Zdeněk Štybar wins Superprestige Middelkerke as Sven Nys is “Mr Superprestige” again
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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Zdeněk Štybar wins Superprestige Middelkerke as Sven Nys is “Mr Superprestige” again

by Ben Atkins at 11:19 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Cyclocross, Race Reports and Results
Hard and fast Nordzeecross course sees two favourites escape and the Czech champion is faster than the Belgian at the finish

zdenek stybarZdeněk Štybar (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) took a close sprint victory over Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) in the Nordzeecross, Middelkerke; the final round of the Superprestige series. The Czech champion edged out the Belgian on the line for what was surprisingly only his third win of 2012, after the two of them distanced the rest of the race favourites with a little over four laps to go.

Tome Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) outsprinted Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) to take the final place on the podium, a long way behind the battle for first.

Sub-zero temperatures on the north coast of Belgium, meant a fast, frozen surface for the 54th edition of the Nordzeecross, with only the course’s two hurdles and sandy sections giving the riders any problems with traction.

Vantornout away but Meeusen bunny-hops into an early lead

2011 winner Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor) made his usual fast start and was fist into the switchbacks of the grassy past of the course. He dismounted an the two hurdles though, allowing Rob Peeters (Telenet-Fidea) – who had bunny-hopped them – to come past. The World silver medallist powered through the immediately following sandpit, and led the race towards the steep run up.

As the long string of riders hit the grassy infield again, Vincent Baestaens (Landbouwkrediet) hit the front; leading the race into the finishing straight, where Peeters and Vantornout led across the line.

Near the front were both Nys and Pauwels, who were battling for the overall Superprestige title, but World champion Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) and Czech champion Zdeněk Štybar (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) were both further back, stuck in traffic on the narrow twisting course.

Nys bunny-hopped the hurdles the second time around, opening a small gap over the others, and pressed his advantage home through the sand. Suddently the Belgian champion had a massive gap, with Radomir Simunek (BKCP-Powerplus) a few seconds behind him, and Vantornout a little further back.

Simunek fought his way up to Nys wheel in the middle part of the lap, while Vantornout was struggling to close the gap. Nys’ teammate Sven Vanthourenhout had positioned himself on the front of the main group though, helping his captain to widen the gap between himself and his rivals.

Not merely content to sit on, Simunek came around Nys and began to set the pace; Vantornout caught up just before they crossed the line, and they crossed it ten seconds clear of the Pauwels-led chasers.

Pauwels has a mid-race surge to the leaders

Vantornout lost a little ground again as he dismounted for the hurdles again, and Nys was not waiting for him. He managed to claw his way up again in the course of the lap though, while behind him Pauwels dropped the chase group and made his way across; latching on to the back of the group shortly before they reached the finishing straight again.

Albert was now leading the chase, ten seconds behind the four-man group, but was getting no help with the ever-vigilant Sven Vanthourenhout perched on his wheel.

Nys accelerated again as the leaders hit the grass, keen to reach the hurdles first; with all three of the others dismounting he pulled clear again. Pauwels was struggling in the sandpit, and was caught and passed by a surge from Štybar, who flew by in pursuit of Nys and Simunek; they were both well clear by now though, as the chasing group formed on the wheel of the Czech champion.

Across the line again, with five laps to go, the two leaders were caught by Štybar and Pauwels, with Albert leading Vantornout, Sven Vanthourenhout, and Tome Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) just behind them. There was now a lead group of eight riders, which was almost immediately strung out as Štybar and Nys’ bunny-hops over the hurdles opened up a gap over the rest; despite his dismounting each time though, Simunek’s positioning meant that he was always at the front when the group split.

As Štybar attacked the rest of the lap, the three leaders began to put clear daylight between themselves and the rest of the race. Simunek was having trouble holding on and, with the group behind splitting up, he was being reeled by Albert and Meeusen.

Štybar and Nys away and Mr Superprestige is heading for his eleventh crown

With four laps to go, Štybar and Nys were seven seconds clear of Albert, Meeusen and Simunek, with Vantornout leading Pauwels and Sven Vanthourenhout 15 seconds back.

The two of them matched one another over the hurdles and sandpit, while Meeusen’s bunny-hopping saw him gap the rest of the chasers and set off in pursuit. Albert and Simunek soon joined him though, with the others not far behind, but across the line again Nys and Štybar were 20 seconds clear.

Štybar was doing the lion’s share of the leading, occasionally looking back to Nys to see if the Belgian champion would come through. Evidently Nys was more concerned with distancing Pauwels, but as they crossed the line with two to go, he came forward to share the workload.

Pauwels was leading the chase group, with Simunek, Dieter Vanthourenhout and Meeusen, but they were now 25 seconds back; this gap would have closed slightly as Nys keeled over at the top of a short, steep ramp, but he was soon up and Štybar took over the pace again.

Štybar waved Nys through, and the Belgian obliged, shortly before the end of the lap and, at the bell the two champions were 26 ahead of the rest. Whatever the outcome of the race between these two riders, Nys was all-but assured of his eleventh overall Superprestige title.

Štybar wasn’t about to gift “Mr Superprestige” anything though, and kept the pressure on as they approached the hurdles for the final time. Both riders bunny-hopped the obstacles though and, despite an attempt to get away from Štybar, were still together as they left the sandpit. The Czech champion tried his utmost to drop the Belgian, but the two rivals were locked together as the lap went on; Štybar would be the favourite for a sprint though, so surely Nys had to try something.

Into the final switchbacks of the infield section though, the Belgian champion showed no signs of wanting to get away from Štybar. He sat patiently on the Czech’s wheel all the way into the finishing straight until the sprint began; there was no way he was going to beat the faster Štybar though, and, although he began to move alongside as the line approached, the Czech champion pummelled the air with his fists as he took his first victory since the Liévin round of the World Cup in mid-January.

Meeusen outsprinted Pauwels for third place; with 14 points for second place, to Pauwels’ 13 for fourth, Nys is confirmed as Superprestige champion yet again.

Daphny van den Brand wins again after a long battle with Harris and Pavlikova

With her retirement from the sport fast approaching, Daphny van den Brand (AA Drink-Leontien.nl) took another victory to end her long career in style. The Dutchwoman once again did not have it all her own way though, and had to battle with Telenet-Fidea duo Nikki Harris and Pavla Havlikova right up to the final lap.

In the second lap the three riders escaped the rest, only for van den Brand got away alone a lap later. Harris is still determinedly chasing her first victory of the season however, and so persistently chased the lone Dutchwoman; a problem for van den Brand in the fourth lap saw Harris take the lead, but she soon caught up to make the same group of three in the lead.

In the final lap van den Brand finally managed to shake off the Telenet-Fidea riders, and she rode away to finish alone. Harris too managed to drop Havlikova, to finish just 8 seconds behind the Dutchwoman.

"Yes, it makes a beautiful farewell, but that is also the intention", said a cheerful van den Brand at the finish. "The season does not end after the World championships, we had a technical and fast course here for the wheels, which played in my favour.”

The 33-year-old former World champion now has just four races left until she calls time on her long career; despite her relative young age however, she has no doubts that it’s the right thing to do.

“I have no regrets that it will soon be over,” she explained. “No, there is a time to come and a time to go; the time to go has come."

Result Superprestige Middlekerke Elite Women
1. Daphny van den Brand (Ned) AA Drink-Leontien.nl
2. Nikki Harris (GBr) Telenet-Fidea @ 8s
3. Pavla Havlikova (Cze) Telenet-Fidea @ 13s
4. Arenda Grimberg (Ned) @ 1’08”
5. Helen Wyman (GBr) Kona Factory Racing @ 1’28”
6. Nancy Bober (Bel) Style & Concept Cycling Team@ 1’53”
7. Joyce Vanderbeken (Bel) Cycling Team Vermeeren @ 2’06”
8. Nikoline Hansen (Den) @ 2’21”
9. Amy Dombroski (USA) Crank Brothers @ 2’33”
10. Nicolle De Bie-Leyten (Bel) Telenet-Fidea @ 3’35”

Result Superprestige Middlekerke Elite Men
1. Zdeněk Štybar (Cze) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
2. Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
3. Tome Meeusen (Bel) Telenet-Fidea
4. Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb-Revor
5. Radomir Simunek (Cze) BKCP-Powerplus
6. Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor
7. Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
8. Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus
9. Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus
10. Jan Denuwelare (Bel) Style & Concept Cycling Team


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