DIEGEM, BELGIUM – Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) and Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) distanced the rest of the field in the Diegem Superprestige night race, but couldn’t create separation from one another. It wasn’t until Nys dropped his chain in the final 300 meters of the race that Albert was able to create some breathing room, and the former world champ powered on to the win.
Nys was able to hold on for second, and Zdenek Stybar (Telenet-Fidea) rounded out the podium in his first race after several weeks off as he recouped from tendinitis of the knee. This marks Albert’s second consecutive victory in the nighttime event, and Nys’ result furthers his position at the front of the Superprestige series as the next-best in the series, Kevin Pauwels (Telenet-Fidea), only managed a seventh place.
Rob Peeters, Bart Wellens, Phillipp Walsleben, Kevin Pauwels, Sven Vanthourenhout, Jan Denuwelaere and Gerben de Knegt rounded off the top 10. Jonathan Page was the best American in 16th. Brian Matter (35th), Mitchell Hoke (36th), Sean Babcock (37th), Mark Lalonde (38th), Ryan Knapp (39th) and Ryan Iddings (42th) were the other Americans finishing the race. Canadians Craig Richey (34th) and Shaun Adamson (43th) took part as well.
Surprisingly it was World Champion Zdenek Stybar who had the best start and turned into the field in first. Stybar created a gap after a crash behind him but was a little too enthusiastic; the Czech went down in a icy corner. Stybar fell back to 10th with Sven Nys and Niels Albert taking over. The two broke clear with the others not able to follow. Behind, Kevin Pauwels, Bart Wellens, Zdenek Stybar, Rob Peeters, Martin Zlamalik and a few others were battling for the third position.
Nys and Albert increased their lead lap by lap. Both rivals constantly changed positions and attacked several times but without success. In the battle for third, Stybar refound his legs after the crash and dropped Peeters.
In the final lap Sven Nys took the lead early and continually pressured Albert. In the park, Albert took over but Nys followed until a chain problem ruined his chances for the win.
Albert said, “The race was ideal for me. I rode for the win while Sven was riding for the overall ranking. Due to the snow, there was just one ideal line in the park, and passing each other was almost impossible. Sven and I were equal to one another, with differences being the small details. I felt very strong and waited until the final lap to take my chance. I didn’t see what happened with Sven. A pity, but I don’t think he would have won from me without the bad luck.”
Nys’ misfortune was just like last year in Diegem. “I don’t think I made a mistake. I think I took the turn quite OK. This is really frustrating. I’d rather lose the race in a sprint than too lose it this way. The last couple of weeks my mechanics worked hard to avoid this. They even put in an extra bracket to keep the chain in its place. Yesterday Boom had the same problem three times. Cyclocross is a mechanical sport and in the hecticness of a race this can happen,” said Nys.
Nys continued about the race itself: “I had the good feeling today. With my second place, I extend my leader’s position in the Superprestige. Today my main business was to secure my lead. I knew it was better to have Niels as ally than as my rival. Therefore I didn’t take too many risks. I tried to be in front all the time in the final lap and to surprise Niels on the stairs, but unfortunately the chain problems prevented that. I wanted to win here very much because I wanted to thank my sponsor in the faith and support they have given me through the years.” Nys recently extended his contract with Landbouwkrediet until March 2014, and he also announced that he will retire from cycling after his contract expires.
Zdenek Stybar was really satisfied about his comeback. “I am very happy with the result. I didn’t expect this. I started a little too enthusiastically. In the first lap I crashed and fell back to 10th. I rode on adrenaline because I was so happy to be back in competition. After my crash I chose to stay calm and to move forward slowly. I know I’m not in top shape yet, but I can conclude that it isn’t so bad after all with this result.”
“All the built up adrenaline from the past month gave me a gap,” Stybar said. “It was pure enjoyment during the first lap, until I hit the ground.”
Although Stybar battled back, he wouldn’t see the front of the race again. “This is like a victory,” Stybar said. “I know that I started a little too fast and I paid for it. My fall? I think that was due to my time away. Maybe I lost a bit technically, but that will come back.”
“I don’t want to worry anyone, but I have a small wound from my fall,” said Stybar. “But if all goes well I’ll start in Loenhout on Wednesday. Bredene, Ball and Tervuren follow soon after that. We’re off and running again!”
Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) was the top American, finishing with a respectable 16th place.