Niels Albert finally gets his rainbow victory in Sluitingsprijs Overijse
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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Niels Albert finally gets his rainbow victory in Sluitingsprijs Overijse

by Ben Atkins at 11:12 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Cyclocross, Race Reports and Results
Kevin Pauwels loses out to Zdenek Stybar but confirms overall GvA TRofee; Daphny van den Brand bows out of the sport in style

niels albertWorld champion Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) closed the cyclocross season in style, with a solo victory in the Sluitingsprijs - closing-race - in Overijse, Belgium, the final found of the Gazet van Antwerpen (GvA) Trofee. After being denied by two punctures in the Cauberg Cyclocross the previous day, Albert finally took his first victory in the rainbow jersey this year. The 26-year-old chased down the battle between Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) in the early laps of the race, and then escaped shortly before the bell lap and rode alone to the finish.

Stybar gave chase, and managed to drop Pauwels; the Czech was unable to get near the rampant World champion though, but held off rival Pauwels to take second place.

Pauwels started the race with a 14-point lead over Stybar though; mathematically the Czech champion could have taken the series, but it would take a Stybar victory, and for Pauwels to finish way down.

Pauwels’ 19 points for third place were more than enough for the Sunweb-Revor rider to take the GvA series for the first time in his career, to add to the World Cup title, which he also took for the first time this season.

Some rain had fallen but the course, which was partly wooded, and sandy in a number of places, was dry and quite fast.

Sunweb-Revor goes on the attack but Zdenek Stybar and Niels Albert counter

After the usual fast start from Sunweb-Revor teammate Klaas Vantornout, Pauwels broke away alone in the early part of lap one, and steadily pulled away. He was all alone through lap two, as Stybar jumped away from the pack, and the Czech champion caught up at the beginning of lap three.

The chasing group was led by Vantornout, and the gap to the front two was widening, so Albert and Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) muscled their way past in the wooded section of the course and began to try and chase across.

On the line at the end of lap three, the two leaders were 18 seconds ahead of the lone Albert, with Bart Aernouts (Rabobank-Giant) leading the rest a few seconds back; Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet), who had won on the Cauberg the day before, soon left the chasers and tried to make his way across to Albert.

At then end of lap four Pauwels and Stybar led Albert by six seconds, Nys by ten, and the Rob Peeters (Telenet-Fidea)-led group at 23. Albert caught the two leaders halfway around the fifth lap, but Nys seemed to suffer a mechanical problem and had drifted back a little; eventually joining the chasers behind him.

Pauwels began to put the pressure on again, as a heavy rain shower began to fall, and Albert was having problems holding on. With four laps to go though, the three leaders were still together, and 30 seconds ahead of Peeters, Nys, Meeusen, Radomir Simunek and Dieter Vanthourenhout (both BKCP-Powerplus), Sven Vanthourenhout (Landbouwkrediet), Vantornout and Aernouts.

The leaders attack one another and Albert gets away

Stybar attacked as soon as the lap began, and opened up a gap between himself and the others; Pauwels chased and slowly closed the gap, but Stybar was in no mood to wait for his rival. The Czech champion was having problems in the sandy zigzags of the midfield section though, and, as Albert took over the chase, the three of them were soon together again.

Peeters broke away from the front of the chase group, pursued by Simunek and Meeusen, but across the line with three to go, the gap had opened to 35 seconds.

Now it was Albert’s turn to open up the gas at the front of the race, but Pauwels clung to his wheel and refused to let him go. Eventually though, the World champion’s pressure paid off and, into the penultimate lap he managed to snap the elastic and was away.

Stybar, who previously seemed to have been having trouble staying with the pace, came around Pauwels and set off in pursuit, leaving his rival behind. Stybar once again looked a little unsure of himself in the sandy midfield section though, and Albert’s gap began to widen.

As they came out of the sand, Albert led Stybar by eight seconds, and at the bell he was 14 seconds clear, with Pauwels another five seconds behind.

With a clear course in front of him Albert kept the pressure on, and his lead continued to widen throughout the lap. Pauwels, in third place, was making little progress on Stybar but, as he only had to score a few points to be sure of taking the overall GvA Trofee, he had no need to worry.

In the chase group, which was racing just for fourth place by this time, Nys attacked in the sand and managed to escape; Meeusen set off in pursuit of the Belgian champion, but the gap was open.

Albert sat up to celebrate as soon as he entered the finishing straight, and waved his arms in the air all the way to the line. Stybar followed several seconds later, then Pauwels, with Nys crossing the line, ahead of Meeusen and the rest, less than a minute later.

Daphny van den Brand retires in style with victory in the women’s race

With the rest of the field sporting twin plaits, in tribute to her iconic hairstyle, Daphny van den Brand (AA closed her long, distinguished career in style, with victory in the women’s race. The 33-year-old Dutchwoman, who won the World title in 2003, and her national championship ten times, beat her World champion compatriot Marianne Vos (Rabobank) into second place, with Sanne van Paassen (Brainwash) completing an all-Netherlands podium with third.

Van den Brand and Vos escaped in the first lap of the race and rode away from the rest of the field, as they have done so many times before. Instead of the World champion leaving her compatriot behind though, van den Brand held on to her wheel and the two of them entered the finishing straight together.

Vos would have - on paper - been the much faster rider in the sprint, but van den Brand managed to come around the younger rider to take the win.

Was this a gift though, asked Vos at the finish? “No,” she replied, “there are no gifts handed out in sport.”

Van den Brand disagreed however: “Yes, it was,” she admitted.

Van den Brand, the reigning European champion, was called to the podium twice, since her victory also earned her victory in the overall GvA Trofee.

Result Sluitingsprijs Elite Women
1. Daphny van den Brand (Ned) AA
2. Marianne Vos (Ned) Rabobank
3. Sanne van Paassen (Ned) Brainwash Wielerploeg
4. Sanne Cant (Bel) Boxx Veldritacademie
5. Nikki Harris (GBr) Telenet-Fidea
6. Sabrina Stultiëns (Ned) Brainwash Wielerploeg
7. Arenda Grimberg (Ned) Netherlands
8. Helen Wyman (GBr) Kona Factory Racing
9. Pavla Havlikova (Cze) Telenet-Fidea
10. Joyce Vanderbeken (Bel) Cycling Team Vermeeren

Result Sluitingsprijs Elite Men
1. Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus
2. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
3. Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb-Revor
4. Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet
5. Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet-Fidea
6. Bart Aernouts (Bel) Rabobank-Giant Offroad Team
7. Radomir Simunek (Cze) BKCP-Powerplus
8. Rob Peeters (Bel) Telenet-Fidea
9. Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus
10. Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Landbouwkrediet


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