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With a strong attack in the final lap, Nys dropped Meeusen and Pauwels and rode solo across the line to break his long drought at the GP Hasselt; Meeusen was second and Pauwles third

Photo: Feltet.dk

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21.11.2015 @ 16:22 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Sven Nys (Crelan-AA Drink) finally broke his victory drought that had lasted for more than a year, when he came out on top in a muddy edition of the GP Hasselt. After an exciting three-rider battle, the veteran made a big attack in the final lap to distance Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) and Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) who crossed the line in that order.

 

It was the longest victory drought during his long and glorious career. For weeks, it has been a big focus in Belgium that Sven Nys had not won a race since last year’s Jaarmarkt cross in Niel, meaning that he had not raised his arms in celebration for more than a year. The veteran has been under a bit a criticism but his coach had made it clear that it was just a matter of time before the first win would arrive.

 

Since the Jaarmarktcross a few weeks ago, Nys has been riding extremely well and it has been obvious that his coach was right. At the same time, mud and rain arrived in Belgium last week, offering Nys better chances to finally break his drought.

 

The muddy conditions were again present for today’s GP Hasselt and as the dominant Wout van Aert was absent, it offered Nys a perfect chance to take his first win of the season. And finally things came together as he clearly proved to be the strongest in the tough race in Belgium.

 

As it had been expected, the race turned into a three-rider battle between Nys, Kevin Pauwels and Tom Meeusen. Nys already put his rivals under pressure in the first lap and only Meeusen could follow. Pauwels rejoined the pair during the second lap and from there it was evident that the winner would be one of the three favourites.

 

Nys tried to distance his rivals twice in the pit zone but every time Pauwels slowly made it back. Meeusen seemed to be suffering a lot but as Nys slowed down, the trio was back together with 2 laps to go.

 

Nys decided to save his energy for later and so allowed Meeusen to ride on the front. During the waiting game, Diether Sweeck even briefly joined the trio before Nys made another attack with 1.5 laps to go.

 

The attempt failed and the trio started the final lap together. It was Meeusen who made the first attempt and surprisingly Pauwels was now suffering. Nys was quick to counter the move and after he had initially been taking it relatively easy, he went full gas as he sprinted up a small climb.

 

Meeusen had to surrender and from there the outcome was never in doubt. Nys maintained his speed during the final half lap and had plenty of time to celebrate his first win of the season, with Meeusen holding onto second and Pauwels rounding out the top 3.

 

The trio will be back in action in tomorrow’s World Cup race in Koksijde whose famous sand makes it one of the hardest and most exciting courses of the year. Van Aert will be back in action as he tries to defend his World Cup lead while Mathieu van der Poel will make his long-awaited comeback.

 

How it unfolded:

Sven Nys has often started his races slowly but recently he has gone out with all guns blazing. That was the case again in Hasselt as he was one of the few riders who were able to stay on the bike in the muddy conditions. While Nys rode on the front, Klaas Vantornout got a bad start and was riding back in 25th position.

 

Only Tom Meeusen was able to keep up with Nys, and at the end of the first lap, the pair had an advantage of 12 seconds over a bigger group that contained Kevin Pauwels. However, the Sunweb captain quickly got up to speed and he slowly made it back to the two leaders during the second lap. Further back, Jim Aernouts escaped from the big group and was riding alone in fourth position.

 

The leading trio started the third lap with a small advantage over a bigger group that had caught Aernouts but was starting to splinter. It was Nys riding on the front, trying to distance his rivals but he failed. At the end of the lap, the trio had an 8-second advantage over Aernouts and Thijs van Amerongen who were their nearest chasers.

 

With 5 laps to go, Pauwels hit the front and started to put his rivals under pressure. As he accelerated in the sand section, Meeusen briefly lost ground but the Sunweb captain made it back as they exited the zone.

 

As they entered the pit zone, Meeusen and Pauwels opted for a bike change and this was an opportunity for Nys. The veteran made a big acceleration and tried to maintain the gap that he had built.

 

At the end of the lap, Nys led Meeusen and Pauwels by 4 seconds while van Amerongen and Dieter Sweeck followed at 20 seconds. Julien Taramarcaz, Jens Adams and David van der Poel were less than 10 seconds further back.

 

Pauwels did his best to get back to Nys and for a long time, the gap was stable at around 3 seconds. However, while he distanced Meeusen, Pauwels slowly started to close the gap and he made the junction halfway through the lap. Further back, Sweeck had dropped van Amerongen.

 

Nys again decided not to change his bike in the pit and this again allowed him to create a gap. However, Pauwels closed it much faster than he did in the previous lap and the pair was back together as they crossed the finish line with a 3-second advantage over Meeusen. Sweeck was next at 19 seconds.

 

Nys continued to ride on the front but he was no longer going full gas. Hence, Meeusen was allowed to rejoin the leaders. The slower pace meant that Sweeck was slowly getting closer to the leaders.

 

In the pit zone, both Pauwels and Nys opted for a bike change and this allowed Meeusen to move to the front. The Sunweb captain set the pace for the remainder of the lap and led the trio across the line at the start of the penultimate lap. Sweeck was now just 7 seconds behind while his brother Laurens had joined forces with Taramarcaz and van Amerongen 20 seconds further back. Adams and van der Poel were 36 seconds behind.

 

As Meeusen continued to ride on the front, Sweeck managed to make the junction halfway through the lap and so it was a front quartet with 1.5 laps to go. However, it soon changed as Nys moved to the front with a big acceleration, quickly distancing Sweeck. Pauwels also briefly lost contact but the trio was back together at the start of the final lap where Sweeck had already been distanced by 10 seconds. Van Amerongen was next at 30 seconds, followed by Laurens Sweeck and the trio of Taramarcaz, Adams and van der Poel.

 

Nys continued to set the pace in the first part of the lap until Meeusen tried to surprise his rivals. However, Nys was quick to respond and the trio was still together as they passed the pit zone.

 

Surprisingly, Pauwels lost contact but he quickly made it back. That’s when Nys moved to the front and after he had been riding slowly for a minute, he suddenly went full gas as they went up a small climb.  This time there was no one following the veteran as the group split to pieces, with Meeusen being his nearest chaser.

 

Nys did not slow down and maintained the pace in the final part of the lap, constantly building his advantage. He has plenty of time to celebrate his win before Meeusen rolled across the line in second. Pauwels completed the podium, followed by Diether Sweeck in fourth, and Laurens Sweeck rounded out the top 5.

 

Result:

1. Sven Nys

2. Tom Meeusen

3. Kevin Pauwels

4. Diether Sweeck

5. Laurens Sweeck

6. Thijs van Amerongen

7. Jens Adama

8. Julien Taramarcaz

9. David van der Poel

10 Radomir Simunek

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