IGORRE, SPAIN – Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) nursed a small gap over Francis Mourey (FDJ) to take both the fourth round of the UCI World Cup and the series lead after Zdenek Stybar’s (Telenet-Fidea), the previous leader, was unable to start.
With Stybar missing, Mourey seized control of the racing. Countering an early move by Marcel Wildhaber (Scott-Swisspower), the duo of Bart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea) and Mourey went off the front. In the third lap, Mourey dropped Wellens who drifted back to join Kevin Pauwels (Telenet-Fidea), Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) and Klass Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor). A lap later, Albert made the junction to join Mourey.
Given the incredibly muddy conditions, Albert found the front of the race to be an ideal position and pushed the break forward. “With the ruts in the mud it was difficult for competitors to catch up,” Albert said. “That’s why I chose the front.”
With Albert and Mourey pressing forward, the chase lost over a minute. As the win looked secure from the break, Albert upped the pace on the seventh lap. The acceleration left Mourey wanting and he began to drift back.
With two laps to go, Mourey managed to limit his losses to 12 seconds. While the gap was tantalizingly close to Albert, Mourey had nothing left to close it. “I felt good,” he said. “I made the initial selection, but when I was dropped, Albert was just gone.”
Behind him, Nys pushed on and dropped the rest of the chase. When he crossed the line, he was only 39 seconds behind Albert.
Albert spoke after the race of some of his challenges on the way to the win, “At the beginning my feeling was not bad,” he told reporters at a post-race press conference, “but it was not good, because we had a very hard week training in Spain. So the feeling was ok, but not like last week in Koksijde. I liked the stairs (on the new course), but I liked the hill on the road (on the old course better). I think the hill on the road is even harder than the stairs, so maybe next year you can include both.”
Despite his third place, Nys was pleased with his performance. His Mallorca training camp had left him well-trained but not sharp enough for victory at Igorre, he said. “I have a good foundation of training, but no turbo… it’s related to the training I’ve done recently,” he said.
Holding on for fifth in Igorre, Pauwels trails Albert by 59 points in the series classification with Mourey and Stybar tied for third. With his third place finish, Nys moved into fifth place, only a point behind the two.