornout quickly took to the front as the first lap was completed with Francis Mourey (FDJ) and Neils Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) in tow. Strangely, series co-leader Sven Nys (Crelan-Euphony) was no where to be seen. The Belgian champion, who missed the bPost Bank stop with a race baring his name, had still not recovered from the bronchitis that had been plaguing him.
As the race moved forward, Mourey and Albert were happy to be at the front, taking pulls and thinning out the pack. Pauwels also spent time at the front, but Van der Haar and Albert came back to the front when he got hung up on one of the features of the course. The Dutch youngster was able to hold the lead until a crash in one of the courses fast corners saw him drop from the front. He was never able to make it back to the lead group.
The crash helped the leaders open up a gap on the rest of the field. Albert, Pauwels, Vantornout, and Mourey were able to get away, with Pauwels attacking the select group. Marco Aurelio Fontana (Cannondale Factory Team) launched his own effort to chase down the lead group. The Italian National Champion, and mountain biking bronze medalist at the London Olympics, hopped the barriers and was cheered on by the Italian crowd as he pressed on. With six laps to go, Fontana was able to catch the lead group. As he again attempted to hop the barriers, a near crash dropped Fontana from the lead group, and he was again on the chase.
With five to go, the lead group of four pushed on, with Fontana still chasing. Van der Haar attempted to lead the chase group back to the front, but Nys was slowly slipping further and further back. As the leaders completed the lap, Vantornout put in a dig at the front, and was able to gain a small lead on the rest of the group. Albert was forced to chase, while Pauwels sat on his wheel. Fontana was able to catch back on, and Van der Haar’s chase group was even starting to close in.
This was enough for Pauwels, who came around Albert, and began to chase his teammate down for the lead. Pauwels was able to make the catch, and moved to the front. Mourey lead the chase on the Sunweb-Napoleon Games teammates, but Pauwels did not waste any more time. The Belgian pulled away from his teammate, but Vantornout was not going to let him go easily. With two to go, the teammates coseed the line together with Albert, Mourey and Fontana 12 seconds back. Albert knew it was time to make his move, and left his two companions behind. Fontana was not ready to settle for a spot off the podium, and moved past Mourey and caught Albert.
On the final lap, Pauwels lit up the course again, and dropped his teammate. Vantornout didn’t have enough left, and he watched Pauwels slowly pull away for the win. Albert and Fontana continued to chase behind, Vantornout’s luck took an unexpected turn when he dropped his chain. He dismounted twice in an attempt to fix his chain, only to see Albert and Fontana pass him. Albert crossed the line for second, while Fontana took third, pointing to the sky in memory of Burry Stander, a fellow mountain biker who was killed on a training ride earlier in the week.
With the second place finish, Albert takes back the lead in the World Cup series. Pauwels also jumps to second place, ahead of Nys who drops back to third.
- Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb-Napoleon Games 1:01:17
- Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP – Powerplus 0:00:16
- Marco Aurelio Fontana (Ita) Cannondale Factory Racing 0:00:22
- Francis Mourey (Fra) FDJ 0:00:27
- Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Napoleon Games 0:00:32
- Lars van der Haar (Ned) Giant Off-Road Team 0:00:50
- Radomir Simunek (Cze) Kwadro-Stannah 0:00:51
- Bart Aernouts (Bel) AA Drink Cyclocross Team 0:00:53
- Marcel Wildhaber (Swi) Scott-Swisspower MTB Racing Team 0:01:02
- Twan van den Brand (Ned) Orange Babies Cycling Team 0:01:10
- Enrico Franzoi (Ita) Selle Italia-Guerciotti-Elite 0:01:12
- Martin Bina (Cze) CEZ Cyklo Team Tábor 0:01:13
- Simon Zahner (Swi) EKZ Racing Team
- Thijs van Amerongen (Ned) AA Drink Cyclocross Team 0:01:14
- Philipp Walsleben (Ger) BKCP – Powerplus
- Aurelien Duval (Fra) UV Aube 0:01:16
- Matthieu Boulo (Fra) Roubaix Lille Métropole 0:01:34
- Elia Silvestri (Ita) Selle Italia-Guerciotti-Elite 0:01:40
- Rob Peeters (Bel) Telenet – Fidea 0:01:50
- Sven Nys (Bel) Crelan-Euphony 0:02:10
- Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Crelan-Euphony
- Marcel Meisen (Ger) BKCP – Powerplus 0:02:12
- Bart Wellens (Bel) Telenet – Fidea 0:02:13
- Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) BKCP – Powerplus 0:02:15
- Niels Wubben (Ned) Giant Off-Road Team 0:02:18
- Thijs Al (Ned) Telenet – Fidea 0:02:22
- Micky van Empel (Ned) Crelan-KDL 0:02:39
- Jan Denuwelaere (Bel) Style & Concept 0:02:41
- Gerben de Knegt (Ned) Orange Babies Cycling Team 0:02:44
- Mirko Tabacchi (Ita) 0:02:56
- Lubomir Petrus (Cze) BKCP – Powerplus 0:02:58
- Martin Haring (Svk) CK Banská Bystrica 0:03:01
- Marco Ponta (Ita) Centro Sportivo
- Stefano Capponi (Ita) 0:03:15
- Petr Dlask (Cze) Madeta – Fitness / Specialized 0:03:18
- Christian Helmig (Lux) Elbowz Racing p/b Trisport 0:03:21
- Ondrej Bambula (Cze) CEZ Cyklo Team Tábor 0:03:23
- Martin Zlamalik (Cze) Crelan-KDL 0:03:25
- Fabio Ursi (Ita) 0:03:26
- Thomas Paccagnella (Ita) ADV Team 0:03:27
- Patrick van Leeuwen (Ned) Orange Babies Cycling Team 0:03:35
- Martin Loo (Est) 0:03:49
- Julien Taramarcaz (Swi) BMC Mountainbike Racing Team 0:05:03
- Lukas Winterberg (Swi) Team Müller Gartengestaltung/BH Bikes 0:05:41
- Adrien Pascal (Fra) -1lap
- Robert Glajza (Svk) -3laps
- David Quist (Nor) -4laps
World Cup standings after round 7
- Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP – Powerplus 485 pts
- Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb-Napoleon Games 469
- Sven Nys (Bel) Crelan-Euphony 446
- Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Napoleon Games 356
- Lars van der Haar (Ned) Giant Off-Road Team 341
- Bart Aernouts (Bel) AA Drink Cyclocross Team 336
- Radomir Simunek (Cze) Kwadro-Stannah 311
- Francis Mourey (Fra) FDJ 300
- Thijs van Amerongen (Ned) AA Drink Cyclocross Team 283
- Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet – Fidea 276