Niels Albert solos to a close victory in the GP Mario De Clercq
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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Niels Albert solos to a close victory in the GP Mario De Clercq

by Ben Atkins at 10:18 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Cyclocross, Race Reports and Results
 
Kevin Pauwels just four seconds behind World champion and takes lead in bpost bank trofee

niels albertNiels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) gradually his opponents off his wheel to take victory in the GP Mario De Clercq, the the first round of the bpost bank trofee, in Ronse, Belgium. The World champion managed to fight his way across to the leading duo of Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) and Thijs van Amerongen (AA Drink-Leontien.nl) in the mid part of the race; van Amerongen was quickly dispatched by the two Belgians, but it was not until the penultimate lap that Albert finally managed to drop Pauwels.

The Sunweb-Revor rider, who was the defending champion of what was previously called the Gazet van Antwerpen (GvA) Trofee, refused to give up and finished just four seconds behind Albert; a time bonus early in the race though, meant that Pauwels was to take the lead in the trofee classification, which was to be decided on time rather than points.

Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony) managed to overcome a poor start and make his way through the field to take third place. By the time the Belgian champion had reached the front of the chase group however, Albert and Pauwels were long gone, and he eventually finished a minute and four seconds down.

A firm, if not completely dry course, meant a fast paced race with few bike changes, but the technical course - featuring several off-camber sections - would be enough to split the pack.

Despite unclipping his pedal just before the start - which saw Nys and a number of others delayed - Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor) led the race onto the grass for the first time. He led around most of the first lap, with Tom Meeusen and Bart Wellens (both Telenet-Fidea) behind him but, on a steep, muddy drop off, the tall Sunweb-Revor rider pitched straight into the barriers and dropped over the handlebars into the crowd.

Into the second lap, Thijs van Amerongen (AA Drink-Leontien.nl) and Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) began to pull away, pursued by Wellens and World champion Albert. Pauwels took the GvA sprint, ahead of van Amerongen and Albert, to take the time bonuses on offer; gradually the World champion clawed his way across to the two leaders to make a three-man group up front.

Not far behind were Wellens, Meeusen and van Amerongen’s AA Drink-Leontien.nl teammate Bart Aernouts, while Nys was leading a chase group a few more seconds back.

Steadily Nys, with Vantornout on his wheel, made his way up to the Wellens/Meeusen/Aernouts group but, as Albert forced the pace up front, he and Pauwels dropped van Amerongen and began to pull further ahead. At the end of the third lap the two Belgians were 12 seconds clear of Aernouts and van Amerongen, with Nys leading the rest across the line after 18 seconds.

Another tumble for Vantornout - on the biggest off-camber section - saw him drop off the pace again however, as Nys pulled Wellens away from the others; the Belgian champion was soon up with the two AA Drink-Leontien.nl riders, and making his way past. Albert and Pauwels were still working hard up front though, and were 19 seconds clear at the end of the fourth lap.

Nys was chasing hard, and only Aernouts could follow, but the Kannibaal was having trouble closing the gap to the two leaders. The gap was out to 24 seconds at the end of the next lap, with the rest of the former chase group spread out on the course behind them.

Albert was doing all he could to try to leave Pauwels behind, but the Sunweb-Revor rider managed to claw back the World champion each time he opened a gap. Finally though, midway around lap six, he forced real daylight between them, and finally Pauwels was unable to respond.

Across the line Albert was six seconds clear of Pauwels, with Nys and Aernouts now 46 seconds behind. Pauwels was not giving up, but Albert was now driving ahead and, at the end of the next lap - with two to go - had inched his lead out to 11 seconds; Nys and Aernouts were now fighting out a private battle between the two of them, almost a minute back.

Pauwels was refusing to yield to the World champion however and, in the course of the next lap, closed by a few seconds; Nys was not giving up either, finally leaving Aernouts behind, but faced the impossible task of closing a 52 second gap in the final lap.

Pauwels kept the pressure on the World champion, but Albert rode yet another near-perfect lap to hold him off and take his third victory of the season. Pauwels sprinted across the line to finish just four seconds behind Albert and - thanks to the 15-second GvA time bonus - take the lead in the overall bpost bank trofee.

Nys crossed the line after 1’04” to take third place, just ahead of Aernouts in fourth.

Result GP Mario De Clercq 2012
1. Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus
2. Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb-Revor
3. Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Euphony
4. Bart Aernouts (Bel) AA Drink-Leontien.nl
5. Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor
6. Thijs van Amerongen (Ned) AA Drink-Leontien.nl
7. Bart Wellens (Bel) Telenet-Fidea
8. Lars van der Haar (Ned) Rabo-Giant Offroad Team
9. Philipp Walsleben (Ger) BKCP-Powerplus
10. Rob Peeters (Bel) Telenet-Fidea

bpost bank trofee standings after round one
1. Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb-Revor
2. Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus
3. Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Euphony

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