Most people expect either Verhagen (Holland) or Franzoi (Italy) to be best in the U23 worldchampionshipsrace cyclocross. But they are just two amongst 54 other starters in a few minutes at the course near the Adriatic Sea.
It starts again raining in Monopoli, temperature still is 8 degrees centigrade Celsius. The course still is slippery, more and more wet. The cross this U23 will ride will take them on laps of 2.7 km. The nervous moments for the start show silent faces. Belgium has favorites in the race too, and has had allready a lot of champions of the world in this category. Same as happened in the junior category the Italian riders go into the field first. Van der Linden, Aernouts and Pauwels for Belgium are in the front too. Thijs Verhagen rides in second position.
Franzoi does not want to let Verhagen to go away too far. Alain Craig (US) suffers mechanical problems and sees his race ends allmost the same time it began. Verhagen too does not find the right pace at the beginning and falls.
One heap of muscles, Italian hope Franzoi takes a gap of 11". The Italian crowds go crazy. The first lap is don within the 6 minutes. The pace is much higher than it was at the junior race. Swiss Michael Mueller tries to follow the Azzuri. The course has many curves, which helps the riders to know what the competition does....at allmost all the points at the course you can see what happens to the others.
At 21" Belgians Tim Vannuffel en Wesley Vanderlinden try to catch Franzoi. Also Aernouts (Bel) finds himself in the front. The gap behind the Italian rider encreases.
Still going strong Franzoi crosses for the second time the finishline. The Belgian riders regroup behind him in an attempt to recatch. Thijs Verhagen joins them, regained his lost time after his fall. Due to the fast start of Franzoi and the fast first lap it is up to the jury to decide how many laps to go. In the following group too the Czech do their part of the work. Also present in the front is Dariusz Gil from Poland. The jury decides the total of the race will go over 8 laps.
Thijs Verhagen knows his favorite role and is eager to catch Franzoi. The Italian does not give in, the gap 23", due to the hard working Verhagen who rides his legs of to come closer to the Azzuri.
Franzoi, 23" seconds later Verhagen and Vanderlinden. 4. Czech Bina, 5. Aernouts. Franzoi takes no risk un his way and takes the safests part of the wet soil.
The gap between number 1 and the rest jojo's around the 20". Franzoi stepps of his bike and jumps gently over the hurdles. Wesley Vanderlinden comes closer to Franzoi (19"), leaving the Dutchman Thijs Verhagen more and more behind. Still half a race to go.
Vanderlinden half way race 20 seconds behind, Verhagen not able to come any closer to either Franzoi or Vanderlinden. Danish rider Nielsen surprises himself and the spectators and rides in fourth position.
14.25 CET, fifth lap.
Style, pace and eager is consistent with Franzoi. In his great willingness to come closer Verhagen allmost hits a small pole. Few seconds later Nielsen does the same, with the difference he falls bike over head.
The first worldchampion in this category was in Munich Sven Nijs. He repeated himself in Middelfahrt, two years in a row followed by Bart Wellens. Franzoi keeps up the pace when he crosses once again the finishline. Vanderlinden at 18", Verhagen at 26".
Three of the Belgian riders ride in the top six. Behind Vanderlinden (who often trains with Mario DeClercq at the infamous Kluisberg)it is Vannuffel and Aernouts who defend the lions colors to their bests.
Franzoi has taken good advantage of the fall Verhagen suffered. When Verhagen (coming from the southern village of Erp in Holland) touched the ground and had to get of his bike, Franzoi took of.
Vanderlinden showed his guts when he, right after a winning race, stepped toward national coach Rudy de Bie and asked him straight on: "Now you are gonna select me, right...?"
Verhagen comes very close to Vanderlinden when it started raining more cats and dogs. Weatherpredictions for tomorrow Sunday are even worse, it might well be snowing. Franzoi his lead still is over 20".
With this kind of changing circumstances it is hard for riders and mechanics to chose the right sort of tyres.
Wesley Vanderlinden does not give in for the battle over the silver medal and keeps the gap with Thijs Verhagen a few seconds. Franzoi rides all alone, 25" ahead of Wesley Vanderlinden. Verhagen followes at 10" behind Vanderlinden, with one lap to go. All three riders in the front do not give in. One little mistake can give away a medal, a place on the podium.
14.45 CET, last lap
In the first six of the race more or less anonumously ride Frenchman Chainel and Czech rider Bina. A win by Franzoi will mean a lot to Italian cyclocross, who lack a new Daniele Pontoni for long.
In Poprad three years ago Thijs Verhagen allready won a bronze medal, last year he took home the gold medal. This year he has to let the gold to the man from Treviso, Enrico Franzoi. Second and silver medal winner is Wesley Vanderlinden (Brakel, Belgium), third is Thijs Verhagen (Erp, Holland). This means the first Italian medal this championship and the first Belgian medal as well. Verhagens bronze brings the Dutch total on three. Last year Franzoi prooved himself allready on the same course finishing nineth in the pro-race.
1. Franzoi (Ita)
2. Vanderlinden (Bel)
3. Verhagen (Hol)
4. Bina (Cze)
5. Aernouts (Bel)
6. Beraud (Fra)
7. Vannuffel (Bel)
8. Chainel (Fra)
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