Bart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea) regained his good spirits in the mud of Essen, Belgium, as he won the fourth round of the Gazet van Antwerpen Trophy. A mudddy Wellens took the victory ahead of returning Belgian champion Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) and Rob Peeters (Telenet-Fidea). Not many would've predicted this podium before the race, and Wellens certainly wasn't one of them.
"Before the race, I stated that if I won here, it would be a miracle. I didn't come here to win but for a top-five result. Winning here is the max," Wellens said. "There are no words to describe my feelings. I never thought this could happen."
Wellens led the contenders at the front right from the start, although Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor) intervened shortly with a blistering fast lap before pulling out of the race. Wellens teamed up with Albert up front, and only Nys was able to fight his way back through the mud to the front of the race.
Wellens picked up the three bonus points after two laps, Albert snagged two and Nys got the remaining point. Wellens accelerated in the fourth lap, and Albert lost ground. For two laps, Wellens and Nys fought a good, old fashioned duel with each other. Wellens was on the losing side as he dropped off Nys during the fifth lap.
Nys gathered six seconds, then 12 seconds by halfway through the penultimate lap until the race was turned up side down when Nys suffered a mechanical.
"Two laps before the end, I was getting cold and cramping. I wasn't able to keep up with Nys, and I focused on second place. Suddenly Nys was standing still and right away I thought about avoiding mechanicals myself. I switched bikes immediately but struggled a lot until I finally reached the asphalt of the finish line," Wellens described how he made it to his first big victory in two seasons.
Nys' bad luck favored Wellens and Albert, who both stormed to great results in their comeback race. Wellens had skipped last week's races to sort out health issues and regain confidence. Albert had been out of competition with a wrist injury for four weeks and was more than happy with his second place. "The first 45 minutes I felt good, but then I struggled twice before colliding with a spectator who waved to his wife at home," Albert said. "My wrist feels a bit sore right now but that's ok," Albert said.
Rob Peeters rode in fourth place before Nys abandoned the race, and suddenly he moved onto the podium. "I'm really satisfied. This type of course suits me as you have to keep battling to keep the speed going. It's so incredibly hard, and only the Belgian championships in Hamme-Zogge can compare with this. I'm glad I made it," Peeters said.
Pauwels was fourth at just over one minute after Wellens. Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) was sixth ahead of yet another Belgian Jan Denuwelaere (Style & Concept), who captured his best result in a C1-race. The first non-Belgian rider in Essen was Czech rider Martin Zlamalik (KDL-Trans) in seventh place.
After the mechanical forced Nys out of the race while he was leading with one to go, he said, "I was already thinking about raising my arms for the win, but this is a mechanical sport." Immediately Nys pulled out, even though he would have still gained a decent amount of points in Essen.
"I was already trailing Pauwels by a lot of points and this would certainly have put me further back in the classification. I needed to win and that was no longer possible. Continuing my race wasn't an option in order not to jeopardize tomorrow's [World Cup] race," Nys said.
While bad luck explained what happened to Nys, that wasn't the case for the distant 14th place finish from world champion Zdenek Stybar, who got by far his worst result of the season. The Czech man never found his rhythm in the mud in Essen and he probably preferred to just ride off after the finish although he said, "What can I say? I had no explosiveness, no force. I need to race to get back, to gain confidence. My form isn't bad, but when some guys passed me and I was riding in 10th place, my race was over." Later Stybar tweeted that he felt ashamed to perform that badly in front of so many people.
American rider Jonathan Page (Planetbike) finished just one spot behind the world champion in Essen and his 15th place in these tough muddy conditions showed that Page is working his way back up.
Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) strengthened his lead in the GVA-Trophy thanks to his fourth place in Essen while rivals Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) and world champion Zdenek Stybar (Quick Step Team) didn't score high points in the mud bath. Pauwels now has a lead of 22 points on Stybar, while Nys tumbles to fourth overall at 37 points after Pauwels. The overall win seems certain for Pauwels, but at the finish line the coy Belgian wasn't exactly cheering out his joy as he was shivering from the cold.
"The more we reached the end of the race, the colder I got. I'm not so good at this, so I tried to finish as close as possible to my rivals. There was a lot of running, but not too much. Too bad for Nys. He showed he's better than me in these circumstances. Hopefully there aren't too many of these races anymore," Pauwels said.
