It’s almost time for Nys, Albert, van der Haar, Meeusen – and not forgetting Ian Field of course – to chuck the ‘cross bikes in the coal shed for the summer and head for the beach.
Precocious Dutchman van der Haar took the overall World Cup win – and 30,000 Euros – from the man who we spoke to earlier in the year, Germany’s Philipp Walsleben with another of our interviewees Radomir Simunek taking fifth in the final round in Nommay.
The Superprestige overall went to the remarkable Sven Nys, taking it for the 13th time and relegating Niels Albert to second overall – it looked like Albert had it won until the last round where Nys tied on overall points with Albert but won on placings count back.
And today saw the final round of the third major season-long ‘cross competition, the BPost Bank Trofee.
This used to be the Gazet Van Antwerpen Series and unusually it’s decided on overall times – just like a stage race – Nys was leading by more than four minutes going in to the last round over second man, Albert in today’s closing round in Oostmalle.
But despite finishing in an unaccustomed 10th spot and Albert winning, Nys had enough time in hand to win the series overall.
Like Meat Loaf says; ‘Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad!‘
The biggest one day race of the season, the Elite World Championship went to the remarkable Zdenek Stybar.
We thought we might have one last look at this highlight of the ‘cross season through the eyes of a man who was right there in the mud of Hoogerheide – New Zealand’s Angus Edmond – before we draw the curtain on another great winter of cyclocross.
Did you try to peak for the race, Angus – how?
“Yes and no.
“Because of my alternate life (work, girlfriend, being a dad) finding time to train is extremely hard. For me it was more about learning the course, it’s lines and sequences of turns before the race.
“Making sure that I ate well and was well rested in the days leading up to it and finally – no beers the night before.”
Tell us about the parcours.
“Hoogerheide was a great course. It changed many times in the three days that I rode it.
“When I first got there Friday it was fast, very little mud, a good ‘foreigner’ course.
“Saturday it rained, got super slippery and the mud holes and patches really started to appear.
“The juniors and elite women had a pretty tough course, I didn’t envy them at all. But by Sunday it started to dry out again and ended up somewhere in between the two previous days.
“The technical lines became rideable again, but not as easy as they were to begin with. It was an excellent choice for a World Championship race.”
What tyres did you run?
“FMB Super Muds with the pro casing. They are my favourite tyre and if I was to only own one set of tyres it would be them.
“They are super sticky in even the worse conditions and with the pro casing they can run at extremely low pressures whilst maintaining their form in the corners.
“I have not had a flat once the entire season, either.”
How was your start?
“It was my best start of the season! I clipped in straight away and it went well from there.
“I’m not picky about my starts. I’m always at the back and we all end up in a big bunch at the end of the first straight anyway.
“But it certainly put me in a good mood. It took the field a long time to stretch out and we were still running at obstacles like the flyover half way through the first lap.”
Did you have to change bikes every lap?
“No, just once after about three laps.
“My gears were starting to act up a little and I had probably collected up about a kilo or two of mud by then so I figured it would be a good plan.”
I notice you didn’t wear shades with all that much flying around.
“No, I’m quite picky about what I have in front of my eyes while racing, so rather nothing than something that irritates me.
“I never quite found the time during the season to hunt down the sunglasses sponsor that I had been looking for.”
And gloves – not mitts?
“I’m not big on suffering while racing so rather too warm than too cold, you can always take them off. But I must admit I have gotten to a few start grids and felt a little over dressed in the glove department.
“I have been looking for good mitts for a while now and have just done a deal with Grip Grab, so hopefully my glove selection for next season will expand.”
How did the race go for you?
“I would have liked to have done better, but at the same time I could not have gone faster or pushed harder. I made a few small mistakes, taking the wrong line through some mud for example, which both takes your speed off, and is demoralizing at the same time.
“Normally when I race I like to find a comfort zone where I am going hard but still maintaining control.
“It means very few mistakes, ensures maximum enjoyment, has meant I have completed 100% of the races I have started, but doesn’t always provide the best race results.
“This time however it was all out.”
Tell us about the crowd – Stybar said there was a lot of beer flying around?
“I was a little envious of the riders that went to Louisville last year, they came back talking of the amazing crowds that just cheered constantly and for everyone, regardless of where or who they were.
“At the start of the race, for maybe the first two laps I thought “what are they talking about?” This crowd is great!’ The noise, the atmosphere, the support, it was all fantastic!
“But then we got to lap three, and four and it started to die off. Whole sections of the crowd were quiet, their backs turned, silently watching the big screens.
“It was kind of sad.
“I watched the race that night on TV and noticed the beer being thrown at Stybar. It’s sadly a phenomenon that we have seen time and time again in Belgium and Holland, drunk fans throwing beer at the riders they don’t like or want to win.
“I can’t understand the mentality. There’s not a rider out in that race that doesn’t deserve everyone’s respect.
“It’s a brutal form of racing and takes a lot, regardless of whether you are at the front or the back.”
Were there any Kiwi fans out?
“After the crowds died off a little was when the true fans came out.
“There were pockets of people cheering, at turns in the forest, out at the switchbacks, there was a large group just before the steep climb at the end of the course that just went ballistic when I came by.
“They were so loud it became infectious and more people in the area started to cheer. The New Zealand Ambassador in Belgium was even there.
“It was a proud day to be racing.”
With the benefit of hindsight are you happy with how you rode the race?
But I’m frustrated at my little mistakes, however there’s not much I could have done to change it.”
Did Stybar’s win surprise you?
“Yes and no.
“My money was on Sven, he has had a fantastic season. To begin with I thought that Stybar just wasn’t up to it, his results were a little mixed and I doubted his chances.
“But now I feel like it was all a big plan. He has been holding his cards closely to his chest, saving them for the one day that counted.
“I think he played this one well…”
What do you think gave Stybar the edge?
“The element of surprise.
“He’s been seen at very few races this season, and I don’t think he has given it everything that he has had, so I think he caught them all napping a little.”
Did you manage to see any of the last lap – what was it like?
[Angus was pulled out with two laps to go on the ‘80% rule’ which states that a rider must remain within 80% of the fastest rider on the first lap’s time – this is to prevent lapped riders tangling with the leaders, ed.]
“I didn’t; I so wanted to but I got caught in a conversation with a guy near the finish line and he just wouldn’t let me go.
“When I heard a large part of the crowd say ‘boo’ then I knew it was over…”
Any surprises, like Albert’s poor ride or maybe Page in the top 20?
“Albert had a terrible result and I can’t help but thing that something must have gone wrong, Pauwels had the ride of the season.
“Page has been riding well this season, so that didn’t come as a surprise, but I had expected Walsleben to place much closed to the podium, if not on it.”
What was your final Sunday evening beers count?
“Well, I was given two Primus’ at the finish line, had an Orval back at the car.
“Once we got home I seem to recall a Grimbergen, Westmalle Dubbel, then a friend Tom came over with frites and a crazy collection of oak aged dark beers, Black Mes, an Emelisse, one called an Ypres that tasted like a dark gueuze.
“Then I finished it all of with a hot bath and a Malteni Blonde…”
What now for you – how many more races to ride?
“I have the last race in a Danish series called the Soigneur CX Cup on Saturday.
“That is building up to be the Danish race of the year.
“Then the following week I go home to NZ for a month off and wind down a bit from the cross season.
“At the moment I have the European Single Speed Cross Championships in March, the European Single Speed MTB Champs, the Schlaflos in Sattel night race, the World Single Speed champs (if I can raise the money to get to Alaska!) all booked in the calendar for now.
“But it is slowly filling up and looking to be a pretty crazy summer so far.”
The man is living the dream.