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HASSELT, BELGIUM – On a fast, dry course, Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet KDL) rode away from Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) in the penultimate lap to secure his second victory in the GVA Bpost Bank Trofee cyclocross series. Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor), having won here in the previous two additions, had hoped the favorable course would end his string of bad luck. It was not to be, however, as with two laps to go he botched an attempt to hop a log barrier – possibly knocked off his line by Nys’ elbow – and came crashing down as the other two leaders rode away, Nys waiving a hand in apology. In the overall series, Albert still leads Nys by 20 seconds, followed by Pauwels at 2:38.
In the U23 race, Belgian champion Wietse Bosmans won in a sprint with Michael Vanthourenhout. Tim Merlier came in third. Michael Vanthourenhout remains overall series leader.
At the gun, Nys grabbed lead position as the pack immediately careened into the sharp right-hand bend as behind him a number of racers hit pavement after getting squeezed into the fence. None of the main contenders were involved. The early laps were lit up by Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor), who stormed off the front as behind him Rob Peeters (Telenet-Fidea), marked by Nys, led a long line of racers in pursuit.
As the racers crossed the line, it was Peeters who edged around Vantornout to lead into the second lap, and as both he and Nys bunny-hopped the log barriers, the two pulled away from the rest as they neared the tussensprint – a ‘cross prime that awards time bonuses. Nys pushed around Peeters to nab the bonus, thus drawing himself fifteen seconds closer to series leader Niels Albert.
With the fast, dry, flat course offering little room for quick gaps, the race continued to proceed in one long, unbroken line of riders, at times led by Peeters, at others Vantornout. On the third lap, Albert took over the lead. The world champion then began to lift the pace, and race began to see its first splits.
The shakeup left Albert, Peeters, Nys, Pauwels, Vantornout, Dieter Vantourenhout and Radomir Simunek alone at the front. A short-lived move by Peeters attempted to shrink the lead group further, but it was a bobble by Vantornout, as Albert led the race, that caused the major split as only Nys and Pauwels were able to get around the lanky rider to form a three-man lead of the world’s best. Though the group would never re-form, the fast nature of the course ensured that the gaps never grew beyond a handful of seconds between each chase, with the top seven all finishing the race within a minute of each other.
For a moment, in fact, it looked as if it would only be two as Sven Nys visibly struggled in the sand pits, allowing daylight between himself and his compatriots. The Belgian champ recovered, however, and with three to go the podium was clear – all that remained was to determine who would take which spot.
Indeed, Pauwels looked well posed to continue his streak of Hasselt wins, having never looked in danger and riding strong. The Sunweb-Revor’s rider looked ready to put his crash-ridden early season behind him. It was not to be, however, as Pauwels led the trio into the log barriers. Nys, knowing he could navigate the logs more quickly than the other two, came up on the inside as both began their hops. On the second log, the two came in brief contact at the elbow, and the bump was enough to send Pauwels to the ground. Nys, after staying upright, took a look behind, waved a hand of apology, and continued on with Albert as Pauwels shook off the crash and hopped back on his bike.
“I had to go to the head, jump over the beams with more speed than Kevin,” Nys said after the race. “Either I went out of balance, or Kevin, but it was certainly not intentional. I probably hit him with my elbow. I almost fell myself. Kevin fell and I hesitated a moment but he took too long. I thought of waiting, because it was a trap that could be avoided. I had a little more speed, had a little more left to go, but hey, that’s racing. There was contact and [one of] the two went to the ground. That was not the intention.”
“I was a bit slower on the trunks and Nys was faster and he hit me here,” said Pauwels. “Therefore I went to the ground. I think if he was not there, I was right. He did not do it on purpose, but it is so. I saw his hand gesture to be excused and it’s already forgotten. Today I was really good, I did better than the previous weeks, but Sven is really very strong.”
As Pauwels gave chase behind, Nys began to put the pressure on Niels, taking every advantage of the twisty course. At each turn, Nys extended a small gap over the world champion, forcing Albert to pursue. It was the log barriers, however, and the sand pit that ultimately gave Nys the advantage that he then never relinquished, as he sailed through both as if they were pavement, gaining handfuls of seconds over Albert after each obstacle. Nys charged around the final lap, sprinting out of the saddle at every opportunity, doing everything he could to maximize his time gains.
By the end of the race, his hands high in victory, Nys had claimed a fourteen second lead over Albert, and clawed back nearly 30 seconds in the overall standings. Pauwels, never able to re-connect with the two leaders, rolled in at third place, with a string of chasers close on his wheel. Klaas Vantornout followed at 36 seconds, then Dieter Vanthourenhout, Bart Wellens, Bart Aernouts, and Rob Peeters all rolling across the line within one minute of Nys.
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2012 GVA Hasselt - Elite Men
|11||Thijs VAN AMERONGEN||NED||56:14:00|
|17||Gerben DE KNEGT||NED||56:45:00|
|18||Eddy VAN IJZENDOORN||NED||57:03:00|
|26||Twan VAN DEN BRAND||NED||58:14:00|
|29||Tom VAN DEN BOSCH||BEL||59:18:00|