Tomorrow may be a near copy of today's mudbath in Essen. Besides the stronger line-up of riders in Namur, in the Walloon region of Belgium, the World Cup round will also include more climbing, which should benefit Pauwels. After the race in Essen, 10th place finisher on the day Sven Vanthourenhout (Sunweb-Revor) tweeted that he took over the spot in the Belgian selection for Namur from cousin Dieter Vanthourenhout (BKCP-Powerplus), who didn't finish the race in Essen.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Bart Wellens (Bel) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team||0:59:04|
|2||Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus||0:00:25|
|3||Rob Peeters (Bel) Telenet-Fidea||0:00:39|
|4||Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb Revor||0:01:05|
|5||Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team||0:01:12|
|6||Jan Denuwelaere (Bel) Style & Concept Cycling Team||0:01:18|
|7||Martin Zlamalik (Cze) KDL-Landbouwkrediet||0:01:34|
|8||Bart Aernouts (Bel) Rabo - Giant Offroad Team.||0:01:40|
|9||Gerben De Knegt (Ned) Rabo - Giant Offroad Team.||0:01:46|
|10||Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Landbouwkrediet||0:02:33|
|11||Thijs Van Amerongen (Ned) AA Drink/ Leontien.nl Pro||0:02:49|
|12||Kenneth Van Compernolle (Bel) Style & Concept Cycling Team||0:03:04|
|13||Mitchell Huenders (Ned)||0:03:14|
|14||Zdenek Stybar (Cze)||0:03:23|
|15||Jonathan Page (USA) Planet Bike/Blue||0:03:33|
|16||Joeri Adams (Bel) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team||0:03:55|
|17||Dave De Cleyn (Bel)||0:04:07|
|18||Mariusz Gil (Pol) Baboco - Revor Cycling Team||0:04:12|
|19||Kevin Cant (Bel)||0:05:01|
|20||Jim Aernouts (Bel) Sunweb Revor||0:05:16|
|21||Eddy Van Ijzendoorn (Ned) Orange Babies Cycling Team||0:06:06|
|22||Patrick Gaudy (Bel) The Barracuda Company||0:06:19|
|23||Jimmy Tielens (Bel) Team DW Bikes||0:07:15|
|-1lap||Bart Hofman (Bel)|
|-2laps||Dries Pauwels (Bel) Van Goethem - Prorace - cycling team|
|-2laps||Stijn Huys (Bel) Orange Babies Cycling Team|
|-2laps||Jelle Wallays (Bel)|
|-3laps||Bart Verschueren (Bel) KDL-Landbouwkrediet|
|-5laps||Dimitriy Sorokin (Let)|
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb Revor||98||pts|
|2||Zdenek Stybar (Cze)||76|
|3||Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team||67|
|4||Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet||61|
|5||Bart Aernouts (Bel) Rabo - Giant Offroad Team.||59|
|6||Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus||57|
|7||Bart Wellens (Bel) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team||50|
|8||Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb Revor||46|
|9||Joeri Adams (Bel) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team||36|
|10||Mariusz Gil (Pol) Baboco - Revor Cycling Team||33|
|10||Thijs van Amerongen (Ned)||33|
|10||Jan Denuwelaere (Bel)||33|
|10||Rob Peeters (Bel) Telenet-Fidea||33|
|14||Gerben De Knegt (Ned) Rabo - Giant Offroad Team.||31|
|15||Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Landbouwkrediet||30|
|16||Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus||25|
|17||Vincent Baestaens (Bel) Landbouwkrediet||23|
|18||Kenneth Van Compernolle (Bel) Style & Concept Cycling Team||15|
|19||Martin Zlamalik (Cze) KDL-Landbouwkrediet||14|
|20||Radomir Simunek (Cze) BKCP-Powerplus||13|
|20||Marcel Meisen (Ger) BKCP-Powerplus||13|
|22||Mitchell Huenders (Ned)||12|
|23||Jonathan Page (USA) Planet Bike/Blue||8|
|24||Robert Gavenda (Svk) KDL Trans-Landbouwkrediet||7|
|25||Tom Van den Bosch||5|
|25||Thijs Al (Ned) AA Drink/ Leontien.nl Pro||5|
|27||Patrick Gaudy (Bel) The Barracuda Company||4|
|27||Dave De Cleyn (Bel)||4|
|29||Simon Zahner (Swi)||2|
|29||Sascha Weber (Ger)||2|
|29||Jim Aernouts (Bel)||2|
|29||Kevin Cant (Bel)||2|
|33||Marco Bianco (Ita) L'Arcobaleno Carraro Team||1|