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Stybar sprints to Superprestige Middelkerke win

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Czech champion Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) led out the sprint and held off Sven Nys for the win.

Czech champion Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) led out the sprint and held off Sven Nys for the win.
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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Jonathan Page (Planet Bike)

Jonathan Page (Planet Bike)
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor)

Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor)
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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Zdenek Stybar en route to victory in Middelkerke.

Zdenek Stybar en route to victory in Middelkerke.
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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Marcel Meisen (BKCP-Powerplus)

Marcel Meisen (BKCP-Powerplus)
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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Bart Aernouts (Rabobank-Giant Off-road Team)

Bart Aernouts (Rabobank-Giant Off-road Team)
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) in his world champion's kit.

Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) in his world champion's kit.
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea)

Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea)
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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Overall Superprestige series podium (l-r): Kevin Pauwels, 2nd; Sven Nys, 1st; Zdenek Stybar, 3rd

Overall Superprestige series podium (l-r): Kevin Pauwels, 2nd; Sven Nys, 1st; Zdenek Stybar, 3rd
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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Men's podium (l-r): Sven Nys, 2nd; Zdenek Stybar, 1st; Tom Meeusen, 3rd

Men's podium (l-r): Sven Nys, 2nd; Zdenek Stybar, 1st; Tom Meeusen, 3rd
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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Rob Peeters (Telenet-Fidea)

Rob Peeters (Telenet-Fidea)
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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World champion Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) finished 9th on the day.

World champion Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) finished 9th on the day.
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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Dieter Vanthourenhout (BKCP-Powerplus) cracked the top-10 with an 8th place finish.

Dieter Vanthourenhout (BKCP-Powerplus) cracked the top-10 with an 8th place finish.
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) on one of several short, steep pitches in Middelkerke.

Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) on one of several short, steep pitches in Middelkerke.
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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Rob Peeters (Telenet-Fidea) finished 12th in Middelkerke.

Rob Peeters (Telenet-Fidea) finished 12th in Middelkerke.
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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Men's podium in Middelkerke (l-r): Sven Nys, Zdenek Stybar and Tom Meeusen

Men's podium in Middelkerke (l-r): Sven Nys, Zdenek Stybar and Tom Meeusen
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) outkicks Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) for third place.

Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) outkicks Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) for third place.
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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Zdenek Stybar celebrates his victory in the final round of the Superprestige series.

Zdenek Stybar celebrates his victory in the final round of the Superprestige series.
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)
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The elite men's race became a two-man battle between Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet)

The elite men's race became a two-man battle between Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet)
(Image credit: www.ispaphoto.com)

Czech champion Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) made up a little for a lackluster season on Saturday afternoon with a well-deserved win at the final Superprestige round of the season, held under sunny skies and frigid temperatures alongside the North Sea in Middelkerke, Belgium.

Next season Stybar will switch his focus from cyclo-cross to the road but on the twisting course across the dunes of Middelkerke the 26-year-old Czech showed he's not gone just yet. "Stybi" teamed up with Belgian champion Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) and distanced rivals like Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) and world champion Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) halfway through the race. The duo eventually sprinted for the win with Stybar taking top honours.

"Finally, I didn't think a big win would be in it for me this year. The fact that I made the race with overall winner Nys adds even more glamour to it. I struggled in the corners today. I wondered whether or not to lead-out (which he did) the headwind sprint but I felt that I had some power left in my legs to hold off Nys," Stybar said.

While losing out in the sprint, the second place finish by Nys was more than enough to claim his 11th overall win in the Superprestige series. Despite winning only one round – in Gieten – Nys never finished out of the top-five. With 105 points Nys holds off Pauwels at 99 and Stybar at 92 points.

"I was really nervous coming into this one. We're reaching the end of the season and due to the cold weather it was hard to keep training well. When arriving here this morning I had a bad feeling about this. The fast course could make things turn wrong and that's something I already went through in the final round one time," Nys said. "When a strong Stybar moved up I realized that he was the one to follow. Keeping up was the only thing I thought about as he was clearly stronger today," Nys added.

The early leaders on the day included local rider and last year's winner Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor) and Radomir Simunek (BKCP-Powerplus). On the second lap Nys made his way to the front and upped the tempo. Soon afterwards Pauwels moved up towards the leaders Nys, Vantornout and Simunek. "Despite that I realized that it wasn't my day while Nys was going strong," Pauwels said.

On the fourth of nine laps Nys and Simunek powered away in the sand sector while the home crowd saw their hero Vantornout struggle. Actually, both Sunweb-Revor riders struggled and they were caught back by the first chasers. A little later the remaining leaders were caught back, too, and nine riders led the race.

Halfway into the race Stybar put the hammer down. The Czech champion powered smoothly through the sand and only Nys was able to follow. The acceleration from the duo meant the end of the Superprestige hopes of Pauwels. The World Cup winner quickly lost ground and trailed the duo in front by 15 seconds.

On every lap the two leaders extended their advantage over the chasers at the decisive barrier section which was followed by a 50-metre long sector of sand. Both Stybar and Nys hopped the barriers which allowed them to hit the sand at a higher speed than the chasers, most of whom dismounted to clear the barriers.

A huge contrast from the world championship race from two weeks ago was the performance from the winner Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus). The newly crowned world champion seemed lethal in the long sand sections of Koksijde whereas he struggled at each passage of the short sand strip in Middelkerke.

With a few more laps to go the biggest battle in the race was over. Nys had his eleventh Superprestige win in the pocket and the only fight that was left was the one for the race victory and the third podium spot. A minor crash from Nys in the penultimate lap didn't do any damage and the duo hit the final lap together.

Stybar led most of the lap and tried to power away from Nys, who didn't give in. The duo hit the finishing straight together at a slow pace with Stybar leading-out the sprint into the headwind and gradually upping the pace. Nys tried to come around the Czech champion in the final metres but Stybar held off the Belgian champion and grabbed his eighth win of the season.

The sprint for third place was won by Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) ahead of Pauwels, Simunek and Vantornout. Meeusen and Vantornout claimed fourth and fifth in the overall rankings in which they passed Bart Aernouts (Rabo-Giant Off-Road); he only managed an 11th place on the day and tumbled from fourth to sixth.

Despite winning three rounds Niels Albert only finished seventh overall as he missed two rounds due to a wrist injury halfway through the season. Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) concluded a poor run in the Superprestige series with zero points. As points are only on offer for the top-15 he once again fell just short with a 16th place finish in Middelkerke.

Full Results
1Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma-Quick Step0:59:05
2Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
3Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet-Fidea0:00:15
4Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb-Revor
5Radomir Simunek (Cze) BKCP-Powerplus
6Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor
7Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Landbouwkrediet0:00:19
8Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus0:00:29
9Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus0:00:49
10Jan Denuwelaere (Bel) Style & Concept0:00:50
11Bart Aernouts (Bel) Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team
12Rob Peeters (Bel) Telenet-Fidea0:00:55
13Kenneth Van Compernolle (Bel) Style & Concept Cycling Team0:01:22
14Gerben De Knegt (Ned) Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team0:01:41
15Niels Wubben (Ned) Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team
16Jonathan Page (USA) Planet Bike-Blue Bicycles0:02:03
17Martin Zlamalik (Cze) Landbouwkrediet - KDL0:02:14
18Thijs Al (Ned) Team AA Drink-Leontien.nl0:02:22
19Joeri Adams (Bel) Telenet-Fidea0:02:33
20Philipp Walsleben (Ger) BKCP-Powerplus0:02:42
21Jim Aernouts (Bel) Sunweb-Revor0:02:49
22Ian Field (GBr) Hargroves Cycles0:03:00
23Bart Hofman (Bel)
24Patrick Gaudy (Bel) Barracuda0:03:20
25Kevin Cant (Bel) Van Goethem0:03:38
26Francis Mourey (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat0:04:11
27Matthieu Boulo (Fra) Roubaix Lille Metropole
28Jelle Wallays (Bel)-1lap
29Dries Pauwels (Bel) Van Goethem - Prorace Cycling Team-3laps
30Marcel Meisen (Ger) BKCP-Powerplus
31Vincent Baestaens (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
32Eddy Van IJzendoorn (Ned) Orange Babies Cycling Team

Superprestige final overall standings
1Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet105pts
2Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb-Revor99
3Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma-Quick Step92
4Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet-Fidea78
5Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor74
6Bart Aernouts (Bel) Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team73
7Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus64
8Radomir Simunek (Cze) BKCP-Powerplus63
9Bart Wellens (Bel) Telenet-Fidea50
10Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus41
11Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Landbouwkrediet37
12Rob Peeters (Bel) Telenet-Fidea34
13Thijs Van Amerongen (Ned) Team AA Drink-Leontien.nl19
14Mariusz Gil (Pol) Baboco15
15Gerben De Knegt (Ned) Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team15
16Joeri Adams (Bel) Telenet-Fidea13
17Steve Chainel (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat11
18Aurelien Duval (Fra) U.V.Aube11
19Marcel Meisen (Ger) BKCP-Powerplus11
20Vincent Baestaens (Bel) Landbouwkrediet10
21Niels Wubben (Ned) Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team9
22Julien Taramarcaz (Swi) BMC Mountain Bike Racing Team8
23Kenneth Van Compernolle (Bel) Style & Concept Cycling Team7
24Thijs Al (Ned) Team AA Drink-Leontien.nl6
25Jan Denuwelaere (Bel) Style & Concept6
26Jim Aernouts (Bel) Sunweb-Revor5
27Philipp Walsleben (Ger) BKCP-Powerplus2
28Mitchell Huenders (Ned) Cyclingteam Jo Piels1
29Twan Van Den Brand (Ned) Orange Babies Cycling Team1

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