Nys (l) was one of the only riders able to match the pace of Stybar. © Bart Hazen
by Bart Hazen
Zdenek Stybar (Telenet-Fidea) continued his sensational run this season, claiming his eighth win out of nine starts today in Zonhoven, Belgium. After a thrilling battle he proved too strong for his teammate Kevin Pauwels and Belgian champion Sven Nys. Bart Aernouts and Niels Albert finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Jonathan Page abandoned the race with a few laps to go.
As usual, Stybar took control from the first lap with only Nys, Pauwels and Aernouts able to follow the world champion. Niels Albert led a chasing group with, among others, Bart Wellens and Phillipe Walsleben that was able to join the break in the second lap. Klaas Vantornout abandoned the race early on as the captain of the Sunweb-Revor team was sick all week.
The break didn’t stay together for long with Stybar, Nys and Pauwels creating a small gap. When Stybar had to change bikes, Pauwels took advantage of it to attack with Nys on his wheel. Stybar rejoined the break together with Aernouts and a bit later also by Albert and Wellens.In the eighth of 10 laps, Stybar attacked the break again and quickly created a gap on his competitors. His maximum gap was 16 seconds, but turning into the final lap the gap was down to less than 10 seconds over Pauwels and Nys. Aernouts, Albert and Wellens had dropped off earlier.
In the final lap Pauwels came close to his Czech teammate, but couldn’t close the final gap. With his second win in a row in this year’s Superprestige, Stybar retains the overall lead. Winner Stybar said, “I am happy that I have won eight out of nine races. Today was a tough ’cross and it cost me lots of energy to stay in front. Kevin came close, but I was able to hold him off.” On his Superprestige overall ambitions, he said, “It’s nice to have won both Superprestige races thus far, but it’s too soon to think about the overall win. One bad day and the classification can be over. I will take it race by race.”
Stybar almost crashed during the race as one of the spectators didn’t pay attention as he was waving to the camera with a beer in his hands. “That was very stupid, because the people were waving to the TV cameras. I was riding close to the barriers and swept from the left to the right after I hit his hand. It could have cost me the victory if I crashed.”
Sven Nys was positive about his race, “I had the feeling from the beginning that I could win the race. I made a tactical mistake to sit in fifth position at a certain moment when Stybar attacked. I tried to close the gap with Pauwels on my wheel, but he profited from my work. I’m satisfied about my condition and I am sure that it won’t take that long before I can win a big race, maybe tomorrow on the Koppenberg. The race suits me, as I have won the race seven times already.”
Van der Haar Surprises Aernouts in U23 Race
The U23 race was an exciting battle between Lars van der Haar (Rabobank) and Jim Aernouts (BKCP-Powerplus). The two broke clear from a large break in the early phase of the race. Van der Haar was the surprising winner in a two-up sprint, outpacing Belgian champion Jim Aernouts. Joeri Adams finished third.
Van der Haar and Aernouts found each other early on in the race and extended their lead lap by lap. In the chase there was a constant change of positions between Vinnie Braet, Sven Beelen, Stef Boden, Vincent Baestaens, Marcel Meisen and Joeri Adams. The latter rejoined the group after a crash in the first lap. In the final lap Aernouts tried to surprise van der Haar on the hills but didn’t succeed. In the sprint, van der Haar was a bit faster. Adams put in a strong ride to claim third after getting rid of Meisen in the final lap.
“I am very satisfied. I was feeling fresh and strong the whole race and had enough energy left for the final lap,” said van der Haar. “In the descents Jim was a bit stronger, but on the running parts I could return. This gives me much confidence for the Koppenberg.”
Aernouts kept his overall lead in the Superprestige with his second place. “I kept the pace as high as possible from the beginning and only Lars was following me. We clearly were the strongest today. I tried to surprise Lars in the final lap, but he didn’t drop. I was very tired.”
“In the first lap I hit the bike from Polnicky who crashed in front of me,” said Adams. “I had to change bikes and had to move up from the back of the field. When I was back with the chasing group, the two in front were gone already. I saved some energy and gave it all in the final lap to take third place.”