Much like the USGP races in Colorado, where a Powers/Johnson battle didn’t materialize as anticipated, the expected battle between Sven Nys and Kevin Pauwels failed to come to life during the first round of the Superprestige series. Instead, it was Belgian National Champion Niels Albert who picked up the victory ahead of a start-studded field in Ruddervoorde. Albert has been heavily criticised over the past few weeks for his lack of focus, skills and dedication. It remains to be seen if the critics have anything to say – Albert has been capably been silencing them with his performance over the past two weeks.
As we discussed in our weekend preview, Bart Aernouts was once again looking to steal the show in Ruddervoorde. With four to go, he had a ten-scond gap over Albert, who would eventually reel him in. Aernouts would finish second. Meanwhile, Klass Vantornout bested an extremely strong chase group to finish third. With the first World Cup round next weekend, Vantornout and Aernouts put in performances that were strong bids for a spot on the Belgian squad – and it paid off.
As the Superprestige didn’t exactly shake out in a familiar way, it’s no surprise to read news tidbits from major players who experienced some mishap or another. If you’re like the rest of us, scratching your head wondering where the usual big names were during the race, here’s what you need to know:
- Sven Nys (4th) – Nys suffered from repeated mechanicals involving a dropped chain. He was able to overcome the first one, but the second took him out of contention for the win, and the rest disoriented and discouraged him.
- Kevin Pauwels (13th) – It seems like Pauwels simply had a bad day, finishing well off the pace. More importantly, his dreams of an overall title seem out the window already.
- Bart Wellens (5th) – Despite a front row spot and some confidence from last week’s second place at Kalmthout, Wellens suffered from a poor start due to his inability to get in and stay in his pedals. Had he been able to get right in, he may have had an easier time following Aernouts and Albert at the front of the race. Apparently his mechanic set the pedals very loose for a course that would see plenty of dismounting, but it was too loose for Wellens to properly use.
- Zdenek Stybar (6th) – Coming off of a knee injury, Stybar was pleased with his sixth place finish. Stybar never really saw the front and seemed content to ride as well as he could. However, with the upcoming Czech World Cup round, the World Champion should be looking for form very quickly.
- Ian Field (23rd) – After a great start to the season in the US, Field’s great starting position didn’t really seem to help the Brit. A top-ten finish seems much further out of reach than originally expected.
- Jonathan Page (DNF) – Despite a thrid row start, Page was stuck at the back of the lead group with seemingly nowhere to go. A mechanical would eventually end his day.
Our picks for European races nobody knows about fared somewhat better this week thanks to more accurate start lists and a little bit of luck.
Toi Toi Cup (C2)
Petr Dlask picked up the victory in round three of the Toi Toi Cup, extended his overall lead as we predicted. Our rider to watch for, Zdenek Miller, failed to finish, while David Kasek and Vladimir Kyzivat rounded out the top-three.
Memorial Jonathan Tabotta (C2)
Enrico Franzoi got the revenge he was looking for by picking up the victory in Buja a head of Elia Silvestri. Our suprise pick of Fabio Ursi rounded out the podium in third. Last weeks winner, Cristian Cominelli finished sixth, right behind Luca Damiani. Damini’s name should ring a bell from his US success last year in the US.
National Trophy Seires (C2)
An unexpected visit from Thijs Al knocked our predictions for round one of Britian’s national series in South Shields. Al picked up the victory a head of picks of Paul Oldham and Jody Crawforth. Clearly, the battle between Oldham and Crawforth is on.