Vorselaar, Belgium – Winter made a final statement in Belgium today – fitting for the finale on one of the coldest, snowiest seasons in recent memory – bringing snow and freezing temperatures back to the cyclocross circuit one more time. But the snow did not deter Zdeněk Štybar (Telenet-Fidea) or Niels Albert (BKCP – Powerplus), who delivered fans one of the most exciting days of this eight race series.
Even before the start, it was clear that the race would be a shootout between Štybar and Albert, who have emerged in the last year as two of ‘cross’s biggest rivals, battling throughout the season for both podium places and major titles. The pair entered today’s race tied in the overall classification, and though Štybar told the press earlier this week that he felt Albert had earned a Superprestige title with his early season dominance, it was clear that the World Champion did not intend to go down without a fight.
From the gun, the race shaped up as something of a battle royale, with nearly ten racers trading shots at the front on a very fast, very slippery course that wound through woods and parkland just outside of the center of town. But by the beginning of the final lap, the searing pace and technical course had done their work, and Albert tore down the homestretch alone, pursued by the World Champion, perhaps five seconds behind.
Štybar managed to connect with Albert a few moments later, and the two went wheel to wheel and elbow to elbow into the final turns of the course. Štybar grabbed a lead as the pair hit the final stretch of road, and Albert, unable to respond, sat up, handing the Czech racer, who also won the UCI World Cup overall in January, his second major series title of the season.
“I’m totally wrecked,” Štybar told Belgian television VT4. “Two laps from the end I had to switch bikes. After a slip in a corner my wheel was bent. I lost seven seconds on Albert with only two laps to go. I had to risk everything but it went ok,” Stybar said.
The icy, treacherous course was not without its casualties. Christian Heule crashed early, taking himself and Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor) out of the lead group. Sven Vanthourenhout, another Sunweb-Revor rider, seriously injured his leg in a crash midway through the race and had to be removed from the course on a stretcher.
Radomir Simunek (BKCP – Power Plus) and Vanthourenhout led the race from the third lap. Vantourenhout crashed on lap five, and Štybar reeled his countryman in on lap six after Simunek, too, suffered a crash. Simunek’s role then shifted from trying to take the win to that of teammate, hoping to set Albert up for the win. He resorted to tactics that left Sven Nys clearly displeased.
Although Nys appeared to concede the final podium step to Simunek, he told VT4, “I better use my mind and not say too much now, but it was more than just elbows the BKCP men have used. They have done everything to win the Superprestige, but it wasn’t sportsmanlike. Simunek did everything to prevent me from passing, but I had far more speed than him, and I tried to make clear that I wanted to get past him. It didn’t work out for them, and I can’t say that I regret that.”
A crash late in the race removed Nys from contention for the win for good. Simunek took third, just in front of him. Dieter Vanthourenhout (BKCP – Powerplus) rounded out the top five, nearly a minute back.
Albert, for his part, found the silver lining in his race, despite missing out on the title. “This is both a defeat and a victory at the same time,” Albert told Sporza. “I have lost the Superprestige, but I know now that I can also race well on ice. Normally I blunder on courses like this, but I am here in second place among specialists like Nys and Štybar. This is a boost for next season.”
Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) improved on his best Superprestige result of the season, a top-ten finish last week in Zonhoven, taking a solo seventh place. Page contended with Klaas Vantornout for sixth during the middle part of the race, but a bobble on one of the course’s numerous slippery corners allowed Vantornout to open a gap that the American could not close.
“I started to follow Klaas,” said Page, “and then I wanted to go ahead of him the last couple laps, but I bobbled once and slipped out and he got a gap on me. I tried to come back, but I had two more little bobbles. Maybe I could have gotten sixth.”
With the season beginning to wrap up, Page was one of a number of riders who took some time to reflect on six months of racing. “It’s good to know that I can still race with the best of them,” he said, pointing out that, with the exception of a disastrous World Championships, he had been in the top ten at almost every race for a month. “I feel like I haven’t had that super special result, but top ten is good. I’m not tired now. I’ll do things differently next year. I’ll only be one year older, but I’ll be one year smarter. I don’t look at it like I’m getting old and getting slower, I’m going to be faster next year.”
Štybar’s win gave him a one point edge over Albert in the final classification. Sven Nys, who led the series before a broken derailleur in Diegem at the end of December cost him any chance at the overall title, took third overall. This marks the first time Nys has not won the Superprestige title since 2004, and the first time a non-Belgian has taken the overall win since Richard Groenendaal in 2001.
Video of Finale:
|1||Zdenek Štybar (Cze) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team||0:57:58|
|2||Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP – Powerplus||0:00:06|
|3||Radomír Šimunek Ml (Cze) BKCP – Power Plus||0:00:09|
|4||Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago|
|5||Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) BKCP – Powerplus||0:00:59|
|6||Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor||0:01:15|
|7||Jonathan Page (USA) Planet Bike||0:01:27|
|8||Christian Heule (Swi) RendementhypoCycling Team||0:01:41|
|9||Mariusz Gil (Pol) LKS Pom Strzelce Krajenskie||0:01:52|
|10||Bart Wellens (Bel) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team||0:02:08|
|11||Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team||0:02:16|
|12||Petr Dlask (Cze) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team||0:02:31|
|13||Rob Peeters (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago||0:02:40|
|14||Eddy van IJzendoorn (Ned) AA Drink – BeOne||0:02:42|
|15||Gerben de Knegt (Ned) Rabobank||0:02:45|
|16||Enrico Franzoi (Ita) Liquigas||0:03:09|
|17||Bart Aernouts (Bel) Rabobank|
|18||Gianni Denolf (Bel) BKCP – Powerplus||0:03:13|
|19||Marco Bianco (Ita) L Arcobaleno Carraro Team||0:03:36|
|20||Bart Verschueren (Bel) Revor-Jartazi Continental Team||0:03:41|
|21||Geert Wellens (Bel) AVB – Cycling Team||0:04:04|
|22||Jan Verstraeten (Bel) KDL Trans NV||0:04:23|
|23||Tim Van Nuffel (Bel) Rendement Hypo Cyclingteam VZW||0:05:03|
|24||Ben Berden (Bel) Revor-Jartazi Continental Team||0:05:33|
|25||Thijs Al (Ned) AA Drink – BeOne||0:05:41|
|26||Stijn Huys (Bel) Palmans-Cras||0:05:55|
|27||Joachim Parbo (Den) CCV Cyclo crosss Team||0:05:58|
|28||Kenny Geluykens (Bel) Easypay Cyclocross Team||0:06:08|
|29||Ken Smets (Bel)|
|30||Patrick Van Leeuwen (Ned) Het Snelle Wiel|
Superprestige General Classification
|1||Zdenek Štybar (Cze) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team||110||pts|
|2||Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP – Powerplus||109|
|3||Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago||98|
|4||Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor||88|
|5||Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team||82|
|6||Bart Aernouts (Bel) Rabobank||61|
|7||Radomír Šimunek Ml (Cze) BKCP – Power Plus||57|
|8||Erwin Vervecken (Bel) Revor-Jartazi Continental Team||50|
|9||Gerben de Knegt (Ned) Rabobank||48|
|10||Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Sunweb-Revor||39|
|11||Enrico Franzoi (Ita) Liquigas||36|
|12||Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) BKCP – Powerplus||34|
|13||Rob Peeters (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Colnago||25|
|14||Philipp Walsleben (Ger) Team BKCP-Power Plus||19|
|15||Jonathan Page (USA) Planet Bike||18|
|16||Bart Wellens (Bel) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team||17|
|17||Jan Verstraeten (Bel) KDL Trans NV||12|
|18||Mariusz Gil (Pol) LKS Pom Strzelce Krajenskie||10|
|19||Christian Heule (Swi) RendementhypoCycling Team||8|
|20||Francis Mourey (Fra) Française des Jeux||7|
|21||Martin Zlámalík (Cze) Prodoli Racing Team|
|22||Petr Dlask (Cze) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team|
|23||Thijs Al (Ned) AA Drink – BeOne||4||pts|
|24||Wilant van Gils (Ned) Pro Cycling Team ZZPR.nl-Destil-Merida||3|
|25||Thijs Van Amerongen (Ned) Van Vliet EBH Elshof|
|26||Eddy van IJzendoorn (Ned) AA Drink – BeOne|
|27||Ben Berden (Bel) Revor-Jartazi Continental Team||2||pts|
|28||Steve Chainel (Fra) Bouygues Telecom|
|29||John Gadret (Fra)||1|