Belgium star takes cyclo-cross glory

BELGIAN ace Ronny Poelvoorde grabbed the glory when Ipswich hosted a major cyclo-cross event.Poelvoorde saw off the challenge from more than 70 rivals to win the elite race at this year's Ipswich International.

BELGIAN ace Ronny Poelvoorde grabbed the glory when Ipswich hosted a major cyclo-cross event.

Poelvoorde saw off the challenge from more than 70 rivals to win the elite race at this year's Ipswich International.

Big crowds were drawn to the event, staged by Ipswich Bicycle Club on a tough and demanding circuit based around the Suffolk College site and Alexandra Park.

Heavy rain throughout the day made the course very soft and muddy, which added to the excitement as the riders fought to remain in control of their machines.

Around 300 riders were in action – in six categories – including many of the sport's top names from Britain and Europe.

Belgium's Geert Vandalle – runner-up for the previous three years – was firm pre-race favourite to scoop the £800 top prize.

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It was Vandalle who set the early pace alongside England's Barrie Clarke (Giant racing) and Ian Wilkinson (Science in Sport.com).

The chasing group of ten riders included the two leading under-23 competitors Liam Killeen (Trek UK) and Steven Roach (Rugby Velo) plus Vandalle's countryman and team-mate Poelvoorde.

As the race progressed it was Vandalle who started to fall away from the frontrunners as he struggled to cope with the extremely muddy conditions.

Clarke and Wilkinson steadily built a lead and looked set to scrap it out for the spoils. Behind the leading duo Poelvoorde, who was finding the conditions to his liking, started to close the gap and after reaching the fading Vandalle he put in a huge effort and bridged the gap to the leading two.

With just under three laps remaining Poelvoorde put down the power and opened up a slender lead over the chasing Clarke and Wilkinson. It was a move that proved to be decisive as Wilkinson

started to fall away.

Clarke eventually had to settle for second spot as Poelvoorde showed the guts necessary to hang on and record his first UK win – 24 seconds ahead of his nearest rival.

Local interest focused mainly on the veterans category with Ipswich Bicycle Club member Dave Copeland. A keen runner as well as cyclo-cross rider, the steep Alexandra Park course suited Copeland as he found running up some of the banks to be faster than riding and he finished strongly in tenth place – his highest-ever position in a national event.

Not to be outdone by their older counterparts, around 20 under-12s also took to the start line to battle their way around a shortened version of the tough course.

Riders as young as four, some still using stabilisers, raced around the circuit to rousing applause. The winner on the day was 11-year-old Luke Newby from Diss.

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