Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Welcome to Wallay World!: Jens Wallays wins La Côte Picarde Nations Cup

Vive le France! The Griswolds arrived at Wally World Europe! Just in time to see Belgian Jens Wallays to attack his breakaway mates with one kilometer to go and take out the 23rd La Côte Picarde ahead of a sprinting Thomas Boudat and Soren Kragh Andersen. To those of you who are new, Wallays might sound familiar because Jens' big brother is Jelle Wallays, who rides for Topsport Vlaanderen. Jens is no slouch either as he is the current Belgian U23 RR Champion but let's get back to the race...

A breakaway of 5 spent the majority of the race off the front that included Ryan Mullen (Ireland), Luka Pibernik (Slovenia), Jon Dibben (GB), Mario Gonzalez (Spain) and Sergiy Kozachenko (Ukraine). The group got a maximum of 7 minutes over the opening flat kilometers before the race hit a few bumps. With over 80 kilometers to the line, the wind and tight roads were already wreaking havoc on the peloton with riders including Ignazio Moser (Italy) being dropped away. Kozachenko dropped away from the breakaway, who continued to chug along to the tune of "I think we can, I think we can...".

With 50 kilometers to go, the gap was down to 3'25" and it would begin to drop like a stone. When the race crossed the finish line for the first time to do two finishing circuits, the breakaway began to blow up. First it was Ryan Mullen quickly followed by Jon Dibben to leave just Pibernik and Gonzalez out front. Gonzalez, who rides on the Polish Active Jet team, was putting in a great ride with Pibernik, who is slated to join Lampre for 2015 as a neo-pro. While Gonzalez was strong, Pibernik was stronger and the Slovenian pulled away from the Spaniard with 30 kilometers to go on one of the two uphills on the finishing circuit. When he crossed the line to take the final 18.6 kilometer lap, Pibernik only had 55 seconds on the peloton, who was in full buzzsaw mode, spitting riders out all over the place.

With just 9 kilometers to go, the feisty Slovenian was brought back by the peloton but just because the race was back together with a group of nearly 50 did not mean that it was headed towards a bunch sprint. With about 6 kilometers to go on a rise in the course, 9 riders were drawn out including Jens Wallays (Belgium), Thomas Boudat (France), Soren Kragh Andersen (Denmark), Simon Pellaud (Switzerland), Mikel Aristi (Spain), Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev (Kazakhstan), Jan Dieteren (Germany), Gregor Mühlberger (Austria) and Kirill Yatsevich (Russia). It was a strange amalgam of riders with some sprinters, some climbers and some rouleurs thrown in there but they worked well together as the race entered the final kilometers. In the final kilometer, Wallays attack out of a roundabout and nobody in the group was taking up the impetus to chase the Belgian with a few looking at Boudat, the current omnium World Champion on the track, because of his big turn of speed and not wanting to drag him to the line.

In the end, it was Wallays who was able to enjoy the final meters to take an impressive victory while Boudat and Kragh lead in the remnants of the breakaway. Right on the breakaway's coattails were the peloton, lead in by French Basque Loïc Chetout, who finished on the same time as the riders in the breakaway. Full results of the race can be seen on DirectVelo. With the win, Belgium took over the lead in the Nations Cup classification by 11 points over the Dutch and 17 over the Suisse.

It would be important to note some of the riders who came in way down and were time cut that included wunder-sprinter Nicolas Marini, Ignazio Moser, Mads Pedersen, Dieter Bouvry and Marc Soler. Marini was involved in a crash with one-lap to go and injured his hand, which was not seriously fortunately.

1. Jens Wallays (Belgium)
2. Thomas Boudat (France)
3. Soren Kragh Andersen (Denmark)
4. Simon Pellaud (Switzerland)
5. Mikel Aristi (Spain)
6. Bakhtiyar Kozhatayev (Kazakhstan)
7. Kirill Yatsevich (Russia)
8. Jan Dieteren (Germany)
9. Gregor Mühlberger (Austria)
10. Loïc Chetout (France)

The spring Nations Cups end this Saturday in Zeeland, the Netherlands with the ZLM Tour, which will included some dykes, wind and gutter racing, just in case anyone hasn't had their fill yet.

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