Belgian Niels Albert has won the fourth round of the Gazet van Antwerpen Trophy and extended his lead in the overall series. It was the first win for the World Champion since the Superprestige Asper-Gavere on November 15.
Belgian champion Sven Nys came close on ruining Albert's party in the final laps, eventually settling for second place. Local hero Zdenek Stybar - the Czech lives in Essen - liked the cold weather conditions, but had no answer for Albert and finished third ahead of Kevin Pauwels. Dieter Vanthourenhout was best of the rest and claimed fifth place a long way back from the four major protagonists.
"My form is going back up, although it's not perfect yet. It was close in the end but I managed to stand firm and win, which is the most important thing; it was a demanding effort," Albert told Sporza. "My goal was to win a race this weekend and I've succeeded. I wanted to show that the Niels Albert from the start of the season returned, even though I'm not 100 per cent yet."
Using the same tactics as had proved successful in the beginning of the season Albert went full gas right from the start. The World Champion pulled off the hole shot and then never allowed the others to return. Early on Nys was able to stick to Albert's wheel, followed at short distance by Zdenek Stybar, Kevin Pauwels and Klaas Vantornout.
The race saw the introduction of a new Essen course with both fast and muddy sections mixed with some difficult climbs.
Vantornout, one of the few riders who openly expressed his annoyance about a new course, dropped back and had a complete off day, losing his fourth place in the overall series.
Albert, meanwhile, kept hammering in the lead and after two laps he grabbed three bonus points at the intermediate sprint, with Nys, athough still on his wheel, unable to threaten him. Nys even took a breather and let go of Albert, realizing he wasn't able to continue maintain his compatriot's frenetic pace. Stybar and Pauwels bridged up to Nys and halfway the race Albert had ten seconds on the three chasers. Stybar dropped the two Belgians and shortly afterwards Nys switched bikes and rode alone in fourth position at 0:24 behind Albert.
Nys' bike change appeared to mark a turning point in the race. Albert was no longer extending his lead as Pauwels and Stybar seemed to be struggling. Pauwels crashed in a downhill, lost connection with Stybar and moments later was also dropped by Nys. The latter was picking up the pace but going into the penultimate lap Nys and Stybar were still trailing by almost twenty seconds.
Nys quickly left Stybar behind and went in search of Albert, who was aware of Nys' comeback. Hitting the last lap Nys was only 0:11 behind Albert, the crowds now whipped into a frenzy by the exciting duel. Halfway through the lap Nys got back to within five seconds and although Albert failed to ride up the artificial climb he had enough advantage left to grab victory in Essen.
"I'm turing into an oldtimer. Every lap I was going faster and I found the perfect position on my bike," Nys told Sporza. "Still, the race is only one hour long and I lacked a few corners in the end. Too bad I'm falling short for the win every time. I came here to win the race. Niels' lead in the GvA-Trophy isn't definitive, but [for me] this result isn't a good thing for the rest of the series."
Czech Champion Zdenek Stybar received a lot of support in Essen, with the crowd treating him as a local. "Throughout the course I heard my name, so now I know how Nys feels when riding in Baal. I didn't have a super day and was gapped right from the start; ten seconds was too much today," said Stybar.
The GvA-Trophy will return to action in two weeks with two races in four days. Loenhout on December 29 and Baal on January 1, 2010.
|1||Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP - Powerplus||1:02:14|
|2||Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago||0:00:11|
|3||Zdenek Štybar (Cze) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team||0:00:33|
|4||Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team||0:01:23|
|5||Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) BKCP - Powerplus||0:02:04|
|6||Bart Aernouts (Bel) Rabobank||0:02:07|
|7||Radomir Simunek (Cze) BKCP-Powerplus||0:02:12|
|8||Enrico Franzoi (Ita) Liquigas||0:02:36|
|9||Tom Van den Bosch (Bel) Rendementhypo Cycling Team||0:02:42|
|10||Gerben de Knegt (Ned) Rabobank||0:02:54|
|11||Erwin Vervecken (Bel) Revor Cycling Team||0:03:10|
|12||Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Sunweb Pro Job Cycling Team||0:03:13|
|13||Rob Peeters (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago||0:03:29|
|14||Ben Berden (Bel) Revor Cycling Team||0:03:43|
|15||Thijs Van Amerongen (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team||0:03:59|
|16||Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Projob||0:04:18|
|17||Wilant van Gils (Ned) Pro Cycling Team ZZPR.nl-Destil-Merida||0:04:26|
|18||Jan Verstraeten (Bel) KDL Trans NV||0:04:43|
|19||Tim Van Nuffel (Bel) Rendementhypo Cycling Team||0:04:49|
|20||Mariusz Gil (Pol) LKS Pom Strzelce Krajenskie||0:05:03|
|21||Marek Cichosz (Pol) Legia 192||0:05:29|
|22||Jan Soetens (Bel) Revor-Jartazi Cycling Team||0:05:34|
|23||Lukáš Kloucek (Cze) Sunweb Pro Job Cycling Team||0:07:24|
|24||Gusty Bausch (Lux) LC Kayl|
|25||Mike Garrigan (Can) La Bicicleta|
|26||Ken Smets (Bel)|
|27||Ariunbold Naranbat (Mgl)|
|1||Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP - Powerplus||98||pts|
|2||Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago||91|
|3||Zdenek Štybar (Cze) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team||86|
|4||Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team||71|
|5||Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Projob||61|
|6||Bart Aernouts (Bel) Rabobank||61|
|7||Gerben de Knegt (Ned) Rabobank||50|
|8||Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) BKCP - Powerplus||49|
|9||Radomir Simunek (Cze) BKCP-Powerplus||43|
|10||Erwin Vervecken (Bel) Revor Cycling Team||35|
|11||Enrico Franzoi (Ita) Liquigas||35|
|12||Tom Van den Bosch (Bel)||28|
|13||Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Sunweb Pro Job Cycling Team||26|
|14||Mariusz Gil (Pol) LKS Pom Strzelce Krajenskie||23|
|15||Rob Peeters (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago||21|
|16||Francis Mourey (Fra) Française des Jeux||15|
|17||Ben Berden (Bel) Revor Cycling Team||15|
|18||Jan Soetens (Bel) Revor-Jartazi Cycling Team||12|
|19||Jonathan Page (USA) Planet Bike||11|
|20||Thijs Al (Ned) AA Drink Cycling Team||11|
|21||Christian Heule (Swi) Rendementhypo Cycling Team||10|
|22||Thijs van Amerongen (Ned)||10|
|23||Wilant van Gils (Ned)||9|
|24||Marco Bianco (Ita) L Arcobaleno Carraro Team||7|
|25||Jan Verstraeten (Bel) KDL Trans NV||7|
|26||Ian Field (GBr) Hargroves Cycles/Trant/Next/GSI||4|
|27||Quentin Bertholet (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team||4|
|28||Martin Zlámalík (Cze) Prodoli Racing Team||3|
|29||Philipp Walsleben (Ger) Team BKCP-Power Plus||2|
|30||Tim Van Nuffel (Bel) Rendementhypo Cycling Team||2|