Having been beaten by Sven Nys (Crelan) in the sprint in Zonhoven one week ago, Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) got his deserved revenge in today's third round of the Superprestige series in Hamme-Zogge. Having struggled on the first lap, the former world champion made a great comeback on the muddy circuit to take a hugely impressive solo win while Nys finished 2nd and extended his overall lead in the series.
It has been a tough start to the season for former world champion Niels Albert who has mostly been far from his top level in the first races. However, the Belgian showed that he is returning to his best form when he won today's third round of the Superprestige series on a muddy circuit in Hamme-Zogge.
The win comes just one week after Albert's narrow defeat against Sven Nys in the second round of the series in Zonhoven. On that occasion, Albert had been beaten in a close sprint but today he left nothing to chance against his more experienced rival. Having had a bad start to the race, he rode a solid race to cach the front group before riding away on his own to clinch an impressive solo victory.
Meanwhile, Nys was involved in a tight battle for the overall lead in the series with Klaas Vantornout. However, disaster struck for the Belgian champion when a mechanical forced him to run for a new bike, eventually relegating him to sixth.
Nys held on to take 2nd ahead of Philip Walsleben (BKCP-Powerplus) and this allowed "Mr. Superprestige" to extend his overall lead in the series. Superprestige racing resumes on Sunday in Gavere but most of the elite will be back on the bike in tomorrow's Jaarmarktcross in Niel.
A muddy course
The mostly flat course in Hamme-Zogge had been turned into a mud festival by the massive amounts of rain that had hit the area in the past few days. The sunny conditions weren't enough to dry out the course in time for the elite men's race and it became a real cross race with the riders being covered in mud all over their bodies.
Lars van der Haahr (Rabobank) hit the front from the beginning and while the Dutchman was leading the race, Albert got his race off to a bad start. Nearly coming off the bike, he lost several positions and suddenly found himself far back in the peloton.
Bad luck for Pauwels
Meanwhile, Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) had similarly bad luck on a steep downhill. As a consequence, he lost several position and suddenly found himself far back in the peloton with Albert.
Julien Taramarcaz (BMC) had taken the lead from Nys who had briefly been on the front. When Thijs van Amerongen (AA Drink) was the only one of the top riders to not change bikes on the first lap, he took the lead as they started the second lap.
5 riders open up a gap
Van Amerongen, Nys, Vantornout, Wietse Bosmans (BKCP-Powerplus) and Taramarcaz had suddenly opened up a 10-second lead on the peloton which was led by Walsleben. Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) combined forces with the German champion and the duo quickly separated themselves from the main group, gradually edging close to the front quintet.
In 8th and 9th position, Albert had joined forces with Jim Aernouts (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) and the former world champion quickly left his companion behind to bridge the gap to Meeusen and Walsleben. As they passed the line to complete the third lap, the trio had caught the front group to make it 8 riders in the lead.
The front group gets smaller
On the fourth lap, Walsleben briefly got a gap until a technical error saw him being overtaken by Albert. His fast pace saw van Amerongen and Bosmans lose contact while Albert's teammate Walsleben assisted him in the pace-setting. The duo briefly separated itself from their companions but Nys quickly closed the gap with Vantornout on his wheel. Meanwhile, Taramarcaz and Meeusen fell off the pace and a little later, Walsleben was left behind too.
At the end of the 5th lap, Albert looked back and realized that the front trio was now 21 seconds ahead of Walsleben while Taramarcaz and Meeusen had lost even more group. Continuing his pace-setting, he suddenly opened up a gap and halfway through the lap, he was aready 10 seconds ahead of Nys and Vantornout.
Albert opens up a big lead
Vantornout took over the pace-setting in the chasing dup but at the end of the lap, the gap had come up to 20 seconds. Walsleben was closing in on them, at 35 seconds back, while Taramarcaz was now riding alone in 4th.
From now on, the race was a pursuit between Albert and Vantornout-Nys. The duo constantly lost ground to the leader when disaster struck for Vantornout. A mechanical forced him to run much of the penultimate lap and he was passed by Taramacaz and Bosmans in the process.
Albert takes the win
Nys was now the lone chaser but being 30-second back, Nys could only add another win to his Superprestige palmares if Albert made a costly mistake. That never happened and so Albert could ride across the line to take a comfortable win while Nys held on to take 2nd.
Walsleben benefited from Vantornout's mechanical to take the final spot on the podium while Bosmans and Taramarcaz rounded out the top 5. Vantornout was riding with teammate Kevin Pauwels who allowed the Belgian champion to take 6th to limit his losses in the overall standings.
1. Niels Albert
2. Sven Nys
3. Philip Walsleben
4. Wietse Bosmans
5. Julien Taramarcaz
6. Klaas Vantonout
7. Kevin Pauwels
8. Rob Peeters
9. Niels Wubben
10. Thijs Van Amerongen
1. Sven Nys 43
2. Niels Albert 40
3. Klaas Vantornout 38
4. Lars van der Haahr 29
5. Philip Walsleben 26
6. Bart Aernouts 25
7. Kevin Pauwels 23
8. Tom Meeusen 22
9. Wietse Bosmans 21
10. Rob Peeters 16
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