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Superprestige #7 - C1
Vorselaar, Belgium, February 16, 2008
Nobody stronger than Albert
By Brecht Decaluwé in Vorselaar
Despite early attacks from Sven Vanthourenhout and Czech champion Zdenek Stybar there was no opposition for U23 world champion Niels Albert. The 23 year-old Belgian waited until halfway through the race to slip into the decisive breakaway group with Erwin Vervecken, Sven Vanthourenhout and team-mate Radomir Simunek Jr. The final lap on the technical but fast course with speeds over 30km/h was one long sprint and Albert managed to drop everybody else by brute force.
Surprisingly Albert said he wasn't feeling well during the race. "Actually it didn't go well today and we planned to help Simunek to the win. I was forced to chase at the back all the time, but then I realized that I could close gaps in front as well. I noticed Simunek had to allow some breakaways and I took the initiative myself," Albert explained after the race.
With this victory Albert overtook Stybar who lost his lead in the race after hitting a tree and a spectator for third place in the overall classification of the Superprestige Series. One can wonder where Albert would have ended in the GC if he would've raced in Hamme-Zogge and not at the U23 European championships.
"I might have finished second overall," Albert said, "but now I've won already three out of four races for the regularity competitions and that's not bad either." The honour of becoming European champion and earning 5,000 euros, it's hard to compare. Sven Nys wasn't a threat for his young compatriot but he clinched the overall win and the 26,000 euros that come with it.
Radomir Simunek was delighted with his second place behind team-mate Albert. "This is fantastic for the team," the Czech rider said to Cyclingnews. "It's a great result for me as well, but now I've had it, there's no more energy in my body and tomorrow's course isn't my cup of tea," the tired Palmans rider said.
In the background was some not so happy mutterings from Bart Wellens who was complaining about the Fidea team tactics. "I was blocked by the crash from Stybar and then it was over for me. I'm not happy with the team tactics, because there were none and that's not the first time this season," Wellens complained.
The Belgian Sunweb team was delighted to see that their team-leader Sven Vanthourenhout managed to step up the podium once again. "It's good to know that I'm back although I still lack that percentage that is needed to win the race, but that's because I had a bad preparation this season due to my injury," Vanthourenhout explained to Cyclingnews.
His team manager Jurgen Mettepenningen was all smiles at the campers after the race. "I'm a happy man, it was good." One of his riders was riding his last race for the team; Jonathan Page will announce his plans for next year shortly. The sole North American rider at the start was keen on making a good performance in Vorselaar after not being offered a contract for tomorrow's race in Oostmalle. Nevertheless he didn't have a good start and he couldn't move up through the bunch. The American ended up riding in the main chasing group behind the nine leaders and eventually he let it go and finished 20th; in the overall classification of the Superprestige Series, Page finished 15th.
"It just didn't go today. I pulled out of my pedal after the start, was thrown forward on the bike and then my chain came off. I'm glad the season is over for me, it's time for a new beginning," Page said to Cyclingnews.
How it unfolded
The best start in Vorselaar was for homeboy Wellens who went out in front of Nys, Klaas Vantornout, Vervecken and Groenendaal. Page just made it into the top-20. Vantornout dropped away from the front and about seventeen riders distanced themselves from the rest after one lap, with Stybar leading the race and Page at the back.
After three laps there was an attack from Sven Vanthourenhout and he managed to keep this gap for a while, but then the Czech champion took over the command. Stybar jumped away and build up a lead of eight seconds on a group of eight riders including Nys, Wellens, Groenendaal, Dieter Vanthourenhout, Sven Vanthourenhout, Simunek, Vervecken and Albert. Behind them Marco Bianco was riding on his own at 10", with the tandem Gerben De Knegt and Rob Peeters riding a couple of seconds further back. Page was riding with Kevin Pauwels and Klaas Vantornout in about fifteenth position.
After six laps Simunek tried to bridge up with his compatriot in front, but he couldn't do it on his own. One lap later Stybar's dreams shattered into pieces when he hit a tree and a spectator. "I went so well and then I made one mistake and lost everything," Stybar said to Cyclingnews after the race. It was a pity for the young Czech who still had an eye on the second place in the GC of the Superprestige Series.
Meanwhile, the front of the race slowed down. There were a couple of attacks from Dieter Vanthourenhout, Sven Nys and Wellens but nobody got away. With two laps to go Albert attacked and he got away with team-mate Simunek, Sven Vanthourenhout and Vervecken. During the last lap Albert held the tempo so high that everybody was blown away from his wheel. Behind them, Wellens and Nys were watching each other and allowed the four leaders to ride away.
Palmans clinched a 1-2 with Simunek winning the three-man sprint for second place. Wellens won the next sprint for fifth place before Groenendaal and Nys. Stybar was the next to win a sprint, beating Dieter Vanthourenhout. Thijs Al barely managed to crack the top-10 by beating Italian young rider Marco Bianco at about one minute from winner Albert.
1 Niels Albert (Bel) Palmans-Cras 59.05 2 Radomír Simunek (Cze) Palmans-Cras 0.03 3 Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Sunweb-Pro Job 4 Erwin Vervecken (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team 5 Bart Wellens (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team 0.20 6 Richard Groenendaal (Ned) AA Sports Drinks 7 Sven Nys (Bel) Rabobank 8 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Fidea Cycling Team 0.45 9 Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel) Palmans-Cras 10 Thijs Al (Ned) BeOne-Chain Reaction Cycles 0.57
2007 Sven Nys (Ned) Rabobank 2006 Sven Nys (Bel) Rabobank 2005 Sven Nys (Bel) Rabobank 2004 Sven Nys (Bel) Rabobank 2003 Bart Wellens (Bel) Spaar Select 2002 Richard Groenendaal (Ned) Rabobank