Cyclocross World Cup: Sven Nys wins his duel with Niels Albert to take a tight Zolder race
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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Cyclocross World Cup: Sven Nys wins his duel with Niels Albert to take a tight Zolder race

by Ben Atkins at 10:28 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Cyclocross, Race Reports and Results
Belgian and World champions fight it out all the way to the final clim; Nys takes the World Cup lead

sven nysSven Nys (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony) won yet another one-on-one battle against big rival Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) as he took the sixth round of the 2012/13 Cyclocross World Cup at the Zolder Motor Circuit, Belgium. The Belgian and World champions fought their way clear of the rest of the field on the third of nine laps and, although their lead barely reached 30 seconds, they never looked like being caught by the chasing group.

The race developed into a battle between the different styles of the two Belgian rivals, with the more regular-paced Albert constantly forced to respond to attacks from the punchier Nys. Finally, on the very last climb of the final lap, Nys managed to force his way clear of the World champion and, continuing to sprint away, managed to get away and win the race alone.

Czech champion Zdeněk Štybar (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) - riding only his second competitive cyclocross race of the season - managed to escaped the chase group and take the final spot on the podium, ahead of compatriot Radomir Simunek (BKCP-Powerplus), and Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor), who had suffered a terrible start.

The victory saw Nys draw level with Albert in the overall World Cup standings with 415 points each. The Belgian champion took over the series lead, by virtue of winning the latest round; he had also won three of the six races so far, to Albert’s one.

Štybar sets the early pace but Albert pulls away

The wet winter weather had continued in Belgium, with persistent rain keeping the muddy course wet; once again though, the wetness of the mud forced very few bike changes for the riders once again, however.

Lars van der Haar (Rabobank Giant) and Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor) had their usual race for the first corner, with the Dutch under-23 World champion getting the best of the tall Belgian this time. He continued to lead around the early corners of the lap, with the rest of the field strung out behind him; Rob Peeters was in third wheel, behind Vantornout, while Zdeněk Štybar (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) had made it into fourth, despite having to start in the second row.

Most of the big names were present, near the front, but Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) - the winner in Namur three days before - had made a terrible start and was a long way back in the bunch as it began to split apart.

As the leaders hit the tougher, more technical, second half of the first lap, Štybar hit the front and began to line up the group even more; van der Haar and Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) took over again following the steep muddy run up, however - as Vantornout crashed on the steep drop off that followed - but Štybar led what was now a dozen-strong across the line to start lap two.

A group of Štybar, Meeusen, Radomir Simunek and Niels Albert (both BKCP-Powerplus), van der Haar, Bart Aernouts (AA Drink), Vantornout, Steve Chainel (FDJ-BigMat), Simon Zahner (EKZ) and Julien Taramarcaz (BMC Racing) began to edge clear, but more riders joined from the rear on the slower parts of the course.

Albert then jumped away, with Meeusen on his wheel; Nys gave chase, with Štybar close behind him, but Chainel crashed on a fast, slippery straight section, delaying some others. Thankfully few came down, but the prostrate Frenchman and his bike helped to allow the front runners to widen their gap.

Albert, Meeusen and Nys were six seconds ahead of Štybar, van der Haar, Simunek and Aernouts as they ended lap two, and Albert kept the pressure on to try to get rid of Nys. Nys was doggedly hanging on to the lead pair and, as Meeusen was dropped and the World champion continued alone; the Belgian champion passed Meeusen and he was gradually left behind.

Nys joins Albert in the lead and the mano a mano battle begins

Nys eventually made his way up to Albert’s back wheel, but Meeusen was now drifting back towards the Štybar group behind him.

Behind them, Pauwels was leading a large group in pursuit; at the end of lap three Albert and Nys were ten seconds clear of Meussen; Simunek was at 14 seconds, with the rest of the chasers coming together just behind him.

After having sat up to stretch his back across the finish line, Albert then set about trying to get rid of Nys again, but the two rivals were inseparable as they snaked through the wooded section of the course. Pauwels, meanwhile, had led the chase group up to Meeusen and Simunek, and was now leading the chase some 16 seconds behind the leading pair.

Nys had seemed happy to let Albert lead up to this point but, as the duo arrived at the late technical section of the course, the Belgian champion came forward himself. He quickly opened a small gap over Albert, but the World champion was quick to close it as they arrived at the finishing straight.

With four down and five to go, Nys and Albert were still 16 seconds clear of a seven-man group, led by Pauwels, that was made up of the rest of the big names.

Albert took the lead again as Nys passed through the pits to change his bike, but the two of them were locked wheel to wheel as they zigzagged through the woods again. Behind them Pauwels looked like pulling away from the chasing group on almost every corner, but the string of riders stuck closely to him as he fought to close down the two leaders.

With Pauwels were Simunek, Meeusen, van der Haar, Štybar, Peeters and Aernouts; none looked either willing or able to take over the pace at the front of the line as the Sunweb-Revor rider laid down his fierce pace.

Meeusen did come through as they hit the fast straight descent that had seen Chainel come down on the second lap. Despite the best efforts of the Telenet-Fidea rider though, he was unable to break away and, at the finish line, the gap to the leaders had grown to 20 seconds.

Nys tries to shed Albert but the World champion fights back

Nys hit the front again, and took his turn to try and get rid of Albert. Once again, the Belgian champion managed to eke out a little daylight, but once again the World champion clawed his way across it. Nys kept the pressure on through the woods, gapping Albert again, but Albert managed to close him down yet again as they hit the closing section of the lap.

Štybar was the one applying the pressure in the chasing group this time, and the Czech champion’s pace was momentarily too strong for all but van der Haar, Pauwels and Peeters. Meeusen struggled across the gap once more, however, with Simunek and Aernouts just behind him, but all three were soon out the back as Peeters began to accelerate again.

Up ahead Nys was attacking again, opening yet another gap; the two big names were side by side again as hey crossed the line with three laps to go, however, with the splintering Peeters-led group now 28 seconds back.

Having attacked so many times in the previous lap, Nys then let Albert through as they left the tarmac finishing straight; the World champion lacked Nys’ kick on the tight turns through the woods though, and was not able to put his big rival under much pressure.

Peeters though, did manage to get briefly clear of the chase group, with only Pauwels able to follow, but Štybar soon pulled the others across to them.

Into the second half of the lap Nys took over the lead again, and put Albert under pressure as they crossed the off-camber slope. Yet again the World champion fought his way back up, but Nys would allow him no time to relax, and attacked him once again. Onto the finishing straight, and across the line with two to go, the two of them were together again; the chasers were now 28 seconds behind.

Nys tried what Albert had done a few laps before, and accelerated as Albert was passing through the pits, and this time he seemed to have opened up that vital gap. Sprinting into the wooded section the Belgian champion was three seconds clear, and he continued to accelerate around the winding corners; out the other side he had pulled out another second, but Albert was still not about to give up.

The chase group splits up and Nys finally escapes

Behind the battle for the lead, Pauwels had pulled Štybar away from the others, but Simunek was fighting across to them; up ahead, Albert rejoined Nys on the flatter midsection of the course, only for Nys to try to jump away again it course became more technical.

Albert tried to take the front, but Nys sprinted past him on the fast, straight descent; behind them Pauwels had come down on the off-camber climb, stopping Štybar in his tracks, and Simunek was now chasing in third position.

At the bell Albert and Nys were still together, with Albert leading over the line but, as soon as they left the tarmac Nys came forward and began to accelerate yet again.

Simunek was 29 seconds behind as he crossed the line, with Štybar and Pauwels just a second or two behind him.

Nys pulled out a tiny gap in the first wooded section, but Albert refused to let him widen it in the second; the Belgian champion stamped on his pedals on the final short rise and got briefly clear but, for the umpteenth time, Albert wound him back again. Nys allowed the World champion to take over the lead on the flatter section, but then moved ahead as they hit the off-camber climb for the final time.

Jumping clear at the top once again, Nys sprinted away on the straight that followed, and flew down the straight descent; Albert seemingly had no answer this time, and was looking laboured as Nys continued to pump his pedals.

Wobbling slightly down the final drop off, Nys arrived on the finishing straight alone and, after looking over his shoulder to check the World champion’s whereabouts, punched the sky in victory. Albert rolled in 17 seconds later, with Štybar - who had escaped the others - coming over in third, ahead of Simunek and Pauwels.

Result Elite Men
1. Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Euphony
2. Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus
3. Zdeněk Štybar (Cze) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
4. Radomir Simunek (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Euphony
5. Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb-Revor
6. Rob Peeters (Bel) Telenet-Fidea
7. Lars van der Haar (Ned) Rabobank Giant Offroad Team
8. Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet-Fidea
9. Bart Aernouts (Bel) AA Drink
10. Marcel Meisen (Ger) BKGP-Powerplus

World Cup standing after six rounds
1. Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Euphony 415pts
2. Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus 415
3. Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb-Revor 389
4. Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor 301
5. Lars van der Haar (Ned) Rabobank Giant Offroad Team 291
6. Bart Aernouts (Bel) AA Drink 290
7. Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet-Fidea 276
8. Radomir Simunek (Cze) BKCP-Powerplus 263
9. Thijs van Amerongen (Ned) AA Drink 246
10. Francis Mourey (Fra) FDJ-BigMat 240


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