Your Superprestige Asper-Gavere podium. ©Bart Hazen

Your Superprestige Asper-Gavere podium. ©Bart Hazen

by David Evans

ASPER-GAVERE, BELGIUM — Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) continued his winning ways this weekend by taking top honors at the Superprestrige Asper-Gavere. An attack in the seventh lap allowed him to demonstrate his stunning form, and the appearance of indecision and noncooperation in the chase behind him secured his victory. Zdenek Stybar (Quick Step) led the chase group to the final straight, only to be overhauled by Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) in the sprint.

This year’s Superprestige events have occasionally felt like quasi-criteriums due to the bright and mild conditions enjoyed by the seemingly semi-arid area of northern Europe known as Belgium. Last week, Niels Albert called for winter to begin in earnest. A wrist injury kept the Belgian Champion off of the start line on Sunday; winter’s absence has a less obvious explanation. Knobby tire treads remain in near pristine condition, mid-race bike changes stay a novelty, and mechanics have rejoiced in the lack of post-race cleaning. Only the comforting sight of a handheld Dirk Hoffman Motorhomes placard can reassure the fan of the authenticity of the cyclocross on show.

The lack of adverse conditions rendered the Gavere course mostly tame, allowing few opportunities for the more ambitious riders to distinguish themselves. Slopes became the deciding factor, so much so that it felt as if the group simply rode tempo between the starts of the climbs, then allowed the gradients to do the selecting for them.

A line of the usual suspects dominated the first half of the race. Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor) took the hole shot and shared much of the work at the front of the group for the next four laps, followed by Kevin Pauwels, Zdenek Stybar, Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet), Bart Aernouts (Rabobank Giant Off-Road), Bart Wellens, Tom Meeusen and Joeri Adams (all Telenet-Fidea). Vantornout conspired to have a minor crash (one of just a few in the whole afternoon) on a fairly simple corner in the third lap, but managed to be rubber-side-down within a few seconds and returned to the front of the group shortly after.

Klaas Vantornout leads Tom Meeusen up the climb. ©Bart Hazen

Klaas Vantornout leads Tom Meeusen up the climb. ©Bart Hazen

Vantornout’s efforts might be read as a counter to last week’s criticism that Pauwels and his Sunweb-Revor team should have been responsible for chasing down Stybar’s race winning attack, their hesitation allowing him to build a huge advantage in a just a lap of racing. Whatever the case, having Vantornout patrol the front allowed Pauwels and his main rivals the luxury of hiding their noses from the wind without having to worry about any breaks building gaps on the fast course.

Pauwels used the embers of attempted attacks to ignite his own near the crest of the last slope of the seventh lap. Several riders, including Nys, had pushed the tempo up the climb, but Pauwels was the only one able to create distance between himself and the rest.

Stybar leads Meeusen and Aernouts. ©Bart Hazen

Stybar leads Meeusen and Aernouts. ©Bart Hazen

It appears that indecision by the chasers allowed Pauwels to cruise to the finish. Nys and Stybar took turns trying to pull Pauwels back, but Stybar could be seen angrily gesturing to Nys and the other chasers after their efforts seemed to have little effect. Pauwels eventually won with more than 30 seconds’ advantage; a late attack by Bart Wellens came to nothing as a charging Zdenek Stybar lead the chasers’ group through the final turns. This left Stybar in a vulnerable position for the sprint, and he conceded defeat to Tom Meeusen several bike lengths from the line. Sven Nys rolled across for fourth.

U23: World Champion Van der Haar unbeatable

One day after his solo win in the GVA in Hasselt, World Champion Lars van der Haar (Rabobank) added another win to his palmares to win solo in the Superprestige race in Asper-Gavere. Van der Haar attacked halfway through the race to win with a 22 second lead over his younger teammate Stan Godrie. Swiss Champion Arnaud Grand completed the podium. Jens Adams and Michiel van der Heijden fourth and fifth. Superprestige leader Wietse Bosmans abandoned the race after his nasty crash in Hasselt and lost his overall lead to Van der Haar.

Tsjech Karl Hnik (Telenet-Fidea) and Dutch Gert-Jan Bosman (Rabobank) took the hole shot followed by Lars van der Haar, Tijmen Eising and Micki van Empel. In the third lap Arnaud Jouffroy (Telenet-Fidea) broke clear. Arnaud Grand and Stan Godrie bridged up followed a little later by Van der Haar.

One lap ahead Jouffroy dropped off the break and Van der Haar, Godrie and Grand extended their lead lap by lap. Halfway through the race Van der Haar spread his wings dropped the others and soloed to another impressive win. First years U23 Stan Godrie finished in second by holding off Arnaud Grand.

U23 Gallery – Bart Hazen

Superprestige Asper-Gavere 2011 Elite Men

1Kevin PAUWELSBEL281:02:05
2Tom MEEUSENBEL241:02:37
3Zdenek STYBARCZE271:02:37
4Bart AERNOUTSBEL301:02:37
5Sven NYSBEL361:02:41
6Klaas VANTORNOUTBEL301:02:43
7Bart WELLENSBEL341:02:45
8Radomir SIMUNEKCZE291:02:56
9Joeri ADAMSBEL231:02:56
10Niels WUBBENNED241:03:16
11Rob PEETERSBEL271:03:16
12Gerben DE KNEGTNED371:03:16
13Thijs VAN AMERONGENNED261:03:22
15Kenneth VAN COMPERNOLLEBEL241:03:34
17Mariusz GILPOL291:03:48
18Ian FIELDGBR261:03:55
19Jiri POLNICKYCZE231:04:01
20Thijs ALNED321:04:13
21Jonathan PAGEUSA361:04:35
22Steve CHAINELFRA291:05:07
26Bart HOFMANBEL271:05:15
27Vincent BAESTAENSBEL231:05:29
28Robert GAVENDASVK241:05:29
29Patrick VAN LEEUWENNED271:05:30
30Paul OLDHAMGBR351:05:54
31Martin ZLAMALIKCZE301:07:36
35Dmitrijs SOROKINSLAT30
36Sigvard KUKKEST40