HAMME-ZOGGE, BELGIUM – Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet KDL) remains undefeated in the 2012 Superprestige Series, taking a commanding solo win after escaping from a select group of racers on lap four. It was an opportune moment for Nys, who was leading Lars van der Haar (Rabobank), Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor), and Bart Aernouts (AA Drink) – as Nys came smoothly over a small, technical popper, van der Haar bobbled at the apex, stopping himself and the two riders behind him. Nys, not one to turn down such a gift, accelerated away and was never seen again.
Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus), who early on looked to be phoning this one in after a missed pedal at the start, made an impressive chase from roughly twenty riders back to reconnect with the lead chasers. A broken front derailleur momentarily put the World Champion in trouble, but it was Kevin Pauwels who ultimately had the worst luck, as the Sunweb-Revor rider first lost his chain, forcing a dismount, and then nearly unseated himself with a bobble into the barriers. The dropped chain also put Bart Aernouts, who was following Pauwels, in trouble, leaving Albert and van der Haar raced on to work out the podium positions between the two of them. Albert, knowing that van der Haar’s sprint has won the young pro many U23 races, decided not to give the Rabobank rider that chance, and put in a strong acceleration to distance himself in the last half of the final lap. Nys was already wiping off the grime as Albert came in, just ahead of van der Haar. Bart Aernouts, who has had an impressive week of racing, outsprinted Pauwels for fourth.
In the women’s race, Sanne van Paassen (Rabobank) and Pavla Havlikova (Telenet-Fidea) managed to distance themselves early on from Sanne Cant (BKCP-Enertherm), Sabrina Stultiens (Rabobank) and Joyce Vanderbeken (Decock-Sportivo Moorsele). With one lap to go, van Paassen pulled away from Havlikova, and enjoyed a solo victory. Sanne Cant, in giving chase of the two leaders, powered away from the other riders and took third. American Amy Dombroski (Telenet-Fidea) overcame a slow start to finish in eighth.
From the Beginning
As has become his habit, Lars van der Haar exploded off the line to take the holeshot, with Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor), Kevin Pauwels, Rob Peeters, and Sven Nys slotting in right behind. The opening salvos stretched the field out into a long, snaking line of racers, with all the top favorites well suited, save world champion Niels Albert, who had botched his start and then gotten stuck behind a crash, pushing him back into 22nd place.
As the early laps wore on, the line of riders continued unbroken, with Peeters and Vantornout trading leads at the front. It wasn’t until Nys, near the end of lap two, took to the front that small gaps began to appear. Most significantly, Rob Peeters pulled off of second wheel, forcing Pauwels to accelerate up to Nys and creating a gap that, as other riders dug to close, had a ripple effect down the line. As riders crossed the start finish, small groups of riders had begun to form, only a few seconds apart from each other. Notable, Niels Albert was still far down the field, in the third chase.
At the front, Aernouts continued showing that he is on fire this week by bridging up to Nys and Pauwels, followed by van der Haar to make a select group of four. Closing the gap hurt Aernouts, however, and as Pauwels pushed the pace, the AA Drink rider looked in danger of falling off the lead, losing a few bike lengths and spending the remainder of the lap clawing back on. Pauwels was looking strong, leading the race through the twisty, stair-ridden course, hoping to put last week’s bad luck behind him.
Behind the leaders, Klaas Vantornout was giving chase at the head of a large group of chasers that included Rob Peeters and, toward the back, Niels Albert, still looking fatigued. With the four riders flying at the front, this looked to be a battle for fifth place.
Van der Haar Makes it One
It was lap four, however, that decided the outcome of the race. Nys, leading the charge, rode deftly over a short, aggressive hill that required a sharp turn at the apex. Van der Haar, perhaps too close to Nys’ wheel, bobbled just before cresting the hill, forcing him to scoot his way over the top and stopping the momentum of himself, Pauwels, and Aernouts cold. By the time van der Haar got moving again, Nys was five seconds down the road. Nys, realizing he had a gap, went to work and spent the rest of the race slowly increasing his lead. By the end of the race, he had nearly 30 seconds over second place.
The timing of van der Haar’s bobble, while perfect for Nys, was not great for Albert. At right about the same time that Nys was accepting his gift horse, the world champion’s legs woke up. He launched himself out of the chase group, and closed the gap to the lead chasers in impressive time. By the time he reached Pauwels and the rest, as they crossed with five laps to go, Nys was too far gone for anything but second place to be within grasp.
Albert had little time to rest on Aernout’s wheel, however, as partway through the lap – as van der Haar was charging at the front in a bid to bring Nys back in – his bike suffered a mechanical. Albert was lucky to be near the pits, but nonetheless lost precious seconds that he had fought hard to regain. It would take nearly all of the sixth lap for Albert to again make contact.
Pauwels Poor Luck Continues
By lap seven, as Nys was clearly riding to victory, spectators began doing the math for the remainder of the podium – four chasers, two spots. Would the rookie Lars van der Haar out-sprint the rest? Would world champion Albert find the gear that won him the rainbow jersey, and solo away? Would Aernouts, clearly on the form of his life, again grit his way to a podium? And, would Pauwels shake off the bad luck of his crash at Zonhoven and put himself back with the best?
For Pauwels, sadly, that answer came well before the finish line. As the chasers stormed through a narrow, twisty section of forested course, Pauwels lost his chain, forcing him to dismount and waste precious seconds putting it back on. The mechanical also cost Aernouts, who, having been behind Pauwels, was gapped and never quite recovered the distance. For Pauwels, however, the difficulties weren’t over – while pushing to re-connect with his podium chances, the Belgian bobbled, fell into the course barriers, and nearly crashed. Though he managed to stay upright, the slip cost him his momentum and any chance to regain contact.
Ahead, Albert and van der Haar began a slug match that would last until the last minutes of the race. Having shed both Aernouts and Pauwels, the two set about trying to shed each other. For a long section of course on lap eight, it appeared that van der Haar had the best of Albert, having cleared a small swath of daylight between them, but Albert managed to grab back onto the Rabobank rider by lap nine, and again the two were together.
Ahead of them, Nys was comfortably riding to the win; behind them, Pauwels had found Aernouts, and the two would battle for fourth to the line. Albert took the lead over from van der Haar, perhaps knowing that he needed to separate himself from the young pro before the finishing straight. Van der Haar has twice won a U23 World Championship with a sprint, and Albert has consistently come up short when the win comes down to a dig for the line. If the two came together to the finish, money was on the Rabobank rider taking silver.
Albert, however, didn’t let that happen. With half a lap to go in the race, he found that extra gear and popped van der Haar off his wheel as if he’d just now remembered they were racing. Van der Haar had no response to the acceleration, and though he gave an all-out sprint on the pavement to try to catch silver, Albert had enough of a gap to relax into the second position.
The turnout went differently for Pauwels, however, as Aernouts gave a passionate sprint to take fourth place against the clearly frustrated Belgian.
But all that was well after Sven Nys, Mr. Superprestige, had crossed the line, hands raised, taking his third win of three in the 2012 Superprestige Series
Bart Hazen Photo Gallery:
2012 Superprestige Hamme-Zogge Elite Men
|3||Lars VAN DER HAAR||NED||1:01:55|
|15||Twan VAN DEN BRAND||NED||1:02:58|
|18||Gerben DE KNEGT||NED||1:03:25|
|22||Micki VAN EMPEL||NED||1:04:09|
|27||Thijs VAN AMERONGEN||NED||1:04:22|
|31||Tom VAN DEN BOSCH||BEL|
|32||Dave DE CLEYN||BEL|
2012 Superprestige Hamme-Zogge Elite Women
|1||Sanne VAN PAASSEN||NED||39:40:00|
|6||Ellen VAN LOY||BEL||40:21:00|
|10||Pauline FERRAND PREVOT||FRA||41:52:00|
|11||Kim VAN DE STEENE||BEL||42:25:00|
|14||Margriet Helena KLOPPENBURG||DEN||43:35:00|
|16||Femke VAN DEN DRIESSCHE||BEL||44:13:00|
|24||Meg DE BRUYNE||BEL|
|27||Caitlyn LA HAYE||BEL|
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