TERVUREN, BELGIUM – Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) distanced his rivals and showed that he’s on great form coming into next weekend’s Belgian National Championships. Albert’s win wraps up the Christmas week of racing in Belgium, which featured big races and stacked fields almost every day between Christmas and January 2nd, and also marks the end of the four-race Fidea Cyclocross Classics. Albert adds this win to his recent victories in Diegem and Loenhout.

Sven Nys kept Albert close, but was unable to close the gap. A late crash by Nys was the final factor that would keep the win out of reach. Tom Meeusen, who’s in his first year as an Elite, rounded out the podium, and those three are the favorites to make a run at the Belgian championship jersey.

Hanka Kupfernagel (Stevens), a fixture on the podiums, managed to pull out the win today in the women’s race, and a crash by her rival Marianne Vos (Nederland Bloeit) helped her cause as well.

Kupfernagel’s Still Got It; Two Americans in Top 10

In the women’s race, German champ Hanka Kupfernagel led the race from wire to wire, winning in impressive fashion. A dangerous Marianne Vos  crashed at the start and was in pursuit mode for the rest of the way. Kupfernagel maintained over a minute gap over Cant to take the win, with Vos having to settle for third place. Despite the miscue, the Dutchwoman looks to be one of Katie Compton’s primary challengers for the World Championship stripes at the end of the month.

Vos’ countrywoman Daphny van den Brand also came to grief on the course – she was dueling with Cant for second place when she crashed outside of the tape. She would not continue the race.

Both Amy Dombroski (Crank Brothers) and Mo Bruno Roy (Bob’s Red Mill) were able to crack the top 10, taking seventh and ninth places, respectively. Dombroski matched her result at the Swiss GP 5 Sterne Region (read her report of that experience here.)

“My race was good – better than yesterday in Luxembourg. Today you could use your power and push out of the corners,” said Bruno Roy. “But the first two laps today my legs were still tired from yesterday, so I have been trying to warm up longer and keep loose.”  Bruno’s plan of attack clearly worked as she crossed the line in ninth against a stellar field.  If chosen for the National Team to represent USA at World Championships, Bruno says she’s certain that she’s on target to be in top form.

“I got over here a few days ago. The first race was really ugly – I felt discombobulated and slow,” said Dombroski. “So far of these three days of racing, today I was feeling much better and more on top of things. The legs are finally coming around. After Nationals, I took some time to do some base miles, so I think the snappiness is still to come, and I still have a lot of fitness to gain.”  As for her designs on racing in World Championships, Dombroski adds, “I feel like the season really hasn’t started yet. I have a lot to gain still. I’d be bummed if I didn’t make the team.”

Albert Wraps Up a Busy Race Week

Early on it was Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) and Eddy van IJzendoorn (AA Drink)) who led the peloton into the first corner. But they’d quickly succumb to the chasers’ quick pace and fall back. Page would go on to finish with a solid 12th place, but van IJzendoorn claimed that he was not dressed well enough for the cold conditions, and he’d eventually pull out of the race.

“I struggled today, but I stayed in one piece,” explained Jonathan Page. Considering most of the riders were on the ground at some point during the race, this in itself was a feat. “I didn’t feel super, so I think it’s time for a little break from racing. Since next week is the Belgian Nationals, I will have time to train. Now I can train myself into super form…maybe,” said Page.

Rob Peeters was the next to test his legs,and the Telenet-Fidea rider quickly built up a gap that would last for the first half of the event. Behind, his teammates took different approaches. While Tom Meeusen spent some time blocking on his teammate’s behalf, Zdenek Stybar, who won this race last year, joined Albert in setting the pace to reel in Peeters.

Stybar, however, started going backwards in the second half of the race, and said that he felt yesterday’s efforts in Baal, where Sven Nys narrowly edged him out for an exciting win. Stybar would eventually finish in seventh. Meanwhile Albert was rapidly closing on the lone leader – he made the junction halfway through the race and would quickly drop him and set off on his own.

Nys made things exciting as he relentlessly chased after his rival, but a miscue and crash meant that second place was as far as he’d get. Peeters, the early leader, would hang on for fifth, with Philipp Walsleben (BKCP-Powerplus) just two seconds behind in fifth. Bart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea) was also in the mix for much of the race, but a hard crash in the pits would result in a DNF for the former world champ.

After the race, Albert said that his priority was to prepare for next week’s National Championship. “But at some point I decided to go for it anyway.”

“It will not be easy to beat Nys [in the National Championships]. Sven has 10 years of experience,” Albert told Sport.be.

Reigning world champ Stybar has a National Championships of his own to defend, in the Czech Republic. ““I can actually be pretty pleased with my Christmas,” Zdenek said on his website. “I was on the podium four times and even won in Bredene. Now I hope to recover well for a few days and be ready for the Czech championship. I hope to show my rainbow jersey there and win again.”

Full Results:

Elite Men

1Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus0:59:10
2Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet0:00:21
3Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team0:00:55
4Rob Peeters (Bel) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team0:01:24
5Philipp Walsleben (Ger) BKCP-Powerplus0:01:26
6Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor0:01:31
7Zdenek Štybar (Cze) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team0:01:43
8Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team
9Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor0:01:46
10Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus0:02:28
11Kenneth van Compernolle (Bel) Sunweb-Revor0:02:29
12Jonathan Page (USA) Planet Bike0:03:14
13Thijs Al (Ned) AA Drink Cycling Team0:04:19
14Tom van den Bosch (Bel) AA Drink Cycling Team0:04:25
15Ben Berden (Bel) Qin Cycling Team0:04:41
16Marek Cichosz (Pol)0:04:46
17Matthias Bossuyt (Bel)0:04:50
18Patrick Gaudy (Bel)0:05:19
19Marek Konwa (Pol)0:05:22
20Mike Thielemans (Bel)0:05:42
21Ramon Sinkeldam (Ned)0:05:53
22Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux)0:06:06
23Bram Schmitz (Ned) Van Vliet EBH Elshof0:06:12
24Tim Van Nuffel (Bel) Van Goethem – Prorace0:06:16
25Vincent Baestaens (Bel) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team0:06:28
26Jan Verstraeten (Bel) KDL-Trans0:06:44
27 (-1 lap)Kevin Cant (Bel)
28 (-2 laps)Robert Gavenda (Svk) Telenet-Fidea Cycling Team
29Rikke Dijkxhoorn (Ned) Van Vliet EBH Elshof
30Tom De Kort (Bel)
31Matteo Trentin (Ita)
32Kevin Eeckhout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor
33Gianni Denolf (Bel) Baboco – Revor Cycling Team
34Daniel Ruiz (Spa)
35Geert Wellens (Bel) Champion System LBS Team
36 (-3 laps)Brian Matter (USA) Gear Grinder
37Xabier Garcia (Spa)
38Ryan Iddings (USA) Redline
39Mark Lalonde (USA) Specialized
40Yu Takenouchi (Jpn)
41Dries Pauwels (Bel)
42Sean Babcock (USA) Kona
43 (-4 laps)Sven Van Eyndt (Bel)
44Ritchie Denolf (Bel)
45 (-5 laps)Shaun Adamson (Can) Cycle-Smart
46Hikura Kosaka (Jpn)

Elite Women:

1Hanka Kupfernagel (Ger)0:35:38
2Sanne Cant (Bel) BKCP-Powerplus0:01:06
3Marianne Vos (Ned) Nederland Bloeit0:01:26
4Sabrina Stultiens (Ned)0:01:37
5Pavla Havlikova (Cze)0:01:39
6Reza Hormes-Ravenstijn (Ned)0:02:12
7Amy Dombroski (USA) Luna Pro Team0:02:15
8Gabriella Day (GBr) The ChainStay-RENNER0:02:28
9Maureen Bruno Roy (USA) Bob’s Red Mill p/b Seven Cycles0:02:51
10Linda Van Rijen (Ned)0:03:14
11Elisabeth Brandau (Ger)0:03:46
12Ellen Van Loy (Bel)0:04:22
13Nancy Bober (Bel)0:04:54
14Gertie Willems (Bel)0:05:01
15Anja Geldhof (Bel)0:05:16
16Anne Arnouts (Bel)0:05:40
17Nicole De Bie – Leyten (Bel)0:05:57
18Tessa Van Nieuwpoort (Ned)0:06:08
19Hilde Quintens (Bel)0:06:14
20Iris Ockeloen (Ned)0:06:40
21Katrien Vermeiren (Bel)0:06:46
22Nathalie Nijns (Bel)0:06:48
23Katrien Thijs (Bel)0:06:50
24Kristien Nelen (Bel)
25Katrien Aerts (Bel)
26Suzie Godart (Lux)0:08:02
27Ayako Toyooka (Jpn)0:08:34
28Lana Verberne (Ned)
29 (-1 lap)Ilse Vandekinderen (Bel)
30Monique van de Ree (Ned)
31Lisa Bogaert (Bel)
32Laure Werner (Bel)