Thibau Nys has won a tough edition of the Koppenbergcross. The 20-year-old Belgian broke away in the first lap and held on despite a crash. With the one-man show he has made himself a top favorite for the European Championships this weekend.
With the exception of Laurens Sweeck, all the top players were at the roll call for the first round of the X2O trophy. Just after the start they had to cross the muddy Koppenberg, and that immediately led to problems. Thibau Nys slipped and had to put his foot down, Michael Vanthourenhout was held up and ended up around twentieth position. Lars van der Haar was also less successful. Nys quickly connected with the leader of the race, Eli Iserbyt led the chasing group within a few seconds.
By the start of the second round, Nys had already shaken everyone off. Iserbyt showed flashes by occasionally riding up a hill where the rest had to walk, but the young Nys felt like a fish in water on the terrain where his father won nine times. After two of the five laps, Iserbyt, Vanthourenhout, Van der Haar and the British champion Cameron Mason followed at just over twenty seconds.
Nys seemed to have things under control, until he also made a mistake. In a difficult bend he slipped, Iserbyt and co. got courage again. By the start of the third lap the difference had shrunk to twelve seconds.
In all his enthusiasm, Iserbyt wanted to conquer a stretch of uphill cycling. But he just missed the hill, causing the West Flemish rider to roll back down a few meters with his bicycle. It turned out to be the turning point: Nys suddenly had a 23 second lead again.
On the penultimate passage over the Koppenberg, Iserbyt slipped again, but Nys made no more mistakes. Under the loud encouragement of the crowd – which was rows deep – he held his ground and undoubtedly took the best victory of his young cyclo-cross career. Van der Haar went over Iserbyt and completed the party of Baloise Trek Lions.
Untouchable Van Empel
Earlier in the day, Fem van Empel had also made a demonstration of it among the women. The Dutch world champion took off after just under three minutes on the Koppenberg and recorded her sixth victory of the season, ahead of her compatriot Denise Betsema and the British Anna Kay.