Cyclo-cross world champion Niels Albert continued his utter dominance of the circuit at the GvA Trophy opener in Namur, besting a rejuvenated Sven Nys and first-lap aggressor Zdenek Stybar on the first-time parcours.
"This is the toughest circuit I've ever raced on, so I've suffered a bit today. It is a beautiful course and location, but extremely tough. It's a nice victory," Albert said.
Albert noticed the vastly improved performance of Nys, who was positively anonymous in the previous races in the season. Albert was confident his compatriot would be back battling for the wins sooner rather than later.
"Sven is a marvelous athlete and he'll make connection pretty soon. I think we'll see an exciting duel during one of the next few weeks," Albert said. "I've got five wins under my belt, among which two big ones. I'm aiming to win as much big races as possible. To be on top of the regularity competitions I need to ride a consistent season."
The Gazet van Antwerpen series visited the French-speaking part of Belgium for the first time, challenging riders with an old-school style race around the famed Citadel. The course, heavy with mud and an unusual amount of climbing favoured those who could pace their efforts.
Racing under the falling leaves on a breezy, sunny autumn day, Zdenek Stybar (Fidea) launched the first dangerous move after taking the hole-shot.
Stybar opened up a ten second advantage, but by the end of the first lap the extremely steep and frequent climbs wore on the Czech rider, and Albert made the juncture with Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Projob).
With superior form, Albert needed only to push the pace on the cobbled climb to dislodge Stybar. Vantornout held on only a little longer as the world champion continued to up the tempo.
The surprise of the race came from behind, as Belgian champion Sven Nys, who had been a shadow of his former self in the Treviso World Cup, led the chase. Over the course of the third lap, he succeeded in reeling in both Stybar and Vantornout, and then leaving them behind.
During the second half of the race Nys was consistent on the climbs and took risks on the descents in order to get back to Albert, but 30 second gap to Albert proved too big for Nys to close, and the Landbouwkrediet-Colnago star had to overcome a head-over-heels tumble on a descent as he rode into second place.
"I took that track a couple of times, but it turned out there was a rock and suddenly I was flying through the air. I received a knock and we'll have to check that. Too bad I crashed because I was going at a good rhythm and every lap I went faster downhill. I'm satisfied and I'll try to get closer to Albert every week. I enjoyed this race," Nys said.
The Belgian champion greeted the crowds as he crossed the line some 40 seconds behind Albert. Afterwards he thanked his fans who supported him today. "They appreciated that I showed grit and I really could make use of their support," Nys said.
Stybar and Vantornout provided the crowds with an exciting battle for third until the Belgian stumbled on the stairs allowing Stybar a ten second lead he would never relinquish.
The Czech champion explained, "I didn't have good legs today and finished third on such a day is good. It was a tough race and I kept something for the next races."
Vantornout chased like a madman, nearly coming to grief several more times en route to fourth place, while Rabobank's Bart Aernouts claimed fifth.
|1||Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP - Powerplus||1:05:15|
|2||Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago||0:00:42|
|3||Zdenek Štybar (Cze) Fidea Cycling Team||0:02:02|
|4||Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Projob||0:02:22|
|5||Bart Aernouts (Bel) Rabobank||0:02:50|
|6||Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team||0:03:21|
|7||Erwin Vervecken (Bel) Revor-Jartazi Continental Team||0:03:45|
|8||Gerben de Knegt (Ned) Rabobank||0:03:52|
|9||Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) BKCP - Powerplus||0:04:10|
|10||Radomír Šimunek (Cze) BKCP - Power Plus||0:04:20|
|11||Christian Heule (Swi) RendementhypoCycling Team||0:04:25|
|12||Enrico Franzoi (Ita) Liquigas||0:04:33|
|13||Jonathan Page (USA) Planet Bike||0:04:45|
|14||Mariusz Gil (Pol) LKS Pom Strzelce Krajenskie||0:04:50|
|15||Jan Soetens (Bel) Revor-Jartazi Continental Team||0:04:56|
|16||Wilant van Gils (Ned) Pro Cycling Team ZZPR.nl-Destil-Merida||0:05:21|
|17||Ian Field (GBr) Hargroves Cycles/Trant/Next/GSI||0:05:22|
|18||Thijs Al (Ned) AA Drink - BeOne||0:05:37|
|19||Quentin Bertholet (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team||0:05:42|
|20||Ben Berden (Bel) Revor-Jartazi Continental Team||0:06:22|
|21||Jan Verstraeten (Bel) KDL Trans NV||0:06:33|
|22||Eddy van IJzendoorn (Ned) AA Drink - BeOne||0:06:47|
|23||Tom Van Den Bosch (Bel) Rendement Hypo Cyclingteam VZW||0:07:33|
|24||Rob Peeters (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago||0:07:45|
|25||Marco Bianco (Ita) L Arcobaleno Carraro Team||0:07:47|
|26||Tim Van Nuffel (Bel) Rendement Hypo Cyclingteam VZW||0:09:10|
|27||Patrick Van Leeuwen (Ned) Het Snelle Wiel||0:09:23|
|28||Thijs Van Amerongen (Ned) Van Vliet EBH Elshof||0:09:34|
|29||Tom De Kort (Bel) AVB - Cycling Team|
|30||Ivar Hartogs (Ned) ZZPR.nl-Destil-Merida|
|31||Bjorn Rondelez (Bel) Lingier Versluys Beachbikers Team|
|DNF||Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Sunweb-Projob|
|DNF||Martin Zlámalík (Cze) Prodoli Racing Team|
|DNF||Gusty Bausch (Lux) LC Kayl|
|DNF||Bart Verschueren (Bel) Revor-Jartazi Continental Team|
|1||Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP - Powerplus||3||pts|
|2||Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Projob||2|
|3||Zdenek Štybar (Cze) Fidea Cycling Team||1|
|1||Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP - Powerplus||28||pts|
|2||Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago||22|
|3||Zdenek Štybar (Cze) Fidea Cycling Team||20|
|4||Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Projob||19|
|5||Bart Aernouts (Bel) Rabobank||16|
|6||Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team||15|
|7||Erwin Vervecken (Bel) Revor-Jartazi Continental Team||14|
|8||Gerben de Knegt (Ned) Rabobank||13|
|9||Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) BKCP - Powerplus||12|
|10||Radomír Šimunek Ml (Cze) BKCP - Power Plus||11|
|11||Christian Heule (Swi) RendementhypoCycling Team||10|
|12||Enrico Franzoi (Ita) Liquigas||9|
|13||Jonathan Page (USA) Planet Bike||8|
|14||Mariusz Gil (Pol) LKS Pom Strzelce Krajenskie||7|
|15||Jan Soetens (Bel) Revor-Jartazi Continental Team||6|
|16||Wilant van Gils (Ned) Pro Cycling Team ZZPR.nl-Destil-Merida||5|
|17||Ian Field (GBr) Hargroves Cycles/Trant/Next/GSI||4|
|18||Thijs Al (Ned) AA Drink - BeOne||3|
|19||Quentin Bertholet (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team||2|
|20||Ben Berden (Bel) Revor-Jartazi Continental Team||1|