The Superprestige Series finale in Vorselaar couldn't have been a more exciting conclusion: two great champions, Zdenek Stybar and Niels Albert, tied for the overall series, brought the race down to an all-out last lap battle.
Stybar didn't leave any crumbs for his Belgian rivals, and after winning the World Championships and the World Cup the Czech champion grabbed his first overall win in the Superprestige Series.
Stybar gapped Albert in the final meters and won his second Superprestige race of the season. Albert's second left him one point behind Stybar in the overall classification. Radomir Simunek held off Belgian champion Sven Nys for third place. Jonathan Page rode a good race on the ice and finished seventh.
"I'm totally wrecked," Stybar said to TV-channel VT4. "Two laps from the end I had to switch bikes. After a slip in a corner my wheel was bent. I lost seven seconds on Albert with only two laps to go. I had to risk everything but it went ok," Stybar said.
The race in Vorselaar started on a somber note, with a minute of silence in memory of MTB'er Davy Coenen, who died this week of cancer. But nine laps later over a slippery, frozen course the climax was complete with the duel of Stybar and Albert.
World champion Stybar took the best start on the frozen course, but Sven Vanthourenhout quickly took over. Behind him Christian Heule crashed out of the front, taking down Klaas Vantornout with him. After two laps Vanthourenhout was still leading the race, together with Radomir Simunek. Seven other riders were chasing at short distance: team-mates Niels Albert and Dieter Vanthourenhout, Stybar, Sven Nys, Vantornout, Jonathan Page and Mariusz Gil.
While Simunek led the race from the third lap, riders were literally dropping out of the lead group. Page and Gil were losing contact and during the fourth lap Vantornout slipped back to seventh place together with Page. Fellow Sunweb-Revor rider Sven Vanthourenhout seriously injured his shinbone near his knee during the fifth lap and was taken from the course on a stretcher. Six riders were left in contention for the victory.
During the sixth lap Stybar moved past Albert to the front, chasing down Albert's teammate Simunek. The latter went down on an icy bend, allowing Stybar to catch up and take the lead in the race. Albert wasn't far back, together with Dieter Vanthourenhout and Nys.
Halfway through the seventh lap Stybar switched bikes and this put him behind the leader's group where Albert went flat out for the overall win.
With two laps to go Albert led the race together with Nys and Simunek. Stybar chased alone at seven seconds, with Dieter Vanthourenhout losing contact with the leader's group.
More spectacle followed during the eighth lap when Nys tried to get past Simunek, making a gesture towards the Czech. The result was that both riders weren't fully concentrated approaching the next corner. Simunek went down and took Nys along with him. The duo were passed by Stybar and they were out of contention for the victory.
Belgian champion Nys stayed with Simunek for the rest of the race and allowed him to take third place. Still, he expressed his anger on how the BCKP-Powerplus riders had ridden in Vorselaar.
"I think I'd better use my brains and not talk too much," Nys said to VT4 before saying what happened. "I think everybody saw what happened. They [BKCP-Powerplus riders] did all they could to win the Superprestige and they didn't always use sportsmanlike tactics. It didn't work out for them and I can't say that I regret that. It was far less sportsmanlike than I would expect," Nys said.
Regarding the incident with Simunek he said that the Czech bothered him a lot. "He took a lot of risks and used his elbows just to keep me behind him. Before that crash I had far more speed than him and I tried to make clear that I wanted to get past him. During the following lap he did more of the same elbow work to put me into the fences," Nys said.
Meanwhile Albert was leading the race with a few seconds over Stybar, who was now riding in second position. Going into the final lap the duo crossed the line with only three seconds separating them. Halfway through the lap Stybar caught up with the Belgian and the crowds went wild. As if it was a F1-race the two started outbraking each other - on ice - to get into the lead. Somehow they didn't make any mistakes and when powering away from the forest Stybar had pole position. Albert was suffering to hold on to the Czech's wheel and when he suddenly had to avoid a Flemish lion flag he bowed his head for Stybar.
Last year's world champion lost out on the 26,000 euro prize money for the overall win but still he felt like he won the race. "It doesn't make me any richer though," Albert joked. "In my opinion this feels like I grabbed the victory. These circumstances aren't usually my cup of tea and still I finish second against riders who're very good at it.
"This was a race for Stybar because it's more his specialty. Before the race I figured I didn't stand a chance to battle along. On courses like these I made a lot of mistakes in the past and today I showed differently. I trained a lot to improve in these races and finally it delivers. This is morale boosting for next season because now I know that I can do this, too. Too bad the season's over," said Albert.
After the disappointing world championships in Tábor, US-rider Jonathan Page is currently showing that his hopes for a good result in Tábor weren't unrealistic. One week after worlds Page finished ninth in the sandpit of Zonhoven. Yesterday at the smaller event in Eeklo he was riding in second place behind eventual winner Bart Wellens before being forced to pull out and today he claimed his best result of the season in a race that is part of one of the three big competitions.
"It was a good day," Page said to Cyclingnews. "I never really got into that lead group and on a nice slippery course like this you're never comfortable. You could never put the hammer down because then you were sliding away in the following corner," Page said.
During the second half of the race Page was riding for sixth position with Klaas Vantornout, a battle that was eventually won by runner-up at the world championships in Tábor.
"He didn't do much work and I bobbled twice which put me too far back to sprint with him for sixth place. I'm happy that I can show off my good form but for now I don't have a contract for next week's race in Oostmalle, can you believe that," Page wondered. This surely wans't the former US-champion's last race of the season as he will surely compete at the indoor event in Hasselt on February 24.
|1||Zdenek Štybar (Cze) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team||0:57:58|
|2||Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP - Powerplus||0:00:06|
|3||Radomír Šimunek Ml (Cze) BKCP - Power Plus||0:00:09|
|4||Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago|
|5||Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) BKCP - Powerplus||0:00:59|
|6||Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor||0:01:15|
|7||Jonathan Page (USA) Planet Bike||0:01:27|
|8||Christian Heule (Swi) RendementhypoCycling Team||0:01:41|
|9||Mariusz Gil (Pol) LKS Pom Strzelce Krajenskie||0:01:52|
|10||Bart Wellens (Bel) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team||0:02:08|
|11||Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team||0:02:16|
|12||Petr Dlask (Cze) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team||0:02:31|
|13||Rob Peeters (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago||0:02:40|
|14||Eddy van IJzendoorn (Ned) AA Drink - BeOne||0:02:42|
|15||Gerben de Knegt (Ned) Rabobank||0:02:45|
|16||Enrico Franzoi (Ita) Liquigas||0:03:09|
|17||Bart Aernouts (Bel) Rabobank|
|18||Gianni Denolf (Bel) BKCP - Powerplus||0:03:13|
|19||Marco Bianco (Ita) L Arcobaleno Carraro Team||0:03:36|
|20||Bart Verschueren (Bel) Revor-Jartazi Continental Team||0:03:41|
|21||Geert Wellens (Bel) AVB - Cycling Team||0:04:04|
|22||Jan Verstraeten (Bel) KDL Trans NV||0:04:23|
|23||Tim Van Nuffel (Bel) Rendement Hypo Cyclingteam VZW||0:05:03|
|24||Ben Berden (Bel) Revor-Jartazi Continental Team||0:05:33|
|25||Thijs Al (Ned) AA Drink - BeOne||0:05:41|
|26||Stijn Huys (Bel) Palmans-Cras||0:05:55|
|27||Joachim Parbo (Den) CCV Cyclo crosss Team||0:05:58|
|28||Kenny Geluykens (Bel) Easypay Cyclocross Team||0:06:08|
|29||Ken Smets (Bel)|
|30||Patrick Van Leeuwen (Ned) Het Snelle Wiel|
|1||Zdenek Štybar (Cze) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team||110||pts|
|2||Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP - Powerplus||109|
|3||Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago||98|
|4||Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor||88|
|5||Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team||82|
|6||Bart Aernouts (Bel) Rabobank||61|
|7||Radomír Šimunek Ml (Cze) BKCP - Power Plus||57|
|8||Erwin Vervecken (Bel) Revor-Jartazi Continental Team||50|
|9||Gerben de Knegt (Ned) Rabobank||48|
|10||Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor||39|
|11||Enrico Franzoi (Ita) Liquigas||36|
|12||Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) BKCP - Powerplus||34|
|13||Rob Peeters (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago||25|
|14||Philipp Walsleben (Ger) Team BKCP-Power Plus||19|
|15||Jonathan Page (USA) Planet Bike||18|
|16||Bart Wellens (Bel) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team||17|
|17||Jan Verstraeten (Bel) KDL Trans NV||12|
|18||Mariusz Gil (Pol) LKS Pom Strzelce Krajenskie||10|
|19||Christian Heule (Swi) RendementhypoCycling Team||8|
|20||Francis Mourey (Fra) Française des Jeux||7|
|21||Martin Zlámalík (Cze) Prodoli Racing Team|
|22||Petr Dlask (Cze) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team|
|23||Thijs Al (Ned) AA Drink - BeOne||4||pts|
|24||Wilant van Gils (Ned) Pro Cycling Team ZZPR.nl-Destil-Merida||3|
|25||Thijs Van Amerongen (Ned) Van Vliet EBH Elshof|
|26||Eddy van IJzendoorn (Ned) AA Drink - BeOne|
|27||Ben Berden (Bel) Revor-Jartazi Continental Team||2||pts|
|28||Steve Chainel (Fra) Bouygues Telecom|
|29||John Gadret (Fra)||1|