Sanne Cant wins the elite women 2011 Belgian National Championship cyclocross race in Antwerpen. Sunday Jan. 9, 2010. ( SPRIMONT PRESS / Laurent Dubrule )

Sanne Cant defends her Belgian National Championship title. ( SPRIMONT PRESS / Laurent Dubrule )

Niels Albert (BKCP-Power Plus), who said two weeks ago that he wanted to win the Belgian Championships more than even the World title, made his wish a reality today on a flat, sandy course under sunny skies in Antwerp. The 2009 World Champion pulled away from Kevin Pauwels (Telenet-Fidea) during the second lap to take a huge solo victory after years of near misses at National Championships.

Niels Albert celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the men elite 2011 Belgian Championship cyclo cross race in Antwerpen. ( SPRIMONT PRESS / Laurent Dubrule )

Niels Albert finally gets his tri-color Belgian National Championship jersey. ( SPRIMONT PRESS / Laurent Dubrule )

Albert, pedaling with his quick, bobbing cadence, easily distanced himself from a chase group that included Kevin Pauwels, Bart Wellens and Bart Aernouts – after the early laps of the race, it became clear that they were clearly racing for the final two steps on the podium. Wellens, who finished the race with a neat little bow to the crowd on the line, took second ahead of Pauwels. A disappointed Aernouts had to settle for fourth place.

Wellens, who questioned whether he would even start the race early in the week after injuring both knees in a crash in last Sunday’s race in Tervuren, looked thrilled with second place, his first appearance on the Belgian Championship podium since 2008. It marks Wellens’ seventh Nationals medal overall, including his two wins.

Sven Nys didn't have it today, and was far back during the 2011 Belgian Championship cyclo cross race in Antwerpen. Sunday Jan. 9, 2010. ( SPRIMONT PRESS / Laurent Dubrule )

Sven Nys didn't have it today. ( SPRIMONT PRESS / Laurent Dubrule )

Meanwhile, perennial Belgian Champion Sven Nys, who looked strong in the race’s first lap, encountered trouble during the second, falling rapidly from contention for even the lower steps on the podium. Nys, who looked uncomfortable all day, would abandon the race with one lap to go.

Tom Meeusen, who took the bronze medal in last year’s championship, was another pre-race favorite who would not be a factor. Although the young Telenet-Fidea rider held a good position in the first couple of laps, he gradually faded back as the effects of the flu he’s been battling with all week took hold.

The track in Antwerp, known for the difficulty of its sand sections along the Schelde river, was atypically fast following heavy rains that left the sand tightly-packed in many places. Though it featured its share of running as well, with several unrideable sections and a set of stairs, speed was the name of the game today, as Albert cruised around the course alone.

“All week I just had super legs,” said the newly crowned champion at the finish. “I really was counting down to today; I knew I was going to be very tense. Yet I didn’t expect this. For me the season is a success now. I’m the Belgian champion and the overall World Cup title is nearly locked up too.”

“I’d really like to ride the next year in the national flag, so maybe I should let a compatriot win in Sankt-Wendel,” joked Albert.

Bart Wellens in second place leading Kevin Pauwels and Bart Aernouts during the 2011 Belgian Championship cyclo cross race in Antwerpen. Sunday Jan. 9, 2010. ( SPRIMONT PRESS / Laurent Dubrule )

Bart Wellens in second place leading Kevin Pauwels and Bart Aernouts. ( SPRIMONT PRESS / Laurent Dubrule )

Wellens thought that when Aernouts and Pauwels joined him, they had a chance of bringing back the flying Albert. “If we had all three fully joined forces, it would still have been possible,” Wellens said on his team website. “I asked three, four times for them to work, but neither Kevin nor Bart [would]. Pity, because at times I felt very strong, but I could not maintain [Albert's pace].”

Stijn Huys took the Belgian Elite without contract title, finishing first in the race that started just on the heels of the professional race.

Cant Repeats As Elite Women’s Champion

Nancy BOBER (2nd), Sanne CANT winner and Joyce VANDERBEKE (3rd) on the podium of the elite women 2011 Belgian National Championship cyclocross race in Antwerpen. Sunday Jan. 9, 2010. ( SPRIMONT PRESS / Laurent Dubrule )

Nancy Bober (2nd), Sanne Cant winner and Joyce Vanderbeke (3rd) on the podium of the Elite Women. ( SPRIMONT PRESS / Laurent Dubrule )

Earlier in the day defending champion and overwhelming favorite Sanne Cant reclaimed her title in convincing fashion, beating runner-up Nancy Bober by a huge margin – nearly two minutes – and third place finisher and former champion Joyce Vanerbeken by nearly three minutes.

“Before the race I felt a little bit of stress,” said the 20 year-old Cant afterwards. “You’re never sure of the title. But then I first attacked in the sand and instantly had a gap. Then I just rode at my own tempo for the rest. But it was hard for me still. Because of all the running, I nearly had cramps by the last lap.”

Check back for additional reactions and more, coming soon.

Men’s Photo Gallery:

Women’s Photo Gallery:


Full Results

Men’s Race

RankNameNat.Age*ResultPaRPcR
1Niels ALBERTBEL2559:47100100
2Bart WELLENSBEL331:00:106060
3Kevin PAUWELSBEL271:00:144040
4Bart AERNOUTSBEL291:00:293030
5Klaas VANTORNOUTBEL291:00:522525
6Sven VANTHOURENHOUTBEL301:01:032020
7Kenneth VAN COMPERNOLLEBEL231:01:371515
8Dieter VANTHOURENHOUTBEL261:01:431010
9Rob PEETERSBEL261:01:4955
10Jan DENUWELAEREBEL231:02:4333
11Jan VERSTRAETENBEL331:03:13
12Tom VAN DEN BOSCHBEL261:05:46
13Jelle WALLAYSBEL22

Women’s Race

RankNameNat.Age*ResultPaRPcR
1Sanne CANTBEL2138:24100100
2Nancy BOBERBEL3640:116060
3Joyce VANDERBEKENBEL2741:084040
4Ellen VAN LOYBEL3141:253030
5Anne ARNOUTSBEL2241:262525
6Nicole DE BIE – LEYTENBEL3641:422020
7Hilde QUINTENSBEL4742:461515
8Gertie WILLEMSBEL3442:471010
9Katrien AERTSBEL4143:2555
10Kristien NELENBEL3343:3433
11Katrien VERMEIRENBEL2244:08
12Anja GELDHOFBEL3844:27
13Karen VERHESTRAETENBEL2044:33
14Katrien VAN LOOYBEL2245:43
15Ilse VANDEKINDERENBEL2146:10
16Laure WERNERBEL3046:44
17Anisha VEKEMANSBEL2047:26
18Saron DEFOORBEL23
19Sandie VERRIESTBEL29
<a class=”shutterset_” title=”Niels Albert celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the men elite 2011 Belgian Championship cyclo cross race in Antwerpen. ( SPRIMONT PRESS / Laurent Dubrule )” href=”http://www.cxmagazine.com/wp-content/gallery/belgian-cyclocross-national-championships-2011-elite-men/belgian-national-championships-2011-men-sprimont-press-as201101209_0022_1.jpg”><img class=”ngg-singlepic ngg-left ” title=”Niels Albert celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the men elite 2011 Belgian Championship cyclo cross race in Antwerpen. ( SPRIMONT PRESS / Laurent Dubrule )” src=”http://www.cxmagazine.com/wp-content/gallery/belgian-cyclocross-national-championships-2011-elite-men/thumbs/thumbs_belgian-national-championships-2011-men-sprimont-press-as201101209_0022_1.jpg” alt=”Niels Albert celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the men elite 2011 Belgian Championship cyclo cross race in Antwerpen. ( SPRIMONT PRESS / Laurent Dubrule )” width=”160″ height=”130″ /></a>

Niels Albert finally gets his tri-color Belgian National Championship jersey. ( SPRIMONT PRESS / Laurent Dubrule )