Niels Albert pulled away from the field in Koksijde today to claim his second cyclocross world championship in dominant fashion. Albert rode solo for most of the race and simply extended his lead lap after lap. And yet, that wasn't the story of the day.
Behind Albert the scene was even more impressive -- unbelievable really. Chasing him were not one, not two, not three but SIX of his own teammates. The entire Belgian team, all seven blue jerseys, put the sword to the rest of the cyclocross world, a dominance that I would guess has never been seen. Radek Simunek was the top foreign finisher, in 8th place more than a minute behind the last Belgian. Which, incidentally, was pre-race favorite Sven Nys, who looked like Albert's biggest challenger in the middle portion of the race before sagging backward. Rob Peeters surged forward unexpectedly, overtaking Nys and riding with Kevin Pauwels for a while before distancing the World Cup winner on the final lap for second. Pauwels barely held off a couple other teammates, Tom Meeusen and Bart Aernouts, for third.
Simunek celebrated his 8th place with the two-fingers-across-the-throat gesture. Pre-race favorite and defending champion Zdenek Stybar was not on form today, coming 13th and finishing three minutes down. The Netherlands had nobody in the top ten. Ryan Trebon was the top American in 18th.
Earlier, Marianne Vos was a different kind of dominant, cementing her all-time greatness in the sport with a fourth consecutlve world championship at the ripe old age of 24. Vos's feat, a solo ride that was barely ever in doubt and completely expected, continued the Dutch sweep of wins prior to the elite men's event, and marked another Dutch dominance with three of the top four riders. Daphny van den Brandt took second for the Netherlands in a sprint over Belgian Sanne Cant.
Belgian coach Rudy De Bie might just be the man to form the next national government. Unlike a lot of other people, when De Bie speaks, all Belgians fall in line. Albert's final margin over Peeters slipped to 24 seconds only because he spent the last half-lap celebrating. Men's results:
- Niels Albert, BEL
- Rob Peeters, BEL, at 0.24
- Kevin Pauwels, BEL, at 0.30
- Tom Meeusen, BEL, at 0.34
- Bart Aernouts, BEL, at 0.35
- Klaas Vantornout, BEL, at 1.09
- Sven Nys, BEL, at 1.11
- Radek Simunek, CZE, at 2.15
- Marianne Vos, NED
- Daphny van den Brandt, NED, at 0.38
- Sanne Cant, BEL, s.t.
- Sanne Van Paassen, NED, at 0.49
- Katie Compton, USA, at 0.53