January 9, 2003, (Lievin, FRA) -Belgian rider Sven Nijs won in LiÃƒË†vin the third round of the UCI Cyclo Cross World Cup. In the last two laps Nijs took advantage of his Rabobank teammate Richard Groenendaal of the Netherlands. The Dutchman was very unlucky in LiÃƒË†vin. Halfway the race, when he was in leading position, Groenendaal had a flat tire, just a few metres after the material zone. At that moment Groenendaal was outstanding and he had an advantage of 30 seconds. Sven Nijs profited from Groenendaal's misfortune and took over the lead with 15 seconds advantage. But Groenendaal did not give up and caught his teammate. In the two finals laps the Dutchman fell three times allowing Nijs to win. After round third, Groenendaal is still leading with 150 points, five points more than Belgian rider Bart Wellens.
Dutch Champion Gerben de Knegt had the best start, but the Rabobank rider fell after a few hundred metres. He was not the only unlucky racer. Also Bart Wellens had his part of misfortune. In the first lap the Belgian winner of the first World Cup round had a flat tire and that placed him on the very last position in the race. In front, the other Belgian favorites tried to make the gap. Sven Nijs, Mario de Clercq and Tom Vannoppen were in front together with Richard Groenendaal, the World Cup leader. In the first lap Tom Vannoppen could not hold the others and even Sven Nijs lost the contact with Groenendaal and World champion De Clercq.
After these four riders followed Belgian Sven Vanthourenhout, Czech Petr Dlask, surprising American Jonathan Page and Belgian Ben Berden. Unlucky Bart Wellens was in 38th after the first lap. At the end of the second lap Richard Groenendaal broke away from Mario de Clercq who paid the price for his illness of the last two days. Halfway the race the difference between Groenendaal and Sven Nijs, who passed De Clercq, was 30 seconds.
“At that moment I felt very strong and I was almost sure of the victory. But I had a flat tyre, only twenty metres after the material zone. I had to ride half a lap on that flat tyre and so I lost my position. I lost a lot of my possibilities in that lap. Instead of the first position I had to pursue Nijs. That was very hard, especially mentally,” said Groenendaal after the race.
After the two Rabobank riders the other Belgians fought for the best places. Bart Wellens showed his many fans that he could have won the race. Lap by lap he made progress and eventually he finished in third place. Mario de Clercq was not able to follow Wellens and finished in fourth place.
Surprising Frenchman John Gadret ended in seventh place. The regional rider from Roubaix was encouraged by the French public, which is still waiting for a new cycle cross champion.
At this moment the Belgian riders are still outstanding with only one competitor: Richard Groenendaal. Sven Nijs was again the best and celebrated in LiÃƒË†vin his 13th victory of the season. “I had a lot of problems in the material zone and could not hold Groenendaal in the first half of the race. After his misfortune I got wings. In the two last laps I took more risk and that was the reason of some slippers of Groenendaal. I was lucky, but in the two last laps I was the strongest.”
After the third round of the 2002-2003 World Cup trophy Richard Groenendaal is still leading with five points advantage on Bart Wellens. Sven Nijs is third in the ranking. Groenendaal was complaining after the race. “Before the start I would have signed for this result, but I could have won this race. I was flying, but after that misfortune, I could not find my rhythm again. The last two races will be exciting. I like the course in Wetzikon, but in the last race in Hoogerheide you get double points. The 2002-2003 World Cup Cyclo Cross will have a lot of suspense that is sure.”
1. NIJS Sven 000:58.02 60
2. GROENENDAAL Richard +0.19 50
3. WELLENS Bart
4. DE CLERCQ Mario
5. BERDEN Ben