World Champion Niels Albert (BKCP) won Europe’s season opener in Erpe Mere, overcoming a slow start and multiple bike changes to show everyone the World Champ is fit and ready for this season.
Albert took advantage of the absence of the two other Worlds podium racers, Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) and Zdenek Stybar (Fidea Telenet) who both skipped the race as they readied for their surprise appearance at CrossVegas and were acclimatizing to desert heat in Spain (just kidding, we can hope right?).
Early in the race, Albert spent time saying hello to old friends in the pits, switching his bikes twice (comparing lap times on electronic Dura-Ace versus mechanical Dura-Ace or mimicking Amy Dombroski in the U23 National Championships and just getting some practice in?). But Kevin Pauwels (Fidea Telenet), Bart Aernouts (Rabobank), Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb) and Albert’s teammate Dieter Vanthourenhout were all business and quickly gapped the World Champ.
But soon Albert rejoined the leaders and showed them he’s boss with a strong third lap, riding solo for the rest of the race, much like his dominant performance in Hoogerheide.
The real race was for second place, with young Kevin Pauwels taking the sprint over Vanthourenhout. It was an emotional podium for Pauwels, after his brother Tim died at the very same race five years ago.
BKCP completed a strong race with Radomir Simunek finishing in fifth.