By Brecht Decaluwé in Hoogerheide
What could have been the last intensive training session before the world's turned out instead to be an extremely hard race for some riders as hail and rain hammered the elite men in Hoogerheide, near Antwerp on Sunday.
The weather was so bad that soon after the start, some riders decided to call it a day as they suffered the extremely tough race conditions. Bart Wellens (Fidea) who should feature as the main rival to UCI-leader Sven Nys (Rabobank) at the world's next week, abandoned after two laps and was soon followed by many other big names like Richard Groenendaal (Rabobank), Klaas Vantornout (Fidea) and Sven Vanthourenhout (Sunweb).
By then the front group was already formed with John Gadret (AG2R), Petr Dlask (Fidea), Christian Heule (Stevens), Jonathan Page (Morgan Blue) and world champion Erwin Vervecken (Fidea) standing tall against the stormy weather conditions. Nys, meanwhile, was steadily recovering from a bad start and finding his way to the front group. "I couldn't follow those guys during the first laps; Heule, Page, Gadret, Dlask … they were all riding way too fast for me," Nys said.
While Nys made contact with the race leaders, Heule and Page dropped back. Halfway through the race it was clear that Dlask, Vervecken, Nys and Gadret would battle for victory. One lap later Nys decided that the speed wasn't high enough and he stormed forward to continue solo. "I intentionally continued my efforts as next week someone might force me to dig deep the whole race long. Anyway I'm feeling much stronger now than a few weeks ago," Nys explained.
See the full report, results and photos here.