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The world champion breaks Albert's string of four consecutive wins in Diegem while an impressive Meeusen finishes 2nd; Albert takes 3rd and defends his overall Superprestige lead

Photo: John de Jong

NIELS ALBERT

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NEWS

SUPERPRESTIGE

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TOM MEEUSEN

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NEWS
29.12.2013 @ 18:57 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Sven Nys continued his domination of the prestigious Christmas cyclo-cross races when he won the Superprestige race in Diegem in convincing fashion. Having dropped Tom Meeusen on the penultimate lap, the world champion opened up a massive gap on the final lap while Niels Albert finished 3rd to defend his overall lead in the series.

 

Sven Nys got the series of Christmas races off to a bad start when he was plagued by bad luck in the races in Essen and Namur. However, the Belgian had clearly given the impression that he was the strongest rider in those races and in the last few days, he has been virtually unbeatable.

 

Today he continued his success when he broke Niels Albert's string of four wins in a row in the Superprestige race in Diegem. The world champion was by far the best rider in the race and showed his intentions when he attacked already on the first lap.

 

Only Tom Meeusen was able to keep up with the world champion while quadruple champion Albert had had his usual slow start and was forced into chase mode. When Nys dropped Meeusen, the Telenet rider fell back to Albert and the duo combined forces to close the gap to the world champion.

 

However, Nys always gave the impression that he had the race firmly under control. When he sensed that Albert was tiring from his long chase, he tightened the screws a bit further and left his archrival behind.

 

Despite briefly losing contact several times, Meeusen rode an impressive race and managed to keep up with Nys for most of the race despite several attempts from the world champion to get rid of him. On the penultimate lap, the hard pace became too much though for the Telenet rider and Nys easily accelerated away from him.

 

From there, the race was another splendid Sven Nys show, with the world champion extending his lead all the way to the finish. The veteran had plenty of time to celebrate his win and wave to the fans as he passed through the final technical sections of the circuit. He crossed the line on his feet, raising his bike in his arms.

 

Meeusen kept the pace high all the way to the finish and took a beautiful 2nd in the prestigious race. Albert took 3rd while Zdenek Stybar and Martin Bina completed the top 5.

 

With his third place, Albert defended his overall lead in the Superprestige series and he is now 6 points ahead of Nys. The penultimate round of the series takes place on February 9 in Hoogstraten.

 

The best cyclo-cross riders will now take a short break to celebrate the New Year but will be back in action in the traditional January 1 race, GP Sven Nys, held in Nys' home city of Baal.

 

Fast start for van der Haahr

As usual, Lars van der Haahr won the opening sprint and led the peloton as they entered the first technical corners. Kevin Pauwels, Sven Nys and Klaas Vantornout had all had good starts and were riding in second, third and fourth position as they followed the Dutch champion through the tricky sections on the Diegem circuit.

 

Nys was eager to break Albert's string of successes in the race and hit the front for the first time at an unusually early point. Already halfway through the lap, the world champion took over the pace-setting but rode a conservative speed that made sure that the peloton was mostly together when they neared the end of the first lap.

 

Meeusen and Nys escape

When they started to run up the steep climb on the mostly flat circuit, Meeusen took over from Nys. Almost at the same time, Pauwels crashed when he was hit from behind by a Telenet rider and the Belgian lost several positions as a consequence.

 

Meeusen accelerated and as he reached the top of the climb, only Nys had been able to stay with the Belgian. Nys was quick to sense the opportunity and moved straight to the front and started to extend his advantage over the peloton which was led by Vantornout. Albert had had a bad start and was riding near the back of the main group which now consisted of 8 riders: Vantornout, Martin Bina, Radomir Simunek, Rob Peeters, Albert, Zdenek Stybar, Philipp Walsleben and van der Haahr.

 

Bina leads the chase

As Nys and Meeusen passed the line for the first time, the duo were 6 seconds ahead of the chase group which was now led by Bina. Julien Taramarcaz, Jim Aernouts and Pauwels were chasing hard a little further behind.

 

Halfway through the lap, Albert sensed that his position as the king of Diegem was under threat. The former world champion accelerated hard from the chase group and Bina was unable to keep up with him. However, Peeters brought most of the group back together but Simunek and Vantornout had now fallen off the pace.

 

Meeusen struggles

As Albert and Peeters bunny hopped the barriers, they opened a gap and Albert was quick to take the opportunity to up the pace even further. Meanwhile, Meeusen was fighting hard to keep up with Nys who did all the work in the front duo.

 

As they passed the line for the second time, Nys and Meeusen were still 6 seconds ahead of Peeters and Albert who appeared to be riding a bit faster than the leaders. Walsleben was leading the next group a little further behind. Meanwhile, disaster struck for Vantornout who had a mechanical and was forced to run for a long time and so lost all hopes of a top result in the race.

 

Meeusen is dropped

As they hit the biggest climb on the circuit, Meeusen lost contact with Nys who quickly opened up a big gap. At the same time, Albert appeared to be slowing a bit down and was now losing ground to the world champion.

 

In a sandy section, Peeters was unable to follow Albert who quickly bridged the gap to Meeusen. Peeters, on the other hand, fell back to Stybar, Bina and Walsleben.

 

Nys with a solid gap

Nys crossed the line to start the fourth lap with an 8-second gap over Albert and Meeusen while the second chase group was 7 seconds further adrift. Van der Haahr was riding on his own a little further behind.

 

In the pits, Stybar made a mistake during his bike change and this allowed Peeters to escape from the second chase ground. Bina, Stybar and Walsleben quickly set off in pursuit but were now far behind the leaders.

 

Albert gets closer

Albert rode a good a lap and had almost closed the gap at the halfway point. However, Nys made another acceleration and again stretched out his lead to a few seconds.

 

As Nys crossed the line at the halfway point, he was only 3 seconds ahead of his two chasers while Peeters was around 15 seconds behind the world champion. Van der Haahr had benefited from Stybar's mistake to join the big chase group.

 

A front trio is formed

In the early part of the lap, Albert finally closed the final small part of the gap and so a front trio was formed. Sensing that he now had two of his rivals for company, Nys slowed down a bit but stayed on the front while Albert took a short breather after his long chase.

 

On the main climb, Nys turned on the screws and Albert lost contact. Nys looked back and realized that his archrival was in difficulty and so increased the pace a bit more. For a long time, Albert dangled a few metres behind the front duo while Meeusen dug deep to keep up with the world champion.

 

Albert loses ground

As they crossed the line, the front duo was 5 seconds ahead of Albert while Peeters 18 seconds further adrift. Van der Haahr and Bina were getting closer to the Belgian Telenet rider while Stybar riding on his own.

 

As they started the next lap, Nys asked Meeusen to come through and the Telenet rider reluctantly took over the pace-setting. The world champion used his services for a few minutes but when they exited the sand section, he accelerated hard again.

 

Meeusen keeps up with Nys

Impressively, Meeusen managed to keep up with Nys but Albert was now losing ground. Sensing that he was unable to shake off his rivals, Nys again took the foot slightly off the gas.

 

Just before the next passage of the line, Nys asked Meeusen to come through and the duo crossed the line with an 6-second advantage over Albert. Stybar, Bina, van der Haahr and Peeters were now together but had a 42-second gap to make up.

 

Nys attacks

As Meeusen entered the pits to swap bikes, Nys decided that it was time to attack. The world champion put down the hammer and opened a small gap to the Telenet rider.

 

However, Meeusen was not on his limit yet and again he rejoined Nys. This prompted Nys to slow down once more but Albert was now far behind.

 

Meeusen is dropped for good

On a seemingly innocuous part of the course, Meeusen was suddenly dropped and this time there was no getting back. Nys kept the pace high and started to extend his advantage over his former companion.

 

As Nys started the final lap, he was 5 seconds ahead of Meeusen. Albert was more than 20 seconds behind his main rival but was now riding to defend his overall Superprestige lead.

 

Nys is the strongest

Again Nys was clearly the strongest rider in the race and he kept extending his lead all the way around the final lap. The podium places were by now determined and the only excitement was about the battle for fourth.

 

With a massive lead over his rivals, Nys had plenty of time to celebrate his win with the euphoric Belgian fans. He waved to the crowds before raising his arms while walking across the line for the final time with the bike in his arms.

 

Meeusen took a comfortable second while a clearly disappointed Albert was 3rd. Stybar was 4th ahead of Bina while van der Haahr beat Peters in a close sprint for 6th. Walsleben was 8th, Marcel Meisen 9th and Jim Aernouts 10th

 

Result:

1. Sven Nys

2. Tom Meeusen

3. Niels Albert

4. Zdenek Stybar

5. Martin Bina

6. Lars van der Haahr

7. Rob Peeters

8. Philipp Walsleben

9. Marcel Meisen

10. Jim Aernouts

 

Overall Superprestige standings:

1. Niels Albert 79

2. Sven Nys 73

3. Lars van der Haahr 63

4. Philipp Walsleben 61

5. Klaas Vantornout 58

6. Tom Meeusen 58

7. Rob Peeters 43

8. Kevin Pauwels 38

9. Bart Aernouts 33

10. Thijs van Amerongen 27

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