With the Superprestige Series victory already determined – clinched by Sven Nys last weekend in Hoogstraten – not much was on the line for European veldrijders this weekend. However, the weekend’s two major races – the final Superprestige race in Middelkerke, and the Grote Prijs Heus in Heerlen – still saw enough fireworks to keep things interesting.
In Middelkerke, Klaas Vantornout finally secured a win this season, taking the lead on a twisting course that spread the riders out well by the end of the race. It was a big win for Vantornout – his first of the season, an “at long last” victory toward the end of a season that started with his Sunweb-Revor team having high hopes in his success (with a bit of occasional bombast thrown in for good measure). Vantornout didn’t rise to the occasion or the pressure, spending much time just off the podium, but his win in Middelkerke is a nice highlight to the tail end of the season. It’s also a decent feather in my cap – last week, my Weekend Preview included the hope to see a big, late-season win from a rider who rides in the long shadows of the biggest names in the sport.
Vantornout’s victory was just that. Behind was an array of the usual suspects, with Kevin Pauwels and Bart Wellens rounding out the podium ahead of Zdenek Stybar, Tom Meeusen, Sven Nys, and Niels Albert.
Pauwels put in another strong showing on Sunday in Heerlen, taking the win in a three-up sprint with Philip Walsleben and Zdenek Stybar, with American Jonathan Page riding to a strong 4th place (though, against an admittedly slimmed field). Kevin Pauwels winning in a sprint – sound familiar? Pauwels is the only one of the podium regulars since late December who hasn’t slowed down after the World Championships. He’s still hunting results that will complement his five victories this year (including two World Cup and two GvA Trofee wins), and his performance of late bodes well for his chances of snatching the overall GvA Trofee win from the hands of Sven Nys.
Nys, however, isn’t done, as he demonstrated quite succinctly with wins at Hoogstraten last weekend and on Sunday in Lebbeke. At Lebbeke, according to Het Nieuwsblad, Nys missed the start, but caught the group and on the second lap, launched a powerful attack. Despite the presence of Belgian Champion Niels Albert in the field (like Heerlen, slimmed due to both races being scheduled on the same day), Nys wound up winning by over a minute.
Stay tuned for this week’s Power Rankings on Wednesday, and Thursday’s Cyclocross Weekend Preview!