Albert rides to win in Oostmalle

An impressive race from Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) in chilly Oostmalle, Belgium resulted in his first win as world champion. While the rain and hail came down on Albert he finished solo ahead of Czech champion Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) and Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor).

"It’s important to conclude the season with a win. The past few weeks have been a bit lackluster because the form was gone. Now it’s back but the season is over," Albert said on Sporza.

Stybar tried to get a double win in the race and the overall classification of the GVA Trophy but he ended up with a second place in both bets.

"I wanted to win so much and but now I end up with nothing," Stybar said.

Kevin Pauwels controlled the race right from the start and never seemed to lose out on his first overall victory in the GVA Trophy.

"Early on I tried to get the three bonus points which worked out well. In the end Albert and Stybar were stronger but the GVA was in the pocket so I was satisfied," Pauwels said.

In the overall classification Pauwels was a deserved winner with his 176 points. Stybar is runner-up with 166 and Nys third with 141. Albert missed one round due to injury and fell two points short for third place with his 139 points.

How it unfolded

Kevin Pauwels quickly took to the front early in the race and gapped the rest of the field going on the opening lap into forest and the following sand loops. Behind the leaders an early pit stop for world champion Niels Albert took a long time and put him far back in the field. After the first lap Pauwels led the race solo while Zdenek Stybar led the peloton behind him at eight seconds. Compatriot Radomir Simunek was unable to keep up with Stybar and dropped back.

After the sand loops Stybar trailed Pauwels by four seconds with Tom Meeusen leading Simunek, Nys and the rest of the field. Once again Albert switched bikes and so did Nys. "I started with slicks at the back. I switched bikes but ended up with the same profile so I had to ride another lap with it and then switch again," Albert said.

Pauwels held his gap over Stybar and won the intermediate sprint, grabbing three bonus points with main rival Stybar taking only two points a handful seconds later. Sven Vanthourenhout led the first chasers at 15 seconds.

Stybar bridged up with Pauwels early on in the third lap. Pauwels kept the pace high with Stybar sticking on his wheel, hoping that more riders would bridge back up. Stybar must’ve realized his chances were slim as Pauwels’ team-mate Vantornout blocked the rest of the field in front of the chase group at the sand loops. What Stybar didn’t know was that little later Albert blasted away. After three laps the two leaders had just under 20 seconds on Albert and Meeusen. The latter flatted and lost a lot of ground with Nys taking over his fourth place.

In front Stybar changed tactics by moving into the lead and quickly lowered the pace to allow chasers Albert and Nys to come back. "I pokered and waited for others to come back with an eye on the overall classification," said the Czech.

Pauwels realized that this wouldn’t be a good situation for him and overtook the Czech champion. While melting snow and some hail started to come down on the riders, Albert bridged up with the front group at the sand loops in the fifth lap. The attempt from Nys to connect with the leaders failed as he seemed to have blown up his engine and dropped back into a group at 22 seconds from the leaders.

"I tried to follow Niels because I felt he was the favorite. I didn’t succeed to keep up with him and then dropped back to focus on fourth place and my third place overall," Nys said.

With four laps to go the three leaders enjoyed a comfortable lead of half a minute on a group of seven riders led by Peeters. In front Stybar opened up the gas and put the two Belgians under pressure. Pauwels was unable to keep up with Stybar who gained a few meters. Albert took over the chasing work from Pauwels and when Stybar misjudged a corner in the sand and lost speed the three were back together. The hopes for Stybar to get the overall win seemed in vain as the first chasers kept losing ground, trailing at 34s with three laps to go.

After a slower lap Albert launched an acceleration in the sand and quickly put Pauwels and Stybar into problems. Stybar brought himself and Pauwels back within touching distance of the world champion after a huge effort on the road but Albert kept the pace high and didn’t allow the two others to come back. The penultimate lap turned out to be decisive. In the sand section Albert extended his lead over Stybar while Pauwels settled for third place. Albert didn’t make mistakes and the fact that he clocked a fastest lap time wasn’t a surprise. Going into the last lap Stybar trailed Albert by 13 seconds with Pauwels consolidating his overall win at 20 seconds.

In the final lap Albert had time to ease off and enjoy the applauds of the Oostmalle crowds. Well under the hour Albert claimed his first win after the world championships, arriving solo with a huge gap over Stybar and Pauwels. In the battle for fourth place Nys surged forward in the last lap.

He moved into the lead of the large group and in the sand section he powered away. The Belgian champion easily held on to that fourth place thus remaining third in the overall classification; Meeusen completed the top-five a short distance back.

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Elite men
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Niels Albert (Bel)0:58:37
2Zdenek Stybar (Cze)0:00:15
3Kevin Pauwels (Bel)0:00:24
4Sven Nys (Bel)0:00:46
5Tom Meeusen (Bel)0:00:50
6Bart Aernouts (Bel)Row 5 - Cell 2
7Radomir Simunek (Cze)Row 6 - Cell 2
8Rob Peeters (Bel)Row 7 - Cell 2
9Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel)0:00:59
10Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel)0:01:14
11Klaas Vantornout (Bel)0:01:32
12Philipp Walsleben (Ger)0:01:35
13Gerben De Knegt (Ned)0:01:38
14Kenneth Van Compernolle (Bel)0:01:42
15Vincent Baestaens (Bel)0:01:59
16Jan Denuwelaere (Bel)0:02:25
17Tom Van Den Bosch (Bel)0:02:29
18Kevin Cant (Bel)0:02:32
19Jim Aernouts (Bel)Row 18 - Cell 2
20Patrick Gaudy (Bel)0:02:38
21Martin Zlamalik (Cze)Row 20 - Cell 2
22Patrick Van Leeuwen (Ned)Row 21 - Cell 2
23Joeri Adams (Bel)0:02:59
24Jonathan Page (USA)0:03:05
25Thijs Van Amerongen (Ned)0:03:10
26Bart Hofman (Bel)Row 25 - Cell 2
27Christian Heule (Swi)0:03:12
28Eddy Van Ijzendoorn (Ned)0:03:52
29Stijn Huys (Bel)0:04:03
30Dave De Cleyn (Bel)0:04:14
31Sten Raeymakers (Bel)0:04:18
32Kristof Cop (Bel)0:04:21
33Bart Verschueren (Bel)0:04:36
34Gianni Denolf (Bel)0:05:31
35Jimmy Tielens (Bel)Row 34 - Cell 2
36Geert Wellens (Bel)Row 35 - Cell 2
37Stijn Mortelmans (Bel)Row 36 - Cell 2
38Joachim Parbo (Den)Row 37 - Cell 2
39Roy Van Heeswijk (Ned)Row 38 - Cell 2


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