Cyclocross World Cup: Niels Albert recaptures his World title form on the dunes of Koksijde
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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cyclocross World Cup: Niels Albert recaptures his World title form on the dunes of Koksijde

by Ben Atkins at 10:36 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Cyclocross, Race Reports and Results
 
Francis Mourey wins the battle for second as former rainbow jersey dominates in the sand

niels albertNiels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) recaptured the form that saw him take the second of his World titles on the dunes of Koksijde, Belgium, to win the World Cup Duinencross in similarly dominant style. The 27-year-old, who has one of the dunes on the course named in his honour following his 2012 World championship victory, escaped the pack on the fourth of nine laps of the sandy course, and left those behind him to compete for second place.

Widening his lead with every lap, Albert was able to relax on the final circuit, and even had time to play to the crowd on the finishing straight; paying tribute to compatriot Paul Herygers' victory in the 1994 World championships. The fight for the second step of the podium was won by French champion Francis Mourey (FDJ.fr), going one better than his third place of 2012, just ahead of German champion Philipp Walsleben (BKCP-Powerplus), 32 seconds behind.

Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) made his usual fast start but, as the Belgian champion had to dismount early on the first long sandy stretch, World champion Sven Nys (Crelan-KDL) and World Cup leader Lars van der Haar (Rabobank) stormed past and pulled a little way clear. Nys also stuttered a little, however, and van der Haar crossed the line at the end of the lap with compatriot Corné van Kessel (Telenet-Fidea) alongside him, a few seconds clear of the rest.

The second lap saw more early domination from the Dutch, as Thijs van Amerongen (AA Drink) opened up a little lead over the line, but Walsleben was leading a six-man group not far behind him. With the German champion were Albert and BKCP-Powerplus teammate Wietse Bosmans, Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea), van der Haar and Vantornout. Nys was leading Mourey and van Amerongen just a few seconds behind and, as Vantornout crashed in the sand, the Belgian champion was overtaken by this chasing group.

Up front Albert and Meeusen began to pull clear at the beginning of lap four as the two groups came together behind them. Meeusen was unable to stay with Albert for long, however, and the BKCP-Powerplus rider began to steadily pull away. Albert was seven seconds clear of his former companion at the end of the lap, with Nys leading the chase group at 23 seconds.

As Nys faltered a little on the sand van der Haar and van Kessel began to close in on Meeusen. The world champion dropped back to be joined by a group that included Bart Aernouts (AA Drink) and Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games).

The big chase group began to reform behind van der Haar, but continued to close in on Meeusen. The Telenet-Fidea rider was refusing to yield though, holding them at bay for most of the lap. With four laps to go, Meeusen was 28 seconds behind Albert, but van der Haar led the chase group just five seconds behind him.

The group caught Meeusen soon afterwards, with Vantornout taking station at the front. The race looked to be for second place by now, however, as Albert was smoothly completing his sixth lap. By the time the Belgian champion led the group of ten across the line with three laps to go, Albert’s lead was up to 52 seconds.

The chase group now consisted of Vantornout, Walsleben, van der Haar, Meeusen, van Kessel, Pauwels, Mourey, Aernouts, Bosmans and Nys.

Mourey then tried to ride clear of the group, but Walsleben was quickly on the French champion’s wheel. The two of them managed to break a little way clear, but Vantornout was leading the rest just behind them. This pulled Pauwels and van Kessel away from the others, as the group began to fracture; near the back Nys and van der Haar were beginning to struggle.

Walsleben then dropped Mourey in the sand, and crossed the line with two laps to go in a clear second place. The German champion was 55 seconds behind teammate Albert, with Mourey at 58; Pauwels had broken clear of the others, and was 1’05” back in fourth. Nys led the others across the line another ten seconds back, while van der Haar was now a few seconds behind the group, apparently struggling with a pedal cleat issue.

Albert, meanwhile, was still ploughing his lone furrow through the sand up front, pulling further away with each turn of the pedals.

Whatever problem Nys had been having a lap or so before had apparently now disappeared, as the World champion rode up to the back wheel of Pauwels. The two Belgians were now closing in on the German and Frenchman in front of them, but a wobble from Pauwels checked them both and allowed Aernouts and Meeusen to close.

Walslben was still trying to get rid of Mourey, with the German able to ride across a long sandy stretch that the Frenchman had to dismount for. Pauwels had left Nys behind again, but the World champion refused to let the gap open too wide and passed the Sunweb-Napoleon Games rider and the group came together just before they hit the line.

At the bell Albert’s lead was up to 54 seconds over the group of five, but the former World champion’s teammate Bosmans was having far worse luck as he crashed at the foot of a steep dune descent and landed heavily. The 21-year-old lay on the ground for some time, and was eventually stretchered off by ambulance staff.

Mourey then escaped the chase group, but Nys then put in his customary final lap acceleration and powered past the French champion on the dunes. Walsleben pulled Mourey and Pauwels back up to the World champion’s wheel, and then pushed past as Nys faltered a little at the top of a sandy rise.

Walsleben then kicked again, opening up a gap of his own, but his teammate Albert was on the finishing straight by now. The former World champion theatrically dismounted, then remounted again - just as Herygers had done in 1994 - and crossed the line with both arms raised to take his first win in the World Cup since Pilsen, Czech Republic, the second round of the previous season’s competition.

Mourey had managed to get to the front of the group behind, meanwhile, and sprinted around the final corner with Walsleben on his wheel. The French champion managed to hold off the German all the way to the line to take second place, as Nys and Pauwels cruised over in fourth and fifth.

Tenth place for van der Haar was just enough for the Netherlands champion to hold onto the World Cup lead, but Walsleben had closed the gap to just two points.

Result Elite Men
1. Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus
2. Francis Mourey (Fra) FDJ.fr
3. Philipp Walsleben (Ger) BKCP-Powerplus
4. Sven Nys (Bel) Crelan-KDL
5. Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb-Napoleon Games
6. Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet-Fidea
7. Bart Aernouts (Bel) AA Drink
8. Corné Van Kessel (Ned) Telenet-Fidea
9. Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Napoleon Games
10. Lars van der Haar (Ned) Rabobank Development Team

World Cup standings after three rounds
1. Lars van der Haar (Ned) Rabobank Development Team 202pts
2. Philipp Walsleben (Ger) BKCP-Powerplus 200
3. Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb-Napoleon Games 190
4. Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus 170
5. Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Napoleon Games 161

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