The fight was between Nys and Albert  © Bart Hazen

As at Superprestige #1 (Shown),the fight was between Nys and Albert © Bart Hazen

ZONHOVEN, BELGIUM – Round two of the Superprestige Series was an exciting race that saw crashes, comebacks, and disappointments on the famed sandy course. Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet KDL) repeated his first Superprestige win by overtaking Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) in the final turns before the line after the two aggressively contested the lead position. Albert and Nys raced much of final laps together after both tried solo escapes, and were momentarily joined by Lars van der Haar (Rabobank), whose impressive bridge up to the leaders ultimately cost him when Albert responded to an attack by Nys. As van der Haar faded, Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) set about undoing the consequences of a theatrical crash on the notorious, sandy descent of Zonhoven, pulling himself and Bart Aernouts (AA Drink) back into podium position. It was Aernouts, however, who benefited, as he distanced himself from Pauwels in the final laps and crossed the line in third. An exhausted, and most likely sore, Pauwels took fourth, followed by Lars van der Haar in fifth, and BMC’s Julien Taramarcaz in sixth. Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor), who animated much of the first half of the race, rolled in at ninth place behind Telenet-Fidea teammates Rob Peeters and Bart Wellens.

In the women’s race, Sanne Cant (BKCP) and  Hanka Kupfernagel (RusVelo) quickly made the event a two-woman affair. Against a small field that lacked the usual depth of elite women, the Belgian and German champions made short work of their competition, trading attacks and fighting against the sandy course. Cant, however, proved better able to manage the difficult terrain, and it was her handling skills that earned her the win as Kupfernagel slowly lost seconds toward the end of the race. Sabine Stultiens (Rabobank) came in third. American Amy Dombroski took 8th.

As It Happened:

Beneath high clouds and a fall breeze, Lars van der Haar stormed off the line to take the holeshot ahead of Europe’s best racers. Though the day was dry, the course showed evidence of earlier rains, making for slippery corners and clumpy sand.

Klaas Vantornout quickly pulled ahead of van der Haar and assumed the position he would hold for much of the early race, safely leading the host of racers down the treacherous, deeply-grooved sand hill that claims a number of riders each year. As Vantornout continued to push his lead, riding through sections where the rest opted to run, van der Haar latched onto the lanky rider and the two established an early gap. Behind them, Sven Nys was well down the list of riders, sitting just outside the top ten.

Chasing the two leaders were Tom Meeusen, Niels Albert, Radomir Simunek, and Kevin Pauwels, the rest of the field strung out in an unbroken line behind them.

By the second lap, Vantornout and van der Haar had a small gap over chasers Albert, Meeusen and Simunek, with a second gap distancing Albert and Nys. Nys, fresh off his mid-week victory at Koppenberg, looked like he might not have the juice today to contend.

As Albert lead the chase, Kevin Pauwels was also not looking too comfortable in the sand, hanging onto Albert’s wheel but a small grimace across his face. Regardless, the trio managed to bridge to the leaders, just as Nys, behind, made contact as well.

Vantornout wasn’t ready to relinquish the lead quite yet, however, and attacked into the rutted 180 degree turn that lead into a long, sandy incline that most riders opted to run. Vantornout rode the section, and again pushed his lead out.

Partway through lap three, Vantornout finally relinquished his lead to Albert, and would spend the rest of the race minimizing his losses from the effort. Nys, still not looking on his game, dangled just off the back of the lead group, which consisted of Vantornout, Albert, van der Haar, Meeusen, Rob Peeters, Bart Wellens, and Julien Taramarcaz.

It was then that Albert attacked, and the cloak and dagger games of Nys and Pauwels ended. Within moments of his attack, Albert had gained a significant lead, powering away in his effort to win the way he wins best, and it was quickly apparent that this was the moment the race began. Both Pauwels and, behind him, Nys turned on engines that they hadn’t appeared to have today, and quickly set off in pursuit of the world champion, dropping the rest of the chasers cold.

As the three leaders stormed away in the front of the race, Tom Meeusen became the first big victim of the Zonholden descent, his front wheel catching in the sand, sending him sprawling.

He was not to be the last, however. Albert was riding strong, and it took Pauwels and Nys nearly a full lap to reel him in. They had just about made contact with Albert when the three came around to the descent for lap five. Albert successfully navigated the deep, rutty sand. So did Nys. Pauwels, however, was not so fortunate. His front wheel caught, and Pauwels went face first into the sand, his bike catapulting over him. Pauwels took long moments to get back up, adjusting his crooked front-end. Eventually he would fight his way back to fourth place, but his chances at the win were over.

At the front, Nys finished the job Pauwels had started, pulling Albert in and almost immediately taking over the lead. Behind them was nothing but daylight. The two would spend the rest of the race trading leads, with Nys often proving the stronger in the deep sand, but Albert never relinquishing a gap.

Behind them, Lars van der Haar decided not to allow the chance at a win to go away from him just yet, and puts in an incredible dig that, by lap seven, had him back on the wheel of the slightly surprised leaders. Behind them, Rob Peeters, Bart Aernouts, and Julien Taramarcaz made chase.

As impressive as van der Haar’s pursuit was, however, it cost him. As the leaders approached the long run-up, Nys took the lead and launched what was nearly a devastating attack, incredibly riding the entirety of the run-up as the two dismounted behind, but bobbling right at the top. Had Nys successfully rolled over the top of the climb, he just may have ridden away with the race right then. As it was, he still created a dangerous gap, and the acceleration that Albert gave in response left van der Haar with no response. Within moments, the young star had lost a dozen seconds.

So it was that Albert and Nys headed into the final lap together. On each of the laps, Nys had proved the stronger on the long, sandy run that followed a tight, rutty 180 degree turn. Albert knew this was the likely place that Nys would attack, and as the two approached the turn, quickly surged around Nys, causing the Belgian champion to dismount. Both wanted the lead position, and it was a shoulder to shoulder battle, bumping and banging, that ultimately left Albert in the lead. The move wasn’t dirty, but it was messy, and as the two came around toward the end of the lap, it appeared a sprint would decide the results.

In a two-up match, Nys has proven to have more power, but the Belgian champ decided not to wait for pavement to make his move. Coming into the final dirt turns, Nys launched himself around the world champion with an acceleration that Albert couldn’t match. As they hit the pavement, Albert conceded the race, and Nys crossed the line arms raised, his second Superprestige victory of 2012 secured.

Behind them, Kevin Pauwels had managed to claw back to the chasers, and for a moment looked to make it back onto the podium as well. However, Bart Aernouts proved the stronger, and separated himself from the rest to roll into third in solo fashion.


2012 Superprestige Zonholden - Men

1Sven NYSBEL1:01:53
2Niels ALBERTBEL1:01:55
3Bart AERNOUTSBEL1:02:05
4Kevin PAUWELSBEL1:02:22
5Lars VAN DER HAARNED1:02:35
6Julien TARAMARCAZSUI1:02:44
7Rob PEETERSBEL1:03:09
8Bart WELLENSBEL1:03:15
10Philipp WALSLEBENGER1:04:14
11Marcel MEISENGER1:04:22
12Twan VAN DEN BRANDNED1:04:35
15Niels WUBBENNED1:04:38
16Arnaud GRANDSUI1:04:42
17Gerben DE KNEGTNED1:04:48
18Joeri ADAMSBEL1:04:57
19Aurelien DUVALFRA1:05:02
20Thijs ALNED1:05:17
21Ian FIELDGBR1:05:22
22Tom MEEUSENBEL1:06:13
24Jonathan PAGEUSA1:07:27
25Dave DE CLEYNBEL1:07:27
26Micki VAN EMPELNED1:08:11
28Mariusz GILPOL

2012 Superprestige Zonholden - Women

1Sanne CANTBEL36:50:00
3Sabrina STULTIENSNED37:50:00
5Ellen VAN LOYBEL38:42:00
6Annefleur KALVENHAARNED38:54:00
7Arenda GRIMBERGNED39:15:00
9Reza HORMESNED39:36:00
10Pauline FERRAND PREVOTFRA40:02:00
11Lana VERBERNENED40:22:00
12Nancy BOBERBEL40:52:00
13Hilde QUINTENSBEL40:58:00
14Evy KUIJPERSNED42:50:00
15Katrien THIJSBEL43:25:00
16Anja GELDHOFBEL44:08:00
17Kim BANGANED44:28:00