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Arriving at the finishing straight with the Belgian champion, Van Aert beat Nys in a two-rider sprint to take the biggest win of his career; Nys extended his lead in the Bpost Bank Trofee series

Photo: Feltet.dk

KEVIN PAUWELS

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01.11.2014 @ 16:13 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Wout Van Aert confirmed that he is one of the brightest cyclo-cross talents when he won one of the most prestigious races on the calendar, the Koppenbergcross. Having stayed with the Belgian champion on the  final lap, he beat the Sven Nys in a two-rider sprint while Nys had to console himself with an increased lead in the Bpost Bank Trofee race series.

 

Earlier this year U23 world champion Wout Van Aert proved that he is already able to beat the best in the biggest races when he won the Superprestige race in Gieten. Today he confirmed his big potential when he added the famous Koppenbergcross to his palmares.

 

During the entire race, the youngster looked like the strongest rider in the race. Nonetheless, he found himself on the defensive in the second half of the race when Kevin Pauwels had escaped on his own and seemed to be riding away with the win.

 

An excellent chase effort by Van Aert allowed him to rejoin the leader just as they started the final lap. At this point, 9-time winner Sven Nys had long seemed to be out of contention but after showing lots of signs of weakness, he gauged his effort perfectly to rejoin the front as they crossed the line for the penultimate time.

 

Nys made his expected attack as they hit the Koppenberg climb for the final time and while Pauwels was tailed off, Van Aert stayed glued to his wheel. The pair crested the summit together and after Van Aert had tried to attack on the descent, the pair was to decide the race in a sprint.

 

Just as they hit the finishing straight, they caught Jan Denuwelaere who was about to start his final lap and his presence made it impossible for Nys to pass Van Aert. Being unable to beat Van Aert in the sprint, Nys showed his frustration, signaling that he felt obstructed by Denuwelaere.

 

Nys may have missed out on a tenth win in the race but he consoled himself with the fact that he extended his lead in the Bpost Bank Trofee series which is based on time and not points. He now leads Klaas Vantornout by 1.54 after 2 races.

 

How it unfolded:

The opening sprint was won by defending champion Tom Meeusen who led the peloton into the first muddy section. He was quickly passed vy Lars van der Haar who set the pace as they tackled the cobbled climb for the first time.

 

Van der Haar’s fast pace created the first selection as riders started to drift backwards and a group concisting of the Dutch champion, Wout Van Aert, Meeusen, Klaas Vantornout and Kevin Pauwels got clea.r Sven Nys worked hard to bridge the gap and with Rob Peeters stayin glued to his wheel, he made the junction just as they started the descent.

 

Peeters made a mistake on the descent and as he came to a halt, he lost contact with the front group. Meanwhile, Thijs van Amerongen was trying to bridge the gap as van der Haar continued to set a furious pace.

 

Hitting the finishing straight for the first time, Meeusen took over the pace-setting while van Amerongen crossed the line 5 seconds behind. Van Aert took over in the mud but as they hit the climb, it was the duo of Vantontornout and Pauwels who accelerated. At this point, van Amerongen had regained contact with the front group.

 

The Sunweb duo didn’t go full gas and this allowed Philip Walsleben to lead the main group back to the leaders. They didn’t remain in front for long though as van der Haar accelerated in the run-in to the intermediate sprint where Nys beat the Dutch champion and Vantornout to pick up important bonus seconds.

 

Nys remained on the front of the front group that was again down to the same 7 riders as before but soon after Walsleben joined them. The hard pace by the Belgian champion made the group split and briefly only Vantornout, Pauwles and van Aert were able to stay with the nine-time winner of the race.

 

Nys led the group for the final part of the lap but when he slowed down on the finishing straight, the 8 riders came back together. In the muddy section, however, Nys accelerated again and this split the group in two, with Pauwels, Vantornout and Van Aert staying with the Belgian champion.

 

Having missed the split, van der Haar rode hard up the climb and as they headed down a small descent, he managed to rejoin the leaders. Nys slowed down again and this allowed Walsleben, van Amerongen and Meeusen to get back too.

 

Nys finally left the front and instead Meeusen took over. However, it was Vantournout who set the pace as they finished the climb and started the technical descent where Meeusen again tried to accelerate. Nonetheless, the 8 riders were still together as they finished the third lap. The group slowed completely down on the finishing straight and this allowed Bart Aernouts and Peeters to rejoin the leaders.

 

In the muddy section, Van Aert attacked and this split the group. Only van der Haar and Meeusen managed to stay with the youngster and very soon they had a big gap.

 

That prompted the Sunweb duo of Pauwels and Vantornout to react and they started to chase hard. At this point, Nys seemed to be in difficult, opening small gaps as he rode near the back of the chase group.

 

While van der Haar and Van Aert traded pulls in the front group, Pauwels managed to bridge the gap. Nys now seemed to have recovered and took over the pace-setting in the chase group.

 

Van Aert was on fire and as they neared the summit of the climb, he dropped his companions. Meanwhile, Nys and Vantornout had separated themselves from the rest of the chase group.

 

Van der Haar showed great descending skills to bring the front quartet back together. As they crossed the finish line at the halfway point, they were 11 seconds ahead of Vantornout and Nys while van Amerongen, Walsleben and Aernouts were a bit further adrift.

 

Nys paced himself well and as they hit the bottom of the main climb, the chasing duo had regained contact with the leaders. However, the effort had been costly and as Meeusen set the pace, the Belgian champion was dropped but he used his great technical skills to rejoin the leaders on the descent.

 

Van der Haar hit the deck in a tricky corner but the Dutch champion was quickly back on his bike, staying in contact with the leaders. However, he had dropped to the last position and had to fight hard to stay in contention.

 

The front sextet was still together as they finished the fifth lap and van der Haar made use of the usual slowing on the finishing straight to move back into position. As soon as they hit the mud, however, Van Aert made his usual acceleration but it was Pauwels who managed to get clear.

 

While the chasers looked at each other, Pauwels quickly got a big gap before van der Haar upped the pace, putting momentum back into the chase. Nys was again dropped but managed to regain contact when van der Haar again slowed down.

 

Hitting the main climb, Pauwels was more than 10 seconds ahead as Van Aert was now leading the chase group. Surprisingly, van Haar was now the one to suffer and the Dutch champion lost contact.

 

Only Vantornout could keep up with Van Aert and the Belgian pair were now the nearest chasers of Pauwels. A little further back, Nys and Meeusen were together while van der Haar was constantly losing ground.

 

At the passage of the line, Pauwels was 15 seconds ahead of Van Aert and Vantornout while Nys and Meeusen were at 20 seconds. Van der Haar was now 31 seconds behind and seemed to be out of contention.

 

Pauwels was riding really well and continued to increase his advantage over his chasers where Vantornout did no work to reel in his teammate. Meanwhile, Nys’ engine had started to warm up and he left Meeusen behind as they went up the main climb.

 

Van Aert showed amazing climbing skills to drop Vantonout and now he started to reduce his deficit. At the same time, Nys sprinted past Vantornout and as they went down the descent, he rejoined Van Aert to form a strong duo that was constantly getting closer to the leader.

 

Nys was again dropped while Van Aert continued his progress and when they hit the finishing straight for the penultimate time, he had caught Pauwels. This caused the pace to slow down, meaning that Nys also joined them. At the passage of the line, Vantornout was 10 seconds behind while Meeusen was further back.

 

As usual, Van Aert accelerated in the muddy section and he briefly seemed to get clear. However, the front trio found back together and now started to look at each other.

 

The slow pace allowed Vantornout to rejoin them before Van Aert accelerated on the first part of the climb. Nys had moved into second position and fought hard to stay with the youngster.

 

However, the Belgian champion still had something in reserve and when they hit the main climb, he attacked hard. Van Aert stayed glued to his wheel but the Sunweb duo of Pauwels and Vantornout were both dropped.

 

Van Aert managed to stay in contact with Nys and took over the pace-setting on the descent. As they had put daylight into their nearest chaser Pauwels, they could allow themselves to play a tatctical game before Van Aert again tried to accelerate.

 

Nys was never in difficulty and so the pair were still together when Van Aert led them onto the finishing straight. The youngster started a long sprint and while Nys was obstructed by Jan Denuwelaere who was about to start his final lap, he held on to take the biggest win of his career. Pauwels rolled across the line to complete the podium before Vantornout, Meeusen and van der Haar rolled across the line one by one.

 

Result:

1. Wout Van Aert

2. Sven Nys

3. Kevin Pauwels

4. Klaas Vantornout

5. Tom Meeusen

6. Lars van der Haar

7. Bart Aernouts

8. Tijs van Amerongen

9. Niels Wubben

10. Rob Peeters

 

Overall standings:

1. Sven Nys

2. Klaas Vantornout +1.54

3. Kevin Pauwels +2.03

4. Wout Van Aert +2.27

5. Lars van der Haar +2.40

6. Tom Meeusen +2.59

7. Tijs van Amerongen +4.08

8. Bart Aernouts +5.12

9. Niels Wubben +5.38

10. Dieter Vanthourenhout +5.41

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