It was a tight race in Zonhoven, right down to the finish © Bart Hazen

It was a tight race in Zonhoven, right down to the finish © Bart Hazen

by Dan Seaton

Zonhoven, Belgium – The Superprestige series, on hiatus since a muddy meeting in Diegem just after Christmas, resumed today on sandy, windblown hills in eastern Belgium. On a course dominated by a gigantic—and for several riders, dangerous— 15 meter deep sand pit, Sven Nys took his second victory of the weekend with a masterful attack on the final climb of the race.

From the start, it seemed like it would be Nys’ race to lose. The Belgian Champion tore out of the starting gate and immediately grabbed a lead, stringing out the field behind him on the way into the first of two treacherous plunges into the pit. Nys, skillfully navigating through the deep sand on the two descents into the pit and the accompanying runs back up the steep walls, managed to open a small gap over the rest of the race. Behind him, a number of top riders were delayed by slow traffic on both the way down the hills and the unrideable trips back up, where only a narrow path provided decent traction.

Nys was soon joined by the rest of yesterday’s podium, Zdeněk Štybar and Kevin Pauwels, who joined forces with World Championship runner-up Klaas Vantornout to cover the gap Nys had opened. But the pace slowed on the final climb of the lap, allowing several groups from behind to  make contact with the leaders. Niels Albert, Sven Vanthourenhout, Bart Aernouts and Gerben De Knegt were the first to reach the front, while American Jonathan Page and Radomir Simunek would connect on the next trip around the course.

For the next lap and a half a group of 10 riders led the race, with Štybar, Vantornout and Albert all taking turns setting the pace. Then, bombing his way through the third trip over the series of sandy descents and runs, Klaas Vantornout managed to earn a gap that, initially, only Albert, De Knegt, Nys and Štybar could close. At one point the front group would stretch their lead to nearly 15 seconds, while Page, Thijs Al, Erwin Vervecken and a handful of other riders struggled behind them. But the pace didn’t hold, and by the midpoint of the race, the lead group was again up to nearly a dozen riders.

Though the lead would change hands a few more times through the middle of the race, with Štybar, Albert and Nys all trading attacks, the decisive moments wouldn’t come until two laps before the end of the race. Klaas Vantornout again benefited from his aggressive bike handling and got a gap over the field coming through the first trip into the pit. But at the top of the second descent, Vantornout’s wheel washed out, and he careened over the handlebars, landing on his feet several meters ahead of his bike. Vantornout stood in the middle of the descent, frozen for a moment, either by surprise or concern about the group just behind him, before jogging back to his bike and continuing with the race, rejoining the back of the lead group.

At the same time, Jonathan Page, who had trailed the chase group of Al, De Knegt, and Simunek for much of the second half of the race, finally managed to connect with them, giving the American a shot at a top-ten finish.

Vantornout, meanwhile, bounced back from his tumble and dropped the hammer at the front of the race. Vantornout’s effort immediately blew Bart Aernouts off the lead group, and another brave trip through the pit left him with a bit of a gap over Štybar, Nys, Albert and Pauwels. But the lanky Belgian rider couldn’t sustain the pace, and was soon swallowed by the chasers, making it a five-man race for the win.

It was Nys, bouncing back from several difficult laps in the middle of the race, who made the decisive move. Nys went full throttle part way into the final climb of the race, then screamed down the twisting descent. The surprise move left him just a few bike lengths ahead of the competition, enough to hold off a hard charging Štybar in the final meters of the race. Kevin Pauwels finished third, rounding out the repeat of yesterday’s podium. Vantornout apparently paid for his early efforts in the final moments of the race, missing the podium, but holding off Albert for fourth.

Vervecken, whose terrible luck in Lille yesterday left him barely able to avoid getting lapped in his home town, recovered today, holding off Aernouts for sixth. Sven Vanthourenhout took a solo eighth place behind them.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Page managed to sneak around Simunek and De Knegt in the final few turns before the finish, wrapping up ninth place, his best Superprestige result of the season.

Page said that despite a slow start, he was able to push the pace through several technical sections. “Because my engine wasn’t running well, I made up time where I could,” he said. “[The descents] were more safe than I expected. I won’t lie to you, they were steep, but the sand is so fine that once you get going and let her fly a little bit, they weren’t so bad.”

“It was a hard day at the office,” he continued. “Today I had to be mentally tough. It was a very poor race at the beginning. It took me half the race to get going. But I did ok, I kept with it, I started to go better and better. I’m glad I didn’t give up.”

Štybar, whose second place finish left him tied with Albert for the overall Superprestige series lead going into the final round in Vorselaar next Sunday, told reporters that he simply couldn’t match Nys’ hard charge at the end of the race. “Sven was too strong,” he said. “I gave everything to get back, but could not. The race had been too hard.”

Albert meanwhile, who looked poised to claim the Superprestige title after a broken derailleur sidelined Nys in Diegem, said he had nothing left this late in the season. “I trained hard for this, but after the Belgian Championships I have never once had a good feeling in my legs,” he said. “I can still win the Superprestige title, but with this form I am sure I can’t do it. All I want is a vacation.”

Nys, who told reporters yesterday he was taking antibiotics to treat a minor illness, said today he chose to ride a tactical race. “During the first half of the race I found that I could quite easily come back if there was already a gap,” he said, “but the reason why I kept a low profile in the second half was that I was looking for the right moment to attack.”

Nys found his moment and showed that, despite the bad luck in Diegem, he remained the man to beat on Belgian soil. He said the win, which came at the expense of all four of the season’s most consistently strong riders, was one of his season’s biggest accomplishments.

“I think this is a great ‘cross”, Nys said. “This is in my top three along with the Belgian Championships and Koppenberg.”

While Nys celebrated, Vantornout mourned the missed shot at his first major win of the season. “At the end I was really pretty dead,” he said. “I felt the whole time that I was the only one who could get a gap. I’m pretty disappointed.”

Elite Men’s Photo Gallery:

U23 Photo Gallery:

Full Results:

Elite Men (38 starters)

1. Sven Nys 1.03.19

2. Zdenek Stybar (Tsj) 0.01

3. Kevin Pauwels

4. Klaas Vantornout

5. Niels Albert 0.112

6. Erwin Vervecken 0.18

7. Bart Aernouts 0.36

8. Sven Vanthourenhout 1.10

9. Jonathan Page (VS) 1.38

10. Radomir Simunek (Tsj)

11. Gerben De Knegt (Ned)

12. Thijs Al (Ned)1.58

13. Peter Dlask (Tsj) 2.25

14. Enrico Franzoi (Ita) 2.33

15. Dieter Vanthourenhout 2.55

16. Ben Berden 3.19

17. Mariusz Gil (Pol) 3.29

18. Tim Van Nuffel 3.38

19. Thijs Van Amerongen (Ned) 3.47

20. Winant Van Gils (Ned) 4.56

21. Eddy Van Ijzendoorn (Ned

22. JanVerstraeten 5.22

23. Tom Vanoppen 5.52

24. Martin Zlamalik (Tsj) 6.17

25. Geert Wellens 6.31

26. Stijn Huys 7.16

27. Tom Van den Bosch

28. Jimmy Tielens

29. Gianni Denolf @ 1 lap.

Overall Nissan Superprestige Competition (after 7 races)

1. Zdenek Stybar (Tsj) 95 points

2. Niels Albert 95

3. Sven Nys 86

4. Klaas Vantornout 78

5. Kevin Pauwels 77

6. Bart Aernouts 61

7. Erwin Vervecken 50

8. Gerben De Knegt (Ned) 47

9. Radomir Simunek (Tsj) 44

10. Sven Vanthourenhout 39

11. Enrico Franzoi (Ita) 36

12. Dieter Vanthourenhout 23

13. Rob Peeters 22

14. Philip Walsleben (Dui) 19

15. JanVerstraeten 12

16. Bart Wellens 11

17. Jonathan Page (US) 9

18. Francis Mourey (Fra) 7

19. Martin Zlamalik (Tsj) 7

20. Thijs Al (Ned) 4

21. Wilant Van Gils (Ned) 3

22. Thijs van Amerongen (Ned) 3

23. Mariusz Gil (Pol) 3

24. Peter Dlask (Tsj) 3

25. Ben Berden 2

26. Steve Chainel 2

27. Eddy van Ijzendoorn (Ned) 1

28. John Gadret (Fra)


1. Jan Denuwelaere 51.01

2. Kenneth Vancompernolle

3. Tom Meeusen 0.17

4. Lars Van der Haar (Ned) 1.04

5. Robert Gavenda (Svk) 1.28

6. Vincent Bastiaens 1.44

7. Lubomir Petrus (Tsj)

8. Michi VanEmpel (Ned)

9. Kevin Cant 2.30

10. Wietse Bosmans

11. Kacper Szczepaniak (Pol)

12. Kevin Eeckhout

13. Karel Hnik (Tsj) 3.02

14. Mitchell Huenders (Ned)

15. Marcel Meisen (Dui) 3.18

16. Vinnie Breaet 4.23

17. Arnaud Jouffroy (Fra) 4.32

18. Corne Van Kessel (Ned) 4.42

19. Jelle Braeckman 4.51

20. Twan Van den Brand (Ned) 5.15

21. Pawel Szczepaniak (Pol)

22. Sven Beelen 5.25

23. Kristof op 5.36

24. Johan Verstraeten 6.00

25. Tijmen Eising (Ned) 6.20

26. Dries Pauwels 6.30

27. Geert Van der Horst (Ned) @ 1 lap

28. Ritchie Denolf

29. Stijn Mortelmans

30. Jonathan Bervoet

31. Sonny Volders

32. Niels Koyen

33. Robin Poelvoorde

34. Dario Stauble (Zwi)

35. Bart Barkhuis (Ned)

36. Sieën Verstraeten

37. Rutger La Haye @ 2 laps

38. Simone Samperisi (Ita)

39. Niels Dirix

40. Joachin Janssens

41. Raf Risbourg

U23 Overall Nissan Superprestige Competition (after 7 races)

1. Tom Meeusen 100 points;

2. Jan Denuwelaere 67

3. Kenneth Vanccompernolle 65

4. Jim Aernouts 59

5. Michi van Empel 55

6. Robert Gavenda (Tsj) 54

7. Vincent Bastaens 48

8. Kacper Szczepaniak (Pol) 45

9. Lars van der Haar (Ned) 42

10. Pawel Szczepaniak (Pol) 38

11. Stef Boden (35)

12. Timen Esing (Ned) 24

13. Ludomir Petrus (Tsj) 24

14. Arnaud Joffroy (Fra); 21

15. Joeri Adams 19

16. Mitchel Huenders (Ned) 17

17. Corné van Kessel (Ned) 15

18. Wietse Bosmans 15

19. Marcel Meisen (Dui) 13

20. Kevin Kant 12

21. Elia Silvestri (Ita) 11

22. Jiri Polnicki (Tsj) 11

23 . Kvin Eeckhout 10

24. Pascha Weber (Dui) 9

25. Sven Beelen 8

26. Twan van den Brand (Ned) 8

27. Matthieu Boulo (Fra) 7

28. Marek Konwa (Pol) 3

29. Karel Hnik (Tsj) 3

30. Vinnie Braet 1

31. Boy van Poppel 1.

Juniors (43 starters.)

1. David Van der Poel (Ned) 40.17

2. Laurens Sweecckx 0.33

3. Jens Adams

4. Michiel Van der Heyden (Ned) 0.53

5. Gianni Vermeersch1.08

6. Gert-Jan Bosman (Ned)

7. Xandro Meurisse 1.19

8. Mike Theunisse (Ned) 1.39

9. Jori Hofman 1.43

10. Emiel Dolfsman (Ned) 1.59

11. Floris De Tier 2.02

12. Tim Merlier 2.36

13. Jesper Baelen 2.40

14. Jon Ander Insausti (Spa) 2.56

15. Mxim Panis 3.03

16. Nicolas Samparisi (Ita) 3.08

17. Dieter Sweeck

18. Joey Van Rhee (Ned) 3.48

19. Douwe Verberne (Ned) 3.55

20. Timo Verschueren 4.03

21. Kenzie Boutté 4.21

22. Lorenzo Samparisi (Ita) 5.13

23. Jeffrey Mellemans 5.36

24. Lorenzo Pepermans

25. Matthias Ballet

26. Nick Van Dijke (Ned) 6.46

27. Jellen Schiettecatte 7.48

28. Rogin Van den Bruel

29. Michael Dhondt @ 1 lap

30. Bryan Borowski (Ned)

31. Olivier Vandevyver

32. Joni Geeraerts

33. Robin Delanghe

34. Sibe Smets @ 2 laps

35. Stijn Gielen

36. Alexander Verslegers

37. Birger Vandael

38. Niels Verdijck

39. Ruben Van Dingenen

40. Baert Van Dongen (Ned)

41. Hendrik Sweeck

42. Nick Smeers.

Juniors Overall Nissan Superprestige Competition (after 7 races)

1. David Van der Poel (Ned) 86 points

2. Mike Theunissen (Ned) 84

3. Laurens Sweeck 79

4. Michiel van der Heyden (Ned) 77

5. Gert-Jan Bosman (Ned) 69

6. Jens Adams 62

7. Danny van Poppel (Ned) 50

8. Gianni Vermeersch 45

9. Emiel Dolfsman (Ned) 45

10. Xandro Meurisse 41

11. Jens Vandekinderen 29

12. Tim Merlier 17

13. Mihael Boros (Tsj) 16

14. Emilien Vernet (Fra) 15

15. Dieter Sweeck 13

16. Matej Lasak (Tsj)

17. Jesper Baelen 12

18. Joeri Hofman 12

19. Bart De Vocht 11.

20. Jon Insausti (Spa) 11

21. Douwe Verberne (Ned) 9

22. Tomas Papstrka (Tsj) 8

23. Floris De Tier 8

24. Stan Godrie (Ned) 5

25. Jeroen Meijers (Ned) 5

26. Michael Vanthourenhout 4

27. Frederik Geerts 4

28. Lars Forster (Zwi) 3

29. Dennis Heering (Ned) 2

30. Lukas Muller (Zwi) 2

31. Daniel Vesely (Tsj) 1

32. Robin Wennekens 1

33. Maxim Panis 1.