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The former world champion finishes 3rd in the final race in Middelkerke - won by Meeusen ahead of Pauwels - but as Albert can only manage 7th, he takes the overall Superprestige title on a countback

Photo: Feltet.dk

NIELS ALBERT

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SUPERPRESTIGE

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15.02.2014 @ 18:08 Posted by Simon Knudstrup

Sven Nys took his 14th overall win in the Superprestige series with the tiniest of margins after finishing 3rd in today's final race in Middelkerke. Having been beaten by Tom Meeusen and Kevin Pauwels, the former world champion benefited from a disappointing 7th for series leader Niels Albert to take the overall win on a countback.

 

Mr. Superprestige Sven Nys has taken a 14th win - the 4th in a row - in the prestigious race series in a true drama. In the final race in Middelkerke, the experienced Belgian took the lead away from Niels Albert but only by the tiniest of margins.

 

Going into the final race which was held in windy conditions, Nys trailed Albert by 4 points, meaning that there had to be three riders in between the pair for Nys to take the win. The Belgian champion had even admitted that this was unlikely to happen, with Albert having shown splendid condition in the penultimate round one week ago.

 

However, the stars aligned for Nys who didn't even have his best day in the saddle. Being on the back foot all day, Nys found himself in chasing mode behind Tom Meeusen and Kevin Pauwels who were clearly the strongest riders on the day.

 

However, Nys was not the only rider suffering in the windy conditions as it was clearly already from the start that Albert was in even bigger difficulties. Despite moving up from a bad start, the leader in the series never saw the front.

 

Meeusen, Pauwels and Lars van de Haar were involved in an intense battle for the race win, with van der Haar falling off the pace around the midpoint of the race. At one point, Pauwels appeared to be the strongest but in the end, it was Meeusen who continued his recent string of good results by taking a highly prestigious win.

 

With Meeusen riding away from Pauwels and showing no signs of slowing down, the focus shifted to the battle for the overall win. Nys was riding hard in 4th position with Klaas Vantornout, trying to get back to the three riders ahead of him, while Albert was riding in 7th and made no inroads on the riders ahead of him.

 

This meant that the pair were separated by 2 riders and so Nys was forced to pass van der Haar to take the overall win. Having dropped Vantornout, he made the junction just before the penultimate passage of the line and at that point only van der Haar could save Albert's day.

 

That wasn't to be as the Dutch champion was fading after a hard race and he was quickly dropped by Nys. The Belgian champion rode consistently on the final lap to secure the final spot on the podium while a clearly disappointed Albert crossed the line in 7th, having lost the series win by the tiniest of margins: on a countback.

 

The best cyclo-cross racers will be back in action tomorrow when the race in Heerlen is scheduled. The season comes to an end next weekend when the riders tackle the traditional Sluitingsprijs in Oostmalle that doubles as the final round of the Bpost series. Nys is the current leader and only disaster can prevent him from taking the win in two of the three big series, with van der Haar having taken the overall World Cup win.

 

Van der Haar takes the front

As it is so often the case, Lars van der Haar won the opening sprint to lead the peloton up the first small climbs. Sven Nys had a rather slow start and was riding some way back in the group, with Albert staying very attentive on the wheel of the Belgian champion.

 

Marcel Meisen had been riding in second position in the first part of the lap but at the midpoint, Tom Meeusen started to move up. He passed both Meisen and van der Haar as he started to string out the group.

 

Meeusen shows his cards

Meeusen's hard acceleration was only matched by Kevin Pauwels and the duo opened up a gap over the peloton.  Thijs van Amerongen led the chase, with Nys now having moved into5th position. Meanwhile, ALbert appeared to be struggling a bit and was far back in the main group.

 

Van Amerongen closed the gap to the leader which was the signal for van der Haar to again hit the front. The Dutch champion launched his first attack and created a group that in addition to himself consisted of Meeusen, van Amerongen and Wietse Bosmans.

 

Van der Haar accelerates

The Sunweb duo of Kevin Pauwels and Klaas Vantornout did the work to close it down just before the first passage of the line. On the finishing, van der Haar accelerated hard to string out the group and Albert now found himself in a small group that had lost a few seconds.

 

Van der Haar kept the pace high and opened a gap. Meeusen latched onto his wheel and the duo started to take off while Albert had again regained contact with the main group.

 

Van Amerongen leads the chase

Van Amerongen was again leading the chaee ahead of Bosmans, Pauwels, Vantonorout, Nys, Dieter Vanthourenhout, Philipp Walsleben and Bart Aernouts. The Dutchman gradually got closer to the leaders before finally closing the offensive down.

 

New gaps started to open, with Meeusen, Van Amerongen, Pauwels and van der Haar creating a gap. Meeusen hit the front to up the pace while van der Haar was struggling at the back.

 

Meeusen gets a gap

Nys was now leading the chase but it was Vantornout who moved ahead when the pace needed to be upped. At that point Meeusen had slightly separated himself from the front group but Pauwels went hard on the finishing straight to close it down. At the passage of the line, the front quartet was 6 seconds ahead while Albert had lost a bit of ground, shaking his head in resignation.

 

Meeusen continued his hard pace and van der Haar now paid the price for his hard start. Alongside van Amerongen, he fell off the pace, leaving just Meeusen and Pauwels in the front group.

 

Van der Haar is back

Van der Haar found his second energy and managed to bridge across to the leaders where Pauwels was now setting the pace. Van Amerongen was swallowed up by the main group that was constantly led by Vantornout, with Nys acting as observer in second position.

 

Albert had now lost quite a bit of ground and even came to a halt when he felt to ride up a steep climb. Meanwhile, overall rival Nys had now moved ahead of Vantornout but stayed behind the tiring van Amerongen.

 

Pauwels takes off

Pauwels was riding really  well and set a pace that first van der Haar and later also Meeusen could not match. The Sunweb riders took off on his own while the Dutch champion was fading violently.

 

At this points, Nys decided that it was time to kick into action, and the Belgian champion moved to the front, setting a pace that only van Amerongen and Vantornout could follow. The main group splintered to pieces while a fighting Albert started to pass riders and move back into contention.

 

Meeusen is back

Meeusen overcame his bad moment and rejoined Pauwels, immediately hitting the front to apply the pressure. The front duo crossed the line for the third time with a 8-second gap over van der Haar and Nys while Vantornout followed on his own a little later. Albert was riding at his own tempo, 17 seconds behind the leaders.

 

Nys made a small mistake that saw him fall back to Vantornout and van Amerongen while van der Haar continued on his own. Albert was riding is steady pace a little further behind and gradually got closer to the Nys group.

 

Nys drops van Amerongen

Nys kept riding hard and this put van Amerongen into difficulty. Albert started to lose a bit of ground and got company when Walsleben and Dieter Vanthourenhout latched onto his wheel.

 

Up ahead, Pauwels and Meeusen were cooperating nicely but halfway through the lap, Meeusen started to apply a bit more pressure. This was too much for his companion who fell off the pace in a muddy section.

 

Meeusen with a small lead

Meeusen crossed the line at the end of the 4th lap with a gap of a few seconds while van der Haar was still on his own in 3rd. Nys and Vantornout were next, followed by van Amerongen and a little further back, by Albert and Dieter Vanthourenhout.

 

Pauwels refused to give up and managed to keep a rather stable gap to Meeusen but was apparently unable to close it down. At the same time, Albert's travails continued when he hit the barriers, came to a halt, and was passed by both Dieter Vanthourenhout and Walsleben.

 

Pauwels loses ground

When Meeusen crossed the line to start the penultimate lap, he was 7 seconds ahead of Pauwels while van der Haahr was a few seconds further adrift. Nys and Vantornout were at 16 seconds, with van Amerongen following a little later. Albert was back with Aernouts and Walsleben but was now a massive 50 seconds behind.

 

Meeusen constantly extended his advantage over Pauwels who was starting to tire and generally the race had found its natural hierarchy, with not much happening on the penultimate lap. However, Nys was starting to show his class, leaving behind Vantornout and bridging across to van der Haar.

 

Meeusen plays it safely

Meeusen crossed the line to start the final lap with a solid 16-second gap, meaning that he could allow himself to take no risks. Nys and van der Haar were 20 seconds further behind, with Vantornout being 43 seconds behind the leader. Van Amerongen was still clear of Albert and Dieter Vanthourenhout who crossed the line with a 1.07 deficit.

 

As rain started to fall on the very windy day in Middelkerke, Meeusen was now in cruise control, riding safely to avoid any stupid mistakes. Nonetheless, his advantage kept coming up, with Pauwels clearly struggling at the end of a hard race

 

Nys drops van der Haar

Nys got rid of van der Haar and was now riding comfortably in a spot that would secure him a spot on the podium. Behind, Albert was still doing his best but being unable to get rid of Aernouts proved that he was far from the level that had seen him finish on the podium in last week's penultimate round.

 

Up ahead, Meeusen had plenty of time to celebrate his win, raising his arms in celebration all the way down the finishing straight. Pauwels rolled across in 2nd while Nys had to ride a bit hard to keep van der Haar at bay and secure the final spot on the podium.

 

Vantornout took 5th and van Amerongen 6th while the fighting Albert made it across the line in 7th. Dieter Vanthourenhout, Walsleben and Jim Aernouts completed the top 10.

 

Result:

1. Tom Meeusen

2. Kevin Pauwels

3. Sven Nys

4. Lars van der Haar

5. Klaas Vantornout

6. Thijs van Amerongen

7. Niels Albert

8. Dieter Vanthourenhout

9. Philipp Walsleben

10. Jim Aernouts

 

Overall Superprestige standings:

1. Sven Nys101

2. Niels Albert 101

3. Tom Meeusen 84

4. Klaas Vantornout 83

5. Philipp Walsleben77

6. Lars van der Haar 75

7. Kevin Pauwels 57

8. Rob Peeters 53

9. Thijs van Amerongen 49

10. Bart Aernouts 33

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