I just watched the elite men - and a bit of the women, the tiny bit they showed - and, instead of watching Sven Nys ride away with the Championship, it was a nail-biter to the end. There is something about championship races that make them like no other races. When there is a title on the line, the races tend to be overly nervous which can lead to some interesting racing.
It started off with a false start when a few took off before the gun. It looked to be led by Klaas Vantornout (super-mega-skinny guy from Fidea) and Erwin Vervecken. It was strange to watch them all swarm around Nys who looked to be still waiting for the official start. Almost immediately Nys was back up to 16th place within the first turn on the course. After a bit, he was finally back up with Bart Aernouts, Vantornout , Niels Albert and Vervecken. (On a side note, while watching the coverage of a recent race that Klaas Vantornout won, it was funny to hear the commentator mention that he heard Klaas eats five meals a day. When you see how unnaturally skinny the guy is, it's really hard to believe it's true. I guess he's just lucky.)
Just when it looked to be like the shape of the race had been set with Nys, Vervecken, Bart Wellens, and Niels Albert (beloften -U23 guy who apparently has a huge attitude but the legs to back it) well off the front, Albert got a front flat. He couldn't have been farther from the pit though. Along with probably all the Belgian fans watching the race, I wrote him off for a podium spot. But somehow the kid found the strength to claw his way back up to the front. Of all the chasers behind the lead group, only Bart Aernauts was able to catch a ride on Albert's wheel back up to the front of the race. But within two seconds of making contact, Aernauts was ditched, leaving the original foursome off the front to fight it out for the win.
And fight they did, all the way up to the last two minutes of the race. It was attack after attack for the last lap. It was interesting to see the gaps instantly form between the guys with each attack. It was also fun, from a psychological perspective, to see more mistakes made by them on the last lap than they made the whole race. For instance, watching Wellens inadvertantly gap himself when he slipped on a power climb forcing him to put a foot down.
Finally Nys made the key move by getting to the front before the last sand running section. (If he would have let Wellens get to the run first, he may have been able to gap Nys on the sand and hold it to the end.) Once off the sand, Nys motored away on the multiple manmade bridged dips and turfy terrain, hitting the pavement with a five second gap over Wellens, the only guy who was able to semi-mark Nys' move. Albert rounded out the podium by beating Vervecken to the line by a couple of seconds.
I'm sure the websites have a better rendition of the race, but i figured I'd let you know what it looked like from an American's perspective.
Happy Drie Koningen Dag! I think it was yesterday, but i got a group of singers at my door today. To celebrate the three kings who visited Jesus when he was born, groups of kids go door-to-door to sing. Luckily I knew of this tradition so i had my handful of coins ready to throw in the jar.