No non-Belgians need apply

Niels Albert on the podium

Niels Albert on the podium, in montage with his triumph at the line.

Belgium, Belgium, Belgium, Belgium, Belgium, Belgium … aaaaaaand Belgium.

That’s the way it went on Sunday as Niels Albert led the Belgian team to first through seventh at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Koksijde.

Albert shot away from the gun and raced from the front thereafter. He briefly had defending champion Zdenek Stybar for company, but the Czech’s heart clearly wasn’t in the contest and he was never a factor from that point on.

And neither was anyone else. The entire Belgian team assembled behind Albert, but they were squabbling over the crumbs. He built a lead of nearly a minute as the chase remade itself in various configurations before Rob Peeters escaped to take sole possession of second. Kevin Pauwels slotted into third.

And Sven Nys, who fenced with Pauwels for a while as the two pursued the invincible Albert, finally cracked and wound up the caboose in the Belgian train.

Meanwhile, the locomotive told Belgian TV he had “a very good day.”

• Photos from the elite races

“The start was perfect. The legs were very, very good,” Albert said. “I knew it was everything or nothing. Today it was everything. I’m very happy now.

“When you are riding alone you can choose your own road in the sand. And you can have a little recuperation in the sand. So it was very good for me.”

Top American on the day was Ryan Trebon, 18th at more than four minutes behind.

Katie Compton was the top American in the elite women’s race — but, alas, she was not the top woman. That honor went to defending champion Marianne Vos, who continued her dominance of the sport. Daphny Van den Brand took the silver and Sanne Cant the bronze. Compton had to settle for what must have been a disappointing fifth, behind Sanne Van Paassen.


• Elite men

• Women

• Under-23 men

• Junior men


4 Responses to “No non-Belgians need apply”

  1. Larry T. Says:

    ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Fell asleep more than once, each time waking up to see the same guy in front with what looked like a bunch more of the same guys chasing him. For anyone not Belgian this was a waste of an hour.

  2. Andy Bohlmann Says:

    And all the USAC UCI cross races helped us how?

  3. Patrick O'Grady Says:

    Yup, everybody’s saying it — including “Cyclo-cross” author Simon Burney — the kind of racing we do on this side of the pond just doesn’t prepare the national team to race against the Belgians and the rest of the Euros.

    We have big participation numbers, but the courses over there are just evil. I’ve watched a lot of ’em on streaming video and thought, “Jesus, I wouldn’t even want to run this course.”

    When was the last time you saw a domestic race where the guys had to drag themselves up a hill by tugging on a rope slung courseside as they staggered along? Or by pulling on the barrier lining a deep, long stretch of sand dune? Shit don’t happen, yo.

    I don’t know whether it’s a lack of imagination by U.S. course designers or restrictions imposed by landowners. I do know that when I helped lay out the 1997 nats course near Morrison I suffered from a massive imagination deficit. I was thinking small-time, having only promoted small-time races with fussy parks-department types and never been granted carte blanche to do whatever struck my fancy. So the course wasn’t nearly what it could have (and should have) been.

    ‘Course, the usual suspects still won, so. …

  4. Larry T. Says:

    Uh, you don’t think marketing and promotion have anything to do with this? Cyclocross is currently the cash-cow of the bike biz. Can’t be making the course too hard, too European. We don’t want even one guy or gal to not put their pairs of brand-new ‘cross bikes on the back of the Chevrolet Subdivision and drive out there to get dirty because the damn sport is actually TOO HARD, do we? Because if the race is too hard, well, there’ll be no excuse to replace those bikes for next season, etc.

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