Stybar sprints to Superprestige Middelkerke win

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.

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Full Results
1Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma-Quick Step0:59:05Row 0 - Cell 3
2Sven Nys (Bel) LandbouwkredietRow 1 - Cell 2 Row 1 - Cell 3
3Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet-Fidea0:00:15Row 2 - Cell 3
4Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb-RevorRow 3 - Cell 2 Row 3 - Cell 3
5Radomir Simunek (Cze) BKCP-PowerplusRow 4 - Cell 2 Row 4 - Cell 3
6Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-RevorRow 5 - Cell 2 Row 5 - Cell 3
7Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Landbouwkrediet0:00:19Row 6 - Cell 3
8Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus0:00:29Row 7 - Cell 3
9Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus0:00:49Row 8 - Cell 3
10Jan Denuwelaere (Bel) Style & Concept0:00:50Row 9 - Cell 3
11Bart Aernouts (Bel) Rabobank-Giant Off-Road TeamRow 10 - Cell 2 Row 10 - Cell 3
12Rob Peeters (Bel) Telenet-Fidea0:00:55Row 11 - Cell 3
13Kenneth Van Compernolle (Bel) Style & Concept Cycling Team0:01:22Row 12 - Cell 3
14Gerben De Knegt (Ned) Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team0:01:41Row 13 - Cell 3
15Niels Wubben (Ned) Rabobank-Giant Off-Road TeamRow 14 - Cell 2 Row 14 - Cell 3
16Jonathan Page (USA) Planet Bike-Blue Bicycles0:02:03Row 15 - Cell 3
17Martin Zlamalik (Cze) Landbouwkrediet - KDL0:02:14Row 16 - Cell 3
18Thijs Al (Ned) Team AA Drink-Leontien.nl0:02:22Row 17 - Cell 3
19Joeri Adams (Bel) Telenet-Fidea0:02:33Row 18 - Cell 3
20Philipp Walsleben (Ger) BKCP-Powerplus0:02:42Row 19 - Cell 3
21Jim Aernouts (Bel) Sunweb-Revor0:02:49Row 20 - Cell 3
22Ian Field (GBr) Hargroves Cycles0:03:00Row 21 - Cell 3
23Bart Hofman (Bel)Row 22 - Cell 2 Row 22 - Cell 3
24Patrick Gaudy (Bel) Barracuda0:03:20Row 23 - Cell 3
25Kevin Cant (Bel) Van Goethem0:03:38Row 24 - Cell 3
26Francis Mourey (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat0:04:11Row 25 - Cell 3
27Matthieu Boulo (Fra) Roubaix Lille MetropoleRow 26 - Cell 2 Row 26 - Cell 3
28Jelle Wallays (Bel)Row 27 - Cell 2 -1lap
29Dries Pauwels (Bel) Van Goethem - Prorace Cycling TeamRow 28 - Cell 2 -3laps
30Marcel Meisen (Ger) BKCP-PowerplusRow 29 - Cell 2 Row 29 - Cell 3
31Vincent Baestaens (Bel) LandbouwkredietRow 30 - Cell 2 Row 30 - Cell 3
32Eddy Van IJzendoorn (Ned) Orange Babies Cycling TeamRow 31 - Cell 2 Row 31 - Cell 3
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Superprestige final overall standings
1Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet105pts
2Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb-Revor99Row 1 - Cell 3
3Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma-Quick Step92Row 2 - Cell 3
4Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet-Fidea78Row 3 - Cell 3
5Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor74Row 4 - Cell 3
6Bart Aernouts (Bel) Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team73Row 5 - Cell 3
7Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus64Row 6 - Cell 3
8Radomir Simunek (Cze) BKCP-Powerplus63Row 7 - Cell 3
9Bart Wellens (Bel) Telenet-Fidea50Row 8 - Cell 3
10Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus41Row 9 - Cell 3
11Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Landbouwkrediet37Row 10 - Cell 3
12Rob Peeters (Bel) Telenet-Fidea34Row 11 - Cell 3
13Thijs Van Amerongen (Ned) Team AA Drink-Leontien.nl19Row 12 - Cell 3
14Mariusz Gil (Pol) Baboco15Row 13 - Cell 3
15Gerben De Knegt (Ned) Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team15Row 14 - Cell 3
16Joeri Adams (Bel) Telenet-Fidea13Row 15 - Cell 3
17Steve Chainel (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat11Row 16 - Cell 3
18Aurelien Duval (Fra) U.V.Aube11Row 17 - Cell 3
19Marcel Meisen (Ger) BKCP-Powerplus11Row 18 - Cell 3
20Vincent Baestaens (Bel) Landbouwkrediet10Row 19 - Cell 3
21Niels Wubben (Ned) Rabobank-Giant Off-Road Team9Row 20 - Cell 3
22Julien Taramarcaz (Swi) BMC Mountain Bike Racing Team8Row 21 - Cell 3
23Kenneth Van Compernolle (Bel) Style & Concept Cycling Team7Row 22 - Cell 3
24Thijs Al (Ned) Team AA Drink-Leontien.nl6Row 23 - Cell 3
25Jan Denuwelaere (Bel) Style & Concept6Row 24 - Cell 3
26Jim Aernouts (Bel) Sunweb-Revor5Row 25 - Cell 3
27Philipp Walsleben (Ger) BKCP-Powerplus2Row 26 - Cell 3
28Mitchell Huenders (Ned) Cyclingteam Jo Piels1Row 27 - Cell 3
29Twan Van Den Brand (Ned) Orange Babies Cycling Team1Row 28 - Cell 3

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