The Superprestige series kicked off in Ruddervoorde, Belgium on Sunday where Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) rode a great second half of the race to grab the win ahead of Bart Aernouts (Rabo-Giant Offroad) and Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor).
"I'm satisfied that I can take my first victory in a race with all the big guns," Albert said. For Albert the win boosted his confidence ahead of the two important World Cup rounds in the Czech Republic. "I knew I was doing well, but winning it means that I'm on the right track even though I'm not in super form yet. That's for next week," Albert said.
Meanwhile, pre-race favourites like Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet), Bart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea) and Zdenek Stybar (Quick Step) fell just short of cracking the podium. Co-favourite Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) disappointed with a 13th place and his hopes for an overall victory in the Superprestige series already seems ruined.
Roadies start quickly
Road racers Stybar and Steve Chainel (FDJ) were quick off the start grid, with Stybar grabbing the holeshot. The two created a small gap over the rest of the peloton led by Albert. Wellens, Pauwels, Ian Field (Hargroves) and Jonathan Page (Planetbike) didn't start well and were riding far back in the group.
On the short climbs that had to be climbed with virtually no momentum to help out, Nys lost a lot of time when he dropped his chain. During the second lap Stybar led solo as Chainel struggled in the long sand section. In the chasing group Albert didn't make it up the same steep climb where Nys dropped his chain. One lap later Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) blew up his engine and he blocked the chasing group with Nys, Vantornout and Aernouts in the sand section.
When Albert, trying to make contact with the first chasing group, once again failed to get up the nasty climb he was heard to curse loudly while kicking the front wheel of his bike against the ground a couple of times. Clearly the Belgian champion was frustrated with the way things were unfolding. "My pedals were still set quite tight from Saturday's race where we didn't have to get off the bikes much. It was my own mistake and it took a lot of time before it was re-adjusted because first I had to inform the mechanics and then wait one more lap to get a good bike. I was really mad at myself," Albert said.
Halfway through the race Aernouts closed the gap to Stybar while behind them the chasing group consisted of Sven Vanthourenhout (Landbouwkrediet), Chainel, Nys and Vantornout. Stybar then dropped from the front with a mechanical.
Albert bounces back
The situation meant that Aernouts surprisingly led the race with only four laps to go while Albert trailed by ten seconds. The rest of the chasers kept losing ground and Nys wasn't helped when he once again dropped his chain on a climb. "I've never had it during training but today it was extremely tricky to change gears. The first times I bounced back but in the end it just killed me," Nys said.
With three laps to go the chasers behind leader Aernouts and Albert were trailing by almost half a minute. Albert didn't plan to offer Aernouts the biggest win of his career and he bridged up to the solo leader. Soon afterwards, he dropped the Dutchman but the latter kept the Belgian champion in sight.
"He was better on the straight sections and as a result that's where he dropped me. I knew that a mistake could get me back in the race," Aernouts said. He kept Albert within ten seconds during the final laps.
In the background Vantornout and later Nys also played their cards to get on the final podium spot but none managed to get away.
On the final lap Albert avoided making any mistakes and grabbed his first win in Ruddervoorde while Aernouts finished six seconds back for second place. The battle for third place was won by Vantornout, 23 seconds behind Albert.
"Nys struggled once again with his dérailleur while I was getting under steam," Vantornout said. "I got the most out of it because I've never been in the race. I was held up by Wellens when he got out of his pedal at the start. A podium at this level is always good."
Nys settled for fourth place just ahead of Wellens, who bounced back from his ruined start. "I struggled with my new pedals and tomorrow I'll install my old ones again. I might have been over-trained as well," Wellens told Cyclingnews.
World champion Stybar wasn't disappointed with his sixth place. "There's room for improvement but today I couldn't do better," said Stybar. "There wasn't power in my legs and I lack 'cross rhythm. After one lap I knew it wasn't going to be my day."
|1||Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus||1:01:44|
|2||Bart Aernouts (Bel) Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team||0:00:06|
|3||Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor||0:00:23|
|4||Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet||0:00:36|
|5||Bart Wellens (Bel) Telenet-Fidea||0:00:41|
|6||Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Quickstep Cycling Team||0:00:47|
|7||Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet-Fidea||0:00:51|
|8||Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Landbouwkrediet||0:00:54|
|9||Steve Chainel (Fra) FDJ||0:01:04|
|10||Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus||0:01:40|
|11||Jim Aernouts (Bel) Sunweb-Revor||0:01:51|
|12||Thijs Van Amerongen (Ned) Team AA Drink-Leontien.nl||0:01:57|
|13||Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb-Revor||0:02:25|
|14||Vincent Baestaens (Bel) Landbouwkrediet||0:02:43|
|15||Rob Peeters (Bel) Telenet-Fidea||0:02:51|
|16||Joeri Adams (Bel) Telenet-Fidea||0:03:15|
|17||Mariusz Gil (Pol) Baboco||0:03:32|
|18||Kenneth Van Compernolle (Bel) Style & Concept Cycling Team||0:03:47|
|19||Patrick Van Leeuwen (Ned)||0:04:22|
|20||Marcel Meisen (Ger)||0:04:44|
|21||Twan Van Den Brand (Ned)||0:04:52|
|22||Eddy Van IJzendoorn (Ned) Team AA Drink-Leontien.nl||0:05:01|
|23||Ian Field (GBr) Hargroves Cycles||0:05:17|
|24||Philipp Walsleben (Ger) BKCP-Powerplus||0:05:18|
|25||Tom Van Den Bosch (Bel) Team AA Drink-Leontien.nl||0:05:28|
|26||Bjorn Rondelez (Bel) Versluys||0:05:38|
|27||Kobus Hereijgers (Ned)||0:05:51|
|28||Jiri Polnicky (Cze)||0:06:15|
|29||Stijn Huys (Bel)||0:06:42|
|30||Dave De Cleyn (Bel)||0:06:52|
|31||Niels Wubben (Ned)||0:06:54|
|32||Matthieu Boulo (Fra)||-1lap|
|33||Mitchell Huenders (Ned)|
|34||Dries Pauwels (Bel) Van Goethem - Prorace Cycling Team|
|35||Tim Van Nuffel (Bel) DCM-GB Vorselaar||-2laps|
|36||Steven De Decker (Bel)|
|37||Jordy Luisman (Ned)|
|38||Kevin Cant (Bel)|
|39||Gianni Denolf (Bel) Baboco|
|1||Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus||15||pts|
|2||Bart Aernouts (Bel) Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team||14|
|3||Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor||13|
|4||Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet||12|
|5||Bart Wellens (Bel) Telenet-Fidea||11|
|6||Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Quickstep Cycling Team||10|
|7||Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet-Fidea||9|
|8||Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Landbouwkrediet||8|
|9||Steve Chainel (Fra) FDJ||7|
|10||Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus||6|
|11||Jim Aernouts (Bel) Sunweb-Revor||5|
|12||Thijs Van Amerongen (Ned) Team AA Drink-Leontien.nl||4|
|13||Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb-Revor||3|
|14||Vincent Baestaens (Bel) Landbouwkrediet||2|
|15||Rob Peeters (Bel) Telenet-Fidea||1|