Niels Albert made it three in a row Friday night in Diegem, with a solo victory ahead of Kevin Pauwels and Sven Nys. Albert returned to action last weekend after suffering a broken wrist and made it clear he’s ready to throw-down against the world’s best. The most interesting ride of the night came from Nys, who came across the line 36 seconds behind Albert. Nys, was seen riding mid-pack during the early few laps and slowly rode his way towards the front of the race. By the time he got there, Pauwels and Albert were already gone. Nys admitted afterwards that he had no energy, which is the price he probably paid for dominating the past few weeks.
Nys’ third place keeps him in the overall lead, but because Pauwels finished second, the gap is a mere five points. Zdenk Stybar, who was active early, faded to eighth place and now sits in third, 10-points behind Nys. Bart Aernouts is only three points behind Stybar and has a really, really, outside chance of fighting for the overall. The Superprestige series takes a break until the final two rounds early February.
GP DAF Grand Garage Engel (C2)
After a one-year hiatus from the UCI calendar GP DAF Grand Garage Engel returned this year as a C2 race. Being up against the World Cup race in Zolder, saw a field of lesser known riders take to the start grid. As was the case in 2008 and 2009, a Belgian won the race, this year it was Daev de Cleyn. He was able to get away from a four-man lead group to beat two check riders, Lubomir Petrus and Vojtech Nipl by nine seconds.
Internationales Radquer Dagmersellen (C2)
Francis Mourey opted to skip the World Cup race in Zolder and rode away from the largely Swiss field in Dagmersellen. Switzerland’s Ralph Naef and Pirmin Lang finished second and third, just a head of Lukas Fluckiger. Despite Mourey’s domination, the race was incredibly tight, with the top-ten separated by less then 30-seconds.
UCI World Cup Round 6 – Heusden-Zolder (CDM)
After four laps around the muddy course in Zolder, it became quite clear that the three best cross riders in the world were in complete control. Zdenk Stybar, Kevin Pauwels and Sven Nys had separated themselves from a strong group of riders including Niels Albert, Lars Boom and Bart Wellens. In the end, Pauwels crossed the line just ahead of Stybar, who spent almost the entire last lap trying to get away from Nys and Pauwels. Nys, who switched bikes on the final lap to make sure he had an 11 tooth cog, slid out in the final corner and rolled across the line in third.
As a result of Pauwels’ victory, the World Cup leader’s skinsuit changes hands again, as Pauwels recaptured the lead. Nys sits ten-points behind Pauwels with two rounds remaining. Although Zdenek Stybar finished second, he sits 65 points behind Pauwels and is pretty much out of contention at this point. The World Cup continues on Janurary 15th in Lievin, France.
GVA Trofee Round 5 – Azencross (C1)
Despite being sick, Niels Albert soloed his way to victory in Loenhout in impressive fashion. Zdenek Stybar finished second, ahead of Sven Nys. The real story on the day was the mess of crashes and mechanicals that cost many of the favorites a shot at victory. The first rider to go down was overall leader Kevin Pauwels, who crashed into another rider on the first lap and found himself in last place. Pauwels would ride his way through the field en route to a sixth place finish. Sven Nys began to make his way to the front a few laps later before crashing and dropping his chain. Finally, there was American Jonathan Page, who was in the mix for a potential top-ten finish before a crash and dropped chain cost him time as well.
In addition to his second place, Stybar was able to win the intermediate sprint, picking up three points. As a result, he now sits 12 points behind Pauwels with three rounds remaining. Niels Albert moved into third overall, 30 points back. The next stop for the GVA Trophy is New Years day in Baal. If Stybar continues to make up ground on Pauwels, Pauwels could find himself in a fight for the GVA Trophy, World Cup and Superprestige in late January/early February.