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Albert beats his elders again

Consolation prize for team Fidea and bad luck for Nys

By Brecht Decaluwé

The U23 race level seems to surpass the elite level as Niels Albert (Palmans) has beaten all professional riders once again, this time at the windy beach in Antwerp. Another U23 rider - Lars Boom (Rabobank) - recently won the Dutch elite champs beating more experienced competitors as well.

The 20 year-old Albert launched an early attack, and despite efforts from world champion Erwin Vervecken (Fidea) and recent Belgian champion Bart Wellens (Fidea), they only saw Albert again when the race was over. "I noticed that I was better in the mud so I went full on. It was still far to go, but I felt really well and then I like to show that," Albert laughed. Stormy weather, with wind and rain tortured the riders in Antwerp, and Albert said "It wasn’t an easy race with such weather."

His win is all the more remarkable given fact was that the top-5 was composed entirely of champions: Albert is the current U23 Belgian champion, Erwin Vervecken (2nd) is world champion, Zdenek Stybar – the current U23 world champion – finished third before his Czech compatriot Petr Dlask who is national champion, and Belgian champion Wellens completed this exclusive club.

Besides race winner Albert, all those champions ride for the Fidea team, who gave the Rabobank team a solid beating today. Sven Nys (Rabobank) didn't complete the race after crashing early on and having some mechanical troubles. "I switched bikes but my back wheel was chipped, so I lost four minutes to run towards the next pit… then my race was over," Nys explained to cyclo-cross.info. His Rabobank teammates, Bart Aernouts and Gerben De Knegt, ended up 6th and 7th.

Jonathan Page told Cyclingnews that he was having some trouble in the race. "I’m suffering a setback from this enormous amount of races, so basically I was just bad today," Page said.

World champion Vervecken grabed another second place, but once again failed to take the win in Antwerp. "I smashed my knee against a post in Otegem and I was hampered a little by that today. Albert choose the best tyres and could dash away from us in the mud… and I can’t deny he managed a great exploit today," Vervecken said on Sporza. Niels Albert realized he's at a level more than worthy to become a professional rider. "Maybe I should think about taking the step up towards the elite level; anyway this is hopeful for the world championships," Albert said.

How it unfolded

Under stormy weather conditions Niels Albert attacked during the second lap. The new Belgian champion Bart Wellens and world champion Erwin Vervecken chased the U23 Belgian champion for a while but they couldn’t bridge the gap. The battle behind Albert became a Fidea meeting as Sven Nys pulled out after mechanical troubles.

The Czech riders from Fidea, Petr Dlask and Zdenek Stybar, joined their teammates in pursuit of Albert. While Albert wasn’t threatened and eventually cruised to a apparently easy victory, Vervecken won the battle for second place. Stybar won the sprint for third place with Wellens completing the top-5.

World champion Marianne Vos won the women's race ahead of her compatriot Reza Hormes-Ravenstein. Veerle Ingels was the first local at the finish, taking revenge for her spoiled championships last Saturday.


Elite/ U23 Men
1 Niels Albert (Bel) Palmans Collstrop - Sapim         1.01.00
2 Erwin Vervecken (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team                0.30
3 Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Fidea Cycling Team                  0.33
4 Petr Dlask (Cze) Fidea Cycling Team                     0.35
5 Bart Wellens (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team                   0.44
6 Bart Aernouts (Bel) Rabobank                            1.29
7 Gerben De Knegt (Ned) Rabobank                          1.52
8 Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team                  2.00
9 David Willemsens (Bel) Sunweb-Projob Cycling Team       2.05
10 Richard Groenendaal (Ned) Rabobank                     2.19
11 Maarten Nijland (Ned) Procomm-Van Hemert               2.42
12 John Gadret (Fra) Ag2R Prevoyance                      3.22
13 Arne Daelman (Bel)                                         
14 Peter Van Santvliet (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team           3.42
15 Ronald Mutsaars (Ned) Pro Cycling Team ZZPR.nl             
16 Tom Meeusen (Bel) Fidea Cycling Team                   4.10
17 Christoph Roodhooft (Bel) Palmans Collstrop - Sapim    4.25
18 Tom Van Den Bosch (Bel) Palmans Collstrop - Sapim          
19 Jorn Van der Veken (Bel)                               4.33
20 Nico Clarysse (Bel)                                    4.38
21 Björn Rondelez (Bel)                                   4.45
22 Sten Raeymakers (Bel)                                  4.58
23 Steven De Decker (Bel)                                 5.10
24 Greg Reain (Can) Stevens Racing Team                       
One lap down
25 David Meys (Bel) Profel-Ziegler Continental Team           
26 Dries Dewit (Bel)                                          
27 Brian Zengeni (Zim)                                        
28 Jo Naert (Bel)                                             
29 Tshabalala Nqobizitha (Zam)                                
30 Olivier Bordelmeau (Can)                                   
31 Kyle Douglas (Can)                                         
32 Martin Gordon (Zim)                                        
1 Marianne Vos (Ned)                                     40.38
2 Reza Hormes-Ravenstijn (Ned)                                
3 Veerle Ingels (Bel)                                         
4 Katrien Pauwels (Bel)                                       
5 Christine Vardaros (USA)                                    
6 Hilde Quintens (Bel)                                        
7 Anja Nobus (Bel)                                            
8 Loes Sels (Bel)                                             
9 Maaike Polspoel (Bel)                                       
10 Nancy Bollansee (Bel)                                      
11 Tara Ross (Can)                                            
12 Ludivine Henrion (Bel)                                     
13 Katrien Aerts (Bel)                                        
One lap down
14 Katrien Vermeiren (Bel)                                    
15 Sofie De Nys (Bel)                                         
16 Ines Claes (Bel)                                           
1 Timmy Maes (Bel)                                       42.24
2 Benny Van Staeyen (Bel)                                     
3 Nico Schroyen (Bel)                                         
4 Sven Raeymakers (Bel)                                       
5 Jos Van Looy (Bel)                                          
6 Gijs Jongeling (Ned)                                        
7 Jeroen van Raak (Ned)                                       
8 Jan Gevers (Bel)                                            
9 Steven Wuyts (Bel)                                          
10 Arnold Schoon (Ned)                                        
11 Wim Van Leene (Bel)                                        
12 Sven Bolijn (Bel)                                          
Masters A
1 Dirk Mertens (Bel)                                     42.46
2 Hans Wuyts (Bel)                                            
3 Danny Verhestraeten (Bel)                                   
4 Peter Ballet (Bel)                                          
5 Daniël Standaert (Bel)                                      
6 René Swinnen (Bel)                                          
7 Alex Van Acker (Bel)                                        
8 Pieter Beutels (Bel)                                        
9 Karel De Ravet (Bel)                                        
10 Mark Meys (Bel)                                            
11 François Voets (Bel)                                       
12 Eric De Graef (Bel)                                        
13 Marc Boeckx (Bel)                                          
14 Danny Van Hoof (Bel)                                       
15 Erik Van der Sande (Bel)                                   
16 Kris Van Honstré (Bel)                                     
Masters B
1 François Mertens (Bel)                                 46.38
2 Ludo Van Tichelt (Bel)                                      
3 Luc Huysveld (Bel)                                          
