42nd International Cyclo-cross
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IN THE LAST LAP ...

The blisters on the hand of world champion Thalita De Jong, a souvenir from the uneven meadow of Renaix, didn't wait long to open again during the forty minutes of effort in the bumpy grass around the rue de Moutfort, on a course that has never been as dry. The sunny weather of the last weeks has had its impact on the course, transforming it rather into a replica of Paris-Roubaix than into a muddy cyclo-cross loop. Despite the difficult conditions, the riders did a tremendous job as usual. Even though the two main favourites Thalita De Jong and Michael Vanthourenhout won in the elite categories, the opposition was higher than expected. Except from the novice race where Jang Leyder won solo, the other races were all decided in the very last lap after a fierce battle: De Jong against Brand in the women's race, the IKO-Enertherm against Van Gils in the junior category, or the Vanthourenhouts in a duel among brothers in the elite men race, just like last year.

12th GRAND-PRIX DE LA COMMUNE DE CONTERN

Dry and fast course Dry and fast course
It could have been the effect of the Skoda-Cross-Cup, the new series creating an overall classification among a certain number of Luxemburg's cross races. It could have been the effect of the cyclo-cross world championships 2017 on home ground in Bieles coming soon. Or it was simply the effect of the splendid automn weather in Contern: while the number of spectators was reasonably high, the 20 home riders among the 55 contenders lining up from 8 different countries made the Grand-prix de Contern one of the most popular editions in its long history. Gusty Bausch was at the front for Luxemburg after the start, but of course the foreign riders dominated the race as of the first pedal strokes: former Belgian champion Daan Soete was the first to dive into the woods, leading ahead of Dutchman Patrick Van Leeuwen, German Marcel Meisen and, of course, the Vanthourenhout brothers, who dominated the race 12 months ago.

Dieter Vanthourenhout leading the race Dieter Vanthourenhout leading the race
They didn't wait long to strike again: Dieter Vanthourenhout accelerated during the second lap and took a few meters advantage on the chasers: brother Michael, Soete, Meisen and Van Leeuwen, as well as Cezch riders Radomir Simunek and Michal Malik and a fantastic Gusty Bausch, who managed to hang on to the first group. The defending champion increased his lead during the third lap, while the chasing group exploded: the younger Vanthourenhout was a bit more than 10 seconds late with Meisen and Soeten, then followed Simunek on his own and the trio Malik, De Clercq and Van Leeuwen. Gusty Bausch was still in contact with the first riders in ninth position, followed at reasonable distance by Lex Reichling in 15ht spot, ahead of National Champion Christian Helmig. Vincent Dias Dos Santos didn't have a really good start into the race and he battled around the 20th position, together with riders like Kenneth Van Compernolle and Felix Drumm.

Marcel Meisen and Michael Vanthourenhout Marcel Meisen and Michael Vanthourenhout
Marcel Meisen seemed strong and led the chase behind the leader Dieter Vanthourenhout, with brother Michael in his wheel. The U23 world champion from last year certainly is one of the in-form riders this season and won the race in Kruibeke on the day before, but he had to battle hard against world champion Wout Van Aert for this won. Undoubtedly, he didn't have his best legs during the beginninf ot the race and was quite content to follow Meisen, being in a quite qood tactical position. Behind them, Daan Soete was losing some ground, while Van Leeuwen had bridged up to Radomir Simunek, more than 30 seconds late on the leader though. Gusty Bausch was still riding in seventh place after three laps, but behind him, a trio of riders from the Colba-Superano Ham maintained the pressure: Quincy Vens, Vinnie Braet and Kenneth Van Compernolle were slowly moving up through the field after a medium rated start, together with Angelo De Clercq. More than 30 seconds late on Bausch, Christian Helmig was riding in a small group with Felix Drumm, Marvin Schmidt and Hendrik Sweeck, while Lex Reichling was still ranked ahead of Vincent Dias Dos Santos and Felix Keiser.

Good performance by Gusty Bausch Good performance by Gusty Bausch
The decision fell at around mid-race: an error from Marcel Meisen in the forest and then a small crash on the barriers and Vanthourenhout the younger was gone, chasing behind his leading brother. Michael had found his winning legs from the day before again and it took him only half a lap to bridge up to Dieter, both of them leading now with half a minute advantage on Meisen and only a few more on Soete. Behind them, Radomir Simunek had impressed the spectators by being the only one to ride up the stairs on his bike, but the former world-cup winner had to quit the race a little bit later after a crash, just like Luxemburg's Vincent Dias Dos Santos.

Michael Vanthourenhout wins Michael Vanthourenhout wins
The positions stayed the same now with the Vanthourenhouts leading the race by a solid margin, and the decision for the win between the two of them fell during the last lap: Michael was riding fast at the front and Dieter wasn't able to follow his speed, after all the efforts he had done at the beginning of the race. 8 years after having won his very first cyclo-cross race at the Grand-prix COMAT in Contern as a novice, Michael Vanthourenhout also won the race in the elite category in 2016, 17 seconds ahead of his brother Dieter. Another 30 seconds later, Marcel Meisen managed to hold off Soete for second place, while Patrick Van Leeuwen finished alone in fithe position. Behind the team-mates Vens, Van Compernolle and Braet, Gusty Bausch took a great thenth place in the race, battling hard until the end with Angelo De Clercq and Michal Malik. With this outstanding performance, the rider from Brouch managed to retain the leader in the Skoda-Cross-Cup competition with one small point advantage on the winner of the day, and he has now a solid advance on the other home riders Christian Helmig (15th today), Felix Keiser (22nd) and Lex Reichling (18th)

29th GRAND-PRIX COMAT

Battle between Thalita De Jong and Lucinda Brand Battle between Thalita De Jong and Lucinda Brand
With 70 riders lining up, le Grand-prix COMAT 2016 was also one of the most crowded in its 30 year-long history, certainly concerning the female participation: 20 contenders at the start, among them 7 riders from Luxembourg. With the presence of the rainbow Thalita De Jong, the quality was also there and just like last year, the young Dutch rider took the lead of the race as of the first lap. After 2.600 meters, she had 10 seconds advantage on her team-mate Lucinda Brand, another roady trying out on cyclo-cross, and even more on Joyce Vanderbeken, Karen Verhestraeten and Linda Ter Beek, the next chasers. Edie Rees, leader of the Skoda-Cross-Cup, was leading the competition of the home riders ahead of Nathalie Lamborelle, Fabienne Schaus and four times winner of the Grand-prix COMAT, Suzie Godart.

Thalita De Jong wins the women's race Thalita De Jong wins the women's race
But the opposition was bigger than expected for the world champion, with Lucinda Brand bridging up to her during the second lap and even taking the lead. The double Dutch National champion on the road has been one of the surprises of the beginning of the season, taking second place at the Superprestige in Gieten among others, was technically weaker than De Jong but nevertheless managed to hold the pressure on her team-mate. The two riders battled hard during the rest of the race with lots of accelerations and position changing, each of them trying to take the advantage on her favourite part of the course. Behind them, Vanderbeken, Verhestraeten and Ter Beek were riding in positions 3 to 5, while Luxemburg's MTB National champion Fabienne Schaus was moving up strongly, having passed Edie Rees and Nathalie Lamborelle into a Top 10 position. In the penultimate lap, Lucinda Brand took the lead of the race after a mechanical problem for De Jong, but the world champion managed to come back again in the last lap for an expected sprint decision. But with 200 metres to go, right after the barriers, Lucinda Brand also had a problem with her chain, forcing her to dismount and finish the race by foot. World champion Thalita De Jong thus won the Grand-prix COMAT for the second year in a row, after a race full of suspense. The girl with the bright smile had around 30 seconds advantage on Lucinda Brand and nearly two minutes on Joyce Vanderbeken in third spot. Fabienne Schaus was best home rider at a very good seventh place, one minute ahead of Nathalie Lamborelle in ninth spot.

Jarne De Meyer winner in the junior category Jarne De Meyer winner in the junior category
The junior race was equally full of situation changes and suspense: the IKO-Enertherm placed four of its riders at the front right after the start, but they were joined later by two more contenders, Belgian Maxim Van Gils and Frenchman Valentin Remondet. Jonas Smet was leading the race after one lap ahead of his team-mates Perry Frijters and Jarne de Meyer, followed by Valentin Remondet and Hugo Boulanger, than by Lander Tibacx. Luxemburg's Arthur Kluckers, CÚdric Pries and Felix Schreiber were not far behind with Maxim Van Gils. All this riders regrouped during lap two, before the IKO-Enertherm accelerated again. The home riders were dropped after that, together with Boulanger and Tibacx, leaving Frijters, Smet, De Meyer, Van Gils and Remondet in the mix for the win. During the last lap, Maxim Van Gils managed to leave the others behind him and seemed in contention for the win, but he crashed in the very last turn of the course and was passed by Jarne De Meyer on the run into the finish. De Meyer wins the Grand-prix COMAT for juniors ahead of Van Gils and his Dutch team-mate Perry Frijters. Between the home riders, the battle was also very tight and it was only on the finishing straight that Felix Schreiber managed to leave Arthur Kluckers and Cedric Pries behind him, the three of them taking positions 6 to 8 at the finish.

Jang Leyder takes the novice's win Jang Leyder takes the novice's win
In the novice category, there was a little bit less suspense: after a short break of Jordy Wagner, leading the race after one lap, Jan Leyder took command of the race with Frenchman Maxence Bousselet and Loic Bettendorf, winner of the race in Bruch and thus leader of the Skoda-Cross-Cup in this category. Behind them Pablo Blatt and Julien Brust were riding ahead of a small groupe containing Tom Paquet, Mik Esser and William Lecerf. Jang Leyder was the strongest in the second half of the race, leaving Bousselet and Bettendorf behind him for a nice solo victory. Leyder won the race 32 secondes ahead of Bousselet and one minute clear of Loic Bettendorf, while Belgain William Lecerf was able to take fourth position ahead of Brust and Esser, two more home riders.

THE CYCLO-CROSS DE CONTERN THROUGH THE LENS OF CARLO BIWER


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