Sven Nys and Wout Van Aert had a hard fought battle for second place, with Van Aert coming out on top after a late-race bobble by Nys © Bart Hazen

Sven Nys and Wout Van Aert seen here at Koksijde were matched again at round four of the Bpost Bank Trofee at Essen © Bart Hazen

ESSEN, Belgium – An eleventh-hour mechanical was not what anyone could have expected, the least of whom being the World Champion Mathieu Van der Poel (BKCP-Powerplus), still on his comeback from knee surgery.

In a race that looked to be evolving into a win for the twenty-year-old Dutch racer after distancing himself from the competition with a surge in the sixth lap, the bad timing sent the Van der Poel running for the pits, opening the door for chasers Sven Nys (Crelan AA-Drink) and Wout van Aert (Vastgoedservice Golden Palace) to head into the eventual showdown.

Typical of his style, Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) took the holeshot relinquishing his place to teammate Corne Van Kessel soon after. Nys also had a fast start, not wanting to get caught off guard.

By the beginning of the second lap Nys was leading the race with a small gap. Van Aert joined next with Van der Poel moving up from several places back to join the leaders by the beginning of the following round.

Once in contact Van der Poel turned up the pace, initially gapping van Aert. Keeping calm and steady, Van Aert, and now Gianni Vermeersch (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) reconnected making it a four-man lead group with Michael Vanthourenhout (Sunweb-Napoleon Games), Meeusen, and Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) chasing not far behind.

Vermeersch held on as long as he could but lost contact with a bobble on a muddy dip leading into the finishing stretch of the course in lap six.  Three then became one as Van der Poel turned the screws leading into lap seven. Neither Nys nor van Aert could match the pace and it appeared that barring a mishap the pair would have to settle for fighting it out for second place.

Just when it seemed in the bag, Van der Poel’s gears appeared to jam. Shouldering his bike, he was now running and loosing ground, first to Nys and van Aert, then to trailing pairs Vanthourenhout and Pauwels followed by Vermeersch and Meeusen.

Once at the pits Van der Poel rejoined the race but it was too late. Further ahead van Aert and Nys were matching each other section by section, neither showing any sign of weakness. Going into the final obstacle, the muddy dip before turning onto the finish, van Aert was leading. It seemed Nys was banking on van Aert making a mistake and just didn’t have the right positioning for a pass, conceding the race before the mud changed to asphalt on the final turn.

Vanthourenhout pulled out a terrific performance finishing third ahead of teammate Pauwels to the surprise of the announcers with Vermeersch rounding off the top five in a well-earned effort.

After suffering the setback, Van der Poel crossed in eighth place, trailing Meeusen and Laurens Sweeck (Cibel-ERA) who passed the World Champion in the final lap.

Also noteably on the course at Essen, Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quickstep) made his one and only appearance for the season citing the need to focus on training for the Spring Classics. Having been based around Essen for much of his career, Stybar elected to turn out for the 50th edition of the GP Rouwmoer to show support to his fan base and for the discipline before returning to preperation for the road season.

2015 Bpost Bank Trofee Essen Elite Men’s Results

1Wout VAN AERTBEL1:00:12
2Sven NYSBEL1:00:19
4Kevin PAUWELSBEL1:00:47
5Gianni VERMEERSCHBEL1:00:58
6Tom MEEUSENBEL1:01:00
7Laurens SWEECKBEL1:01:10
8Mathieu VAN DER POELNED1:01:23
9Tim MERLIERBEL1:01:27
10Corne VAN KESSELNED1:01:44
11Julien TARAMARCAZSUI1:01:49
12David VAN DER POELNED1:01:49
13Jim AERNOUTSBEL1:01:50
14Diether SWEECKBEL1:02:35
16Joeri ADAMSBEL1:02:43
18Twan VAN DEN BRANDNED1:02:46
19Michael BOROSCZE1:02:47
20Zdenek STYBARCZE1:03:14
21Patrick VAN LEEUWENNED1:03:42
22Vincent BAESTAENSBEL1:03:48
23Rob PEETERSBEL1:03:52
25Michael VAN DEN HAMCAN1:04:59
26Niels KOYENBEL1:05:09
32Kristaps KIPURSLAT