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The last jersey - the battle of the pro's
By Anita van Crey
Date: 2/2/2003
The last jersey - the battle of the pro's
12.29 CET, before the start
All season long the Belgian riders prooved to rule the international cyclocross. Looking at all the results so far it is to be expected a Flandrien will win the most important race of the season. But since they all have great qualities and abilities it can happen that there will be an unexpected winner, who profits from the not excisting unity in the Belgian camp. Amongst the Belgian riders too in the last days their seem to be more or less disagreement on tactics and who is allowed to win where and why. Mario De Clercq acussed UCI (and Rabobank employee during the summer) of adjusting the course to favour Sven Nijs, Bart Wellens got mad on the three times world champion De Clercq of having his teammate Roger Hammond work against Wellens and causing him to fall. It looks like the biggest opponents for the Belgian riders will be the Belgian riders themselves. Other names of riders to be expected to do well are home-rider Daniele Pontoni, Czech Petr Dlask and propably too Dutchman Richard Groenendaal.

12.40 CET, the start
The gun popped, the riders race to the first turn. De Clercq ahead of Berden enters the field. The rest follows. Vannoppen takes the lead. Sven Nijs moves his way up to the front of the bunch. He chooses the rear wheeel of Richard Groenendaal. The public is mainly Belgian and shows proudly their yellow flags with the black lion.

12.44 CET
Tension fills the air. In the front it seems to be a battle between Belgium and Holland, with Groenendaal and De Vos giving their best to compete with Nijs and co. Wellens and Vervecken too secure their place in the lead. Wellens makes the pace go higher.

12.47 CET
Wellens takes off, gap of 8" when the finishline is crossed for the first time. vervecken does not ride to recatch his teammate. Also Gil (Poland) and De Clercq stay in the front.

12.49 CET
The gap of Wellens to the rest is cut in half. Sven Nijs is very eager to recatch him, descends a bit to fast and ends up in the securing ribbons. Mario De Clercq too falls down and has to get of his bike for a short minute. The gap now is 4" between Wellens in the front and Nijs in the background. Both Groenendaal and Dlask allready lost contact with the leaders.

12.54 CET
Wellens suffers mechanical defect with a puncture of his front wheel. All six Belgian riders ride in the first positions.

12.56 CET
Both Nijs and Vervecken take over the lead in the second lap. Vervecken is one racer who always can do a bit more in a world championship race. Both Italian riders Pontoni and Bramati try to destroy the Belgian party.

12.58 CET
The 2.01 metres big Dlask rides his bike carefully but steady through the slippery curves. Wellens changed bikes and is again eager to be in the front. Pontoni has to close a 20" gap. After two laps Wellens joins Nijs and Vervecken in the front, Berden brings back De Clercq and makes it a quintet in the lead. A Belgian quintet, leaving all foreigners behind.

13.02 CET
Tom Vannoppen (Bel) stays with the following foreigners Gil (Pol), Pontoni (Ita), Dlask (Cze), De Knegt (Hol) and some others to make sure they will not jump to the lead. In the front Wellens once again tries to get away.

13.05 CET
The second big group is 45" behind the leaders. Five Belgians are most likely to go and battle over three medals. De Clercq follows Nijs like his shadow. Nijs asking De Clercq to take over and try to recatch Wellens. The gap now is 9". Nijs wants the pace to be higher to make sure their countrymen Berden and Vervecken do not come back in their rear wheel.

13.08 CET
Nijs works his way for De Clercq with Wellens 12" ahead. There are still more than half of the laps to go. Pontoni parks his bike in the crowd and in doing that making De Knegt fall down too.

13.11 CET
This looks more like a Belgian championship than a world championship. Wellens passes the line 18" ahead of his fellow countrymen De Clercq and Nijs. De Clercq wants Nijs to go faster, but Nijs seems not be able to better than he does at the moment. The group pontoni as allready 1.20" behind. Behind De Clercq and Nijs it are Berden and Vervecken completing the first five in the race.

13.15 CET
Wellens seem to be having a super day. After his puncture he switched bikes and came back in the lead within a lap. Sapnish rider David Seco fighting his own battle in the background makes contact with the mud too.

13.18 CET De Clercq leaves Nijs behind and now is on his way to Wellens. At least that seems to be his plan. He now is 21" behind the man from Maaseik. Dad Wellens siding the course is very nervous. "The race still is not done." Three laps to go, Nijs does have a hard time. His sleepy this weekend Wellens does have the time of his life. He rides like it does not cost him any problems. In the past he won twice the rainbowjersey in the U23 category and finished in the same category twice second (behind Nijs).

13.23 CET
Nijs is passed by by Vervecken and finds himself just outside the medals at fourth rank. He is 50" behind Wellens. He won so far 15 times this season and was very eager to crown his season with the gold of Monopoli.

13.24 CET, two laps to go
De Clercq follows Wellens at 33", Vervecken at 53", Nijs at 1.00". Wellens does not think twice and rides on on his road to glory. Berden at 1.22" at fifth place. Pontoni passes the line in sixth place.

13.21 CET
Sven Nijs wants a medal too and fights his way back to Erwin Vervecken. Wellens blows back the wind which blows in his face and flies his way towards his golden goal. Wellens has allready a long carreer and learned a lot during this. He also learned how to really rest. yesterday he slept for some hours during the day too.

13.38 CET, last lap
The bell ringing to mark down the entering of the last lap is hardly hearable, Wellens races by. De Clercq still is in silver position, ahead of Vervecken (at 1.13") and Nijs (at 1.18"). Wellens shows of his strenght in his easy riding.

13.34 CET, in the last lap
The muscled Kempenaar from the northern part of Belgium, yet only 24 years old outclasses the other competitors. he rides carefully through the field. In this last lap he again changes his bike to cross the finishline with a clean bike to favour his sponsors. Wellens succeed in winning the gold.

Bart Wellens comments after his win: "Every one is speachless, me too. When I punctured I thought all was lost, but I came back that fast. I did not feel anything I could go on and on and on. I tried to go really fast in the first two laps, as planned."

Erwin Vervecken (bronze medal): "Yes, in a way this is a bronze of the revanche. I was sure pressured by all the comments on my form. I allready prooved I belong here. In the first lap a lot has happened, punctures and falls. In the beginning I allready saw that Bart was really really strong. And am very happy a teammate has won."

Mario De Clercq (silver medal): "Silver was the best I could do today. Wellens was simply the best. I did have some problems with my chain, but I do not want to blaim it on that. I am satisfied with my sixth time on a worlds podium."


1. Bart Wellens (Bel)

2. Mario de Clercq (Bel)

3. Erwin Vervecken (Bel)

4. Ben Berden (Bel)

5. Sven Nijs (Bel)

6. Franšis Mourey (Fra)

7. Daniele Pontoni (Ita)

8. Tom Vannoppen (Bel)

9. Jiri Pospisil (Cze)

10. Arnaud Labbe (Fra)

11. Dariusz Gil (Pol)

12. Petr Dlask (Cze)

13. David Seco Amundarain (Spa)

14. Gerben de Knegt (Hol)

15. Maarten Nijland (Hol)

16. Alessandro Fontano (Ita)

17. Richard Groenendaal (Hol)

18. Dominique Arnould (Fra)

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