Albert’s desire to dominate the race showed early. He took advantage of his competitors’ inability to match his flawless riding through the sand, forging a lead based as much upon his handling skills as his output of watts.
Bart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea) took the holeshot, but was passed by World Champion Zdenek Stybar (Quick Step) before the first descent of Zonhoven’s steep and sandy berg. Stybar’s tactics proved to break apart the race, although the Czech racer lacked the prowess of Albert needed to capitalize on his positioning at the front of the group. Gaps quickly started appearing in the field; be unfortunate enough to need to dismount through the technically demanding sand sections, or stuck behind a recently dismounted rider, and your chance of a podium place disappeared.
Albert was the only rider able to plow through a long uphill drag that lead out of a rutted hairpin. It was through this process that Albert forged his advantage at the head of the race, as lap by lap further seconds were added to his lead. After forty-five minutes of racing his lead had topped 26 seconds over Nys, which he maintained until the end.The remnants of Albert’s short lived-group of Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) and Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) held on for second and third places respectively. The technical course prevented a concerted chase, and riders worked individually to consolidate their positions. Stybar eventually escaped Wellens to secure fourth place.
Albert leads the Superprestige cyclocross series with 30 points after two rounds, closely marked by Nys (26 points) and Klaas Vantornout (23 points).
The famed descent of Zonhoven caused many spectacular crashes throughout the day’s action, including that of Rabobank’s Bart Aernouts and Telenet-Fidea’s Tom Meeusen. Aernouts collided with the bike of the recently floored Meeusen. He was then propelled over his own handlebars before landing on the bars of his competitor, catching his lower back on a railing for good measure. He laid prone for a short while before recovering to an eight position finish. Other notable crashes of the day, prompting equal amounts of mirth, derision and concern from the commentators included those of American David Quist (Team Clif Bar Cycling) and Xirogiannes Konstantinos (Greece). Konstantinos’s very early crash presumably caused a mechanical, as he spent much of the first part of the race forlornly pushing his bike to the pits.
1. Niels Albert (Bel) BKCP – Powerplus 0:58:30
2. Sven Nys (Bel) Landbouwkrediet 0:00:28
3. Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb – Revor 0:01:02
4. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Quickstep Cycling Team 0:01:27
5. Bart Wellens (Bel) Telenet – Fidea 0:01:38