Belgium announces seven-man team for cyclocross World Championships
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Monday, January 16, 2012

Belgium announces seven-man team for cyclocross World Championships

by Ben Atkins at 10:22 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Cyclocross, World Championships
No place for Sven Nys’ teammate as selectors go with the form book

sven nysBelgian national cyclocross coach Rudy De Bie has announced the seven-man squad that will represent the host nation in the World cyclocross championships, in Koksijde, Belgium, at the end of the month. As the dominant nation in the offroad, winter branch of the sport, the Belgians occupy four of the top five spots in the International Cycling Union (UCI) rankings; and it is these rankings that De Bie has been guided by in his selection.

Top favourite for the race – which would amazingly be only the second of his long career – is newly re-crowned Belgian champion, and World number one Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet), and he will obviously be one of the protected members of the team. The team’s other two captains will be former number one, and World Cup leader Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor), and former World and Belgian champion Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus).

Of the three riders, after whose experience and performances this season, pick themselves, Nys and Albert should be the strongest on the dunes of Koksijde, with Nys taking the November Duinencross, on the same course five times, to Albert’s one; although Pauwels was second to Nys in last year’s edition.

Pauwels’ Sunweb-Revor teammate, and 2010 silver medallist, Klaas Vantornout, who is currently number five in the World, makes the team; as do World number seven Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea), and number nine Bart Aernouts (Rabobank-Giant).

The final place is where any possible contention could lie; two-time World champion Bart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea) is the next-ranked Belgian, in tenth place, but his recent illness – where he was rushed into intensive care with heart problems - has ruled him out for at least the rest of the season.

Nys has requested that a place in the team be given to his friend, teammate, and namesake Sven Vanthourenhout – who is languishing down at number 40 in the rankings – to make sure that he has as much support as possible.

“He is like some kind of support and refuge for me, and in recent weeks he has performed really well,” the Kannibaal told a press conference the morning after taking back his Belgian title. Maybe they will only look at the rankings, but at a championship you need some protected spearheads instead of seven winning candidates.

“With Sven Vanthourenhout there I see my chances of winning rising a little,"

The next rider in the World rankings however, is Nys’ former teammate Rob Peeters – who beat Nys in a two-up sprint in the Lebbeke race on Friday to take his first professional victory – at number 20, and he took exception to the request.

"If Nys thinks Vanthourenhout is the only one loyal who will play a role for the Belgian team, he is wrong,” he said at the time, according to De Standaard. “I thought he knew me better.

"I think Sven's statements are an affront to all Belgian riders who are not world champions,” he added. “I realise that I can’t win the rainbow jersey, but I’m prepared to get dirty for Nys, as I am ready to do for Niels Albert and Kevin Pauwels.

“Will Vanthourenhout have the same intention?” he asked. “I think not. He rides for Nys, I for everyone."

Apparently De Bie has agreed with Peeters, and the 27-year-old gets the nod for the seventh spot on the team. Vanthourenhout, and BKCP-Powerplus riding cousin Dieter – who is ranked 25th – both miss out, although they are both listed as reserves.

With the race taking place on the tough sand dunes of Koksijde, the Belgians will likely only be challenged by reigning champion Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-Quick Step. The Czech announced his return to form in yesterday’s World Cup race in Liévin, France, after an largely ordinary season that saw him tired after a long road season.

National champion Sanne Cant (Boxx) will lead the Belgian women’s challenge, on what she says is her favourite surface. The 22-year-old will be joined by 48-year-old Hilde Quintens, and former Belgian champion Joyce Vanderbeken.


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