Heading up the long, long run-up at GP Mario de Clercq. © Gregg Germer

Heading up the long, long run-up at GP Mario de Clercq. © Gregg Germer

by Andrew Davis

Neils Albert took the win in the GP Mario De Clercq, at the first round of the bpost bank Trofee series, ahead of a resurgent Kevin Pauwels in a close finish Sunday while Nys struggles early before fighting back for third.

With a potential 35,000 Euros on the line for the overall win, the first round of the bpost bank Trofee series opened up in Ronse, Belgium to similar conditions to last week’s Superprestige in Ruddervoorde. After being mugged at the start line, Sven Nys was notably absent from the front-runners, languishing mid-pack throughout the first few laps. Klaas Vantornhout took an early lead and pushed the pace up front until a dramatic fall in a muddy corner derailed his chances for a win.

By lap two, Rob Peeters, Kevin Pauwels, and an unlikely Thijs van Amerongen had a small gap across the line with Albert quickly bridging to the trio. Nys had quickly lost a quarter of a minute while fighting back through the throng of riders in the field. Nys pushed hard and came as close to 10 seconds to the leaders, but that was as far as he could go as the leaders kept up the pace on the front.

By mid-race, Albert and Pauwels distanced themselves from the rest by cleaning a difficult off camber corner throughout the race that many were resigned to run, and claimed Klaas Vantornhout for a second crash in the race. The technical course with drastic elevation changes allowed for gaps to open as the riders with solid technical skills were allowed to shine.

While the race clock wound down, Albert surged and gapped Pauwels with three laps to go. As Albert’s lead stretched to 11 seconds over Pauwels, Nys began to fade after a hard drawn out chase dropping to a minute down with a strong looking Bart Arnouts in tow. Arnout put in a solid dig trying to drop Nys, who clung on, countered, and finally shed Anouts for good, cementing a solid points haul for the overall series.

As the bell rang for the “laatste ronde,” Pauwels put in some dramatic heroics in a final attempt to pull back Albert. Pauwels clearly buried himself to close the distance between the two riders, and managed to come within three seconds of Albert at the line, falling just short of a spectacular comeback. With this win, world champion Albert fired a shot across the bow of his rivals, letting his intentions for the series win be known early.

Full Results:

1Niels ALBERTBEL2757:31:004040
2Kevin PAUWELSBEL2957:35:003030
3Sven NYSBEL3758:40:002020
4Bart AERNOUTSBEL3158:53:001515
5Klaas VANTORNOUTBEL3159:23:001010
6Thijs VAN AMERONGENNED2759:29:0088
7Bart WELLENSBEL3559:38:0066
8Lars VAN DER HAARNED221:00:0944
9Philipp WALSLEBENGER261:00:2322
10Rob PEETERSBEL281:00:2811
11Marcel MEISENGER241:00:39
12Simon ZAHNERSUI301:00:44
13Niels WUBBENNED251:00:49
14Lubomir PETRUSCZE231:00:51
16Mariusz GILPOL301:01:00
17Twan VAN DEN BRANDNED241:01:01
18Jonathan PAGEUSA371:01:02
19Patrick VAN LEEUWENNED281:01:23
20Joeri ADAMSBEL241:01:39
21Aurelien DUVALFRA251:02:14
22Gerben DE KNEGTNED381:02:32
23Dave DE CLEYNBEL251:02:37
24Tom VAN DEN BOSCHBEL281:02:39
25Bart HOFMANBEL281:02:39
27Thijs ALNED331:02:44
28Kenneth VAN COMPERNOLLEBEL251:02:50
29Kevin EECKHOUTBEL241:03:14
32Radomir SIMUNEKCZE30
33Stijn HUYSBEL27
36Gianni DENOLFBEL26
37Alexander REVELLNZL28

Gallery by Gregg Germer of The ChainStay.  Find them at