Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) grabbed his first tricolour jersey in the Elite Men’s category in Antwerp. Albert received the tricolore jersey and his gold medal from Patrick McQuaid, president of the International Cycling Union. Bart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea) beat teammate Kevin Pauwels in a sprint for second place at more than twenty seconds behind winner Albert, but defending champion Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) had an off-day and abandoned the race.
“All the pieces fell into the right place today. The course was like Koksijde: a combination of fast stretches and sand that was hard to get through. I quickly found out Nys wasn't having a super day. Once Kevin was struggling in the sand I went for it,” Albert said.
In front of 19,000 spectators Albert suffocated his rivals during the first three laps. The 24-year-old from Baal rode solo for more than six laps, while always keeping control of the situation behind him. Albert demonstrated a great combination of technique and power on a course of which two-fifths were made up of sandy stretches.
Kevin Pauwels took the best start in Antwerp by accelerating in the sand. Pauwels took about ten seconds on a group featuring Nys, Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea), Rob Peeters (Telenet-Fidea), Wellens, Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor), Dieter Vanthourenhout (BKCP-Powerplus) and Albert.
“During the first lap I remained cool and after that I rode my own pace,” Albert said.
In the chase group Meeusen was blocking the road – and supporting his teammate in the lead – ahead of Nys, Vantornout, Albert and the others. By the end of the first lap Pauwels had 12 seconds on the chase group where Albert rode towards the front. “When looking back I saw in a glance that Nys didn't follow me, as he was still stuck behind Meeusen. A Nys in super form wouldn't let that happen. That's when I knew Nys wasn't enjoying a super day,” Albert said.
Albert quickly bridged up with Pauwels during the second lap. Pauwels soon realised that he would have to work hard to keep up with Albert. In the chase group Nys moved forward but after the second lap the defending champion was still 14 seconds down on the two leaders.
During the third lap the masks were slipping. Nys and Meeusen faded, with the latter abandoning a little later on. Pauwels struggled in the sand and he had to let go of Albert.
Albert quickly gained a lead of twenty seconds and he never lost control of the situation. Behind him a chase group was formed with Pauwels, Wellens and Bart Aernouts (Rabo-Giant Offroad). The three didn't come any closer and quickly focused on the remaining podium spots. Wellens made an acceleration left in the last lap that dropped Aernouts.
While riding in a position behind the battle for the medals, Nys abandoned the race and headed for his camper.
Up front, however, Albert had all the time in the world to celebrate his first title among the pros. Twenty seconds later, Wellens got the better of his teammate Pauwels in a sprint, while Aernouts finished solo in fourth place. Vantornout held off teammate Sven Vanthourenhout (Sunweb-Revor) for fifth, and behind them neo-professional Kenneth Van Compernolle’s fine seventh place was a surprise.
From the seventeen riders in the category Elite Men with contract who started the race there were only thirteen finishers. Along with Nys and Meeusen, there were also the fast-starting neo-professional Vincent Baestaens (KDL), Davy Commeyne (Landbouwkrediet) and Ben Berden, who didn't finish the race.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Niels Albert (BKCP – Powerplus)||59:47:00|
|2||Bart Wellens (Telenet Fidea Cycling Team)||0:00:23|
|3||Kevin Wauwels (Telenet Fidea Cycling Team)||0:00:27|
|4||Bart Aernouts (Rabo-Giant Offroad Team)||0:00:42|
|5||Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor)||0:01:05|
|6||Sven Vanthourenhout (Sunweb-Revor)||0:01:16|
|7||Kenneth Van Compernolle (Style & Concept)||0:01:50|
|8||Dieter Vanthourenhout (BKCP – Powerplus)||0:01:56|
|9||Rob Peeters (Telenet Fidea Cycling Team)||0:02:02|
|10||Jan Denuwelaere (Style & Concept)||0:02:56|
|11||Jan Verstraeten (KDL cycling team)||0:03:26|
|12||Tom Van Den Bosch (AA Drink/ Leontien.nl)||0:05:59|
|13||Jelle Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator)||Row 12 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet)||Row 13 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Vincent Baestaens (KDL Cycling Team)||Row 14 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Davy Commeyne (Landbouwkrediet)||Row 15 - Cell 2|
|DNF||Tom Meeusen (Telenet Fidea Cycling Team)||Row 16 - Cell 2|
|DNS||Ben Berden (B.B. Crazy Team)||Row 17 - Cell 2|
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