Stybar and Wellens to sit out the weekend’s races as Albert dreams of his comeback
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Friday, December 9, 2011

Stybar and Wellens to sit out the weekend’s races as Albert dreams of his comeback

by Ben Atkins at 12:37 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Cyclocross, Injury
Stars to miss Scheldecross and Druivenveldrit; races likely to come down to Nys/Pauwels duel once more

bart wellensThe coming weekend’s Scheldecross and Vlaamse Druivenveldrit will be without some of the sport’s biggest stars, as Zdenek Stybar (Quick Step) and Bart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea) rest up, and Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) continues to recover from a broken wrist. The two races, neither of which is part of any of the major season-long competitions, will instead likely be decided by a battle between the season’s two outstanding riders: Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) and Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor).

Stybar has had an up and down season so far, and is finding that riding his biggest ever road season has taken its toll on his fitness. After travelling to Igorre, Spain, last weekend for the World Cup race – where he finished a disappointing fifth – the World champion has elected to return to southern Europe for some warm weather training, and to recharge his batteries, rather than stay in the cold of Belgium for the two hard races.

“It was a tough race,” Styby said after the Igorre race. “I rode up front for a while, but when they accelerated I didn’t have enough power to follow. I was running on empty the last three laps. I don’t know why, but I’m optimistic about what’s to come.

“To recuperate, tomorrow I’m going to fly to Belgium for a lunch with the team sponsors,” he added. “I’m looking forward to that. In the evening I’ll fly back to Mallorca and stay there for another two weeks.”

Stybar will make his return to racing at the GP Rouwmoer, in Essen, Belgium, on December 17th, which is the next round of the GvA Trofee, and is also expected to ride the Namur World Cup the following day.

Wellens too is experiencing a dip in form; the two-time former World champion finished an almost unheard of fourteenth in Igorre, which followed a disappointing eighth in Koksijde, Belgium, the weekend before.

“I don’t want to mortgage my season,” Wellens told the Gazet van Antwerpen (GvA). “Neither race is part of a classification, but for various reasons they are at the top of my list. The Scheldecross is part of the Fidea Classics, supported by my [team’s] sponsor; Overijse [the Druivenveldrit – ed] is one of the most beautiful races of the winter, but I don’t want to risk my health.”

The 33-year-old will undergo a series of tests in the coming week to try to get to the bottom of his recent health problems.

Meanwhile, Niels Albert, who suffered his fractured wrist after being hit by a car while training in the middle of November, is preparing his comeback. The Belgian champion’s recovery has not gone as well as he had hoped but, after some successful training sessions, could be set for a comeback this weekend.

“We will wait until he has done some training in the woods, and leave the final judgement to Doctor Toon Claes as to whether he races this weekend,” BKCP-Powerplus manager Christoph Roodhooft told the GvA. “We will take the decision on Friday night.”

Should Albert return he will doubtless be missing a bit of race fitness, but could be a third actor in the two-way battle between Sven Nys and Kevin Pauwels that has dominated the last few races. Both of the weekend’s events will, in all probability, come down to yet another fight between the two big rivals of the current season, but any contribution that Albert can make would be most welcome.


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