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What rhymes with finesse? Sven Nys, who won the Superprestige Hoogstraten on Sunday.
On a day when seemingly everyone hit the deck once — and some more than once — the Landbouwkrediet rider kept the rubber side down, riding as though he were on rails.
He took the seventh round of the series by a comfortable margin over Belgian champion Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus), with Kevin Pauwels (Telenet-Fidea) third, locking up an unprecedented 10th overall victory in the process with just one race remaining.
There was no running on the course, just plenty of steep ups and downs, with deep, sticky mud to keep things interesting. Pick the wrong rut and you wound up in the course tape or a spectator’s lap.
Albert was off the front early in the first lap. Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor) ate it on a sketchy descent, and then Albert bobbled a muddy downhill and nearly shot off the course, leaving Pauwels to take over the lead, followed by Nys and world champion Zdenek Stybar (Telenet-Fidea).
At the end of the first lap all the usual suspects were in the lead group with Nys at the head of the line. American Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) was in a chase group some nine seconds back.
Next go-round Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) crashed on the same muddy, rutted descent that took down Vantornout. Nys was slightly off the front with Bart Wellens, but when the Telenet rider hit the deck he left the Landbouwkrediet man off the front by himself with a seven-second lead over a chase group containing Pauwels, Stybar and Philipp Walsleben (BKCP-Powerplus).
The world champion drove the pace, closing in on Nys as the second lap came to a close. But then Stybar slid out in a puddle, nearly flying into the crowd, leaving Pauwels alone to chase Nys. Vantornout went down again and did tumble off the course, then got tangled up with Walsleben as the German champion tried to ride past.
With eight laps to go Pauwels had fought his way up to Nys. Albert and Meeusen were chasing at seven seconds with Stybar a further dozen seconds down.
But Pauwels couldn’t match Nys on the heavy, rutted course, and as the Landbouwkrediet rider put seven seconds on him, Albert rode up to Pauwels, then past him as the Telenet rider skidded into a pole and came off the bike.
With seven laps remaining Nys was in the clear, with Albert chasing at five seconds and Pauwels at 12. Behind, Stybar crashed again after parking his front wheel in a deep hole.
Nys made a rare bobble and Albert inched closer; with six laps remaining the two men were together, with Pauwels at 18 seconds and Stybar out of the running. But then Albert slid out on a hill, and as he clambered off the bike and ran to the top, Nys was off on his own once again. This time, he was gone for good.
At midlap Nys had an eight-second advantage. With four laps to go he had doubled his margin, and Albert was looking crazed. Pauwels was at 40 seconds and simply hoping to hang onto the podium.
And that’s the way things remained. Nys was nearly flawless, committing the occasional dab but otherwise error-free, and as he hit the bell lap there was no one else in sight.
Nys pitted for a fresh bike near the end of the lap, had one last look over his left shoulder as he hit the finishing straight, and then flashed both palms at the cameras — he had locked up an unprecedented 10th victory in the Superprestige series.
A weary Albert hung on for second with Pauwels third. And Page — who had his own up-close-and-personal moment with the course tape on a descent — bounced back to take 10th place.
- 1. Sven Nys, Landbouwkrediet
- 2. Niels Albert, BKCP-Powerplus
- 3. Kevin Pauwels, Telenet-Fidea
- 4. Klaas Vantornout, Sunweb-Revor
- 5. Sven Vanthornout, BKCP-Powerplus
- 6. Zdenek Stybar, Telenet-Fidea
- 7. Kenneth Van Compernolle, Style & Concept
- 8. Bart Wellens, Telenet-Fidea
- 9. Gerben De Knegt, Rabobank
- 10. Jonathan Page, Planet Bike
Superprestige overall standings
- 1. Nys, 97pts
- 2. Pauwels, 78
- 3. Albert, 75
- 4. Stybar, 74
- 5. Wellens, 64