Sven Nys, a nine-time overall winner of the cyclo-cross Superprestige Series, regained his usual excellent form this weekend with a second place on Saturday in Namur and an impressive win on Sunday in Ruddervoorde.
After a dismal start to the season, everything finally clicked for the Belgian champion this weekend and not only took home his first victory, but became the first rider to beat world champion Niels Albert this season.
"People want to see duels. I'm liking this situation in which I can beat the world champion," Nys said. "Mentally I had the benefit of starting without the idea that I could win.
"I rode at my own pace, taking my time to move up through the field. After bridging up to Niels I noticed that he didn't have an acceleration left in his legs. I tried at one spot and I saw him struggling with his pedals. I felt that I had more traction and one lap later I attacked again, with success," Nys said.
No excuses for Albert
Rival Albert didn't search for excuses and actually seemed happy that he finally got beaten in a race. "I'm happy that I can finally relax a little.
"People raise their expectations as you continue to win and I'm finding out that they don't like someone who dominates," Albert said.
"I wasn't planning on attacking early on, but with Sven starting at the back I was trying to profit from that. Maybe I should've waited. If this, if that... Today Sven was better and then I'm the first to admit that. I think he digested yesterday's race better than I did," Albert said.
Stybar best of the rest, again
The fight for third in Ruddervoorde was between Zdenek Stybar (Fidea Telenet) and Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Projob), who crashed and was replaced by team-mate Sven Vanthourenhout (Sunweb-Projob) later in the race. The Czech champion profited from a better tyre choice on the final laps.
On Saturday the Czech also finished third in Namur. "I saw what tyres Sven was riding with and chose to ride on tyres with even more grip as it started to rain," Stybar said.
"I didn't have time to communicate a similar change to the pit and in the end I couldn't follow him on this technical course," Vanthourenhout said.
Vanthourenhout didn't start too well, but came back to an unexpected fourth place in the end. "Actually I wasn't planning to start today after yesterday's non-performance. I quickly noticed today was much better. Moving up on this technical course wasn't easy so I had to wait for the second half of the race when riders started to drop back," Vanthourenhout said to Cyclingnews.
His team-mate Klaas Vantornout rode a good race but just as in Namur on Saturday, a crash cost him third place. "Today I touched a pole with my pedal, making me lose contact with Stybar.
"Overall I'm content with my weekend as I showed that I'm capable of the podium on two occasions. Too bad I'm missing out on the podium twice though. The difference with Nys and Albert isn't huge but it's just too much to match them nowadays. Details are deciding on who wins the battle for third place," Vantornout said to Cyclingnews.
Page jet-lagging through the weekend
American Jonathan Page rode an anonymous race - unsurprisingly after flying in from the US on Friday - and finished eighteenth. "I didn't have a good start and never got into the rhythm on this course that continues to twist and turn," Page said to Cyclingnews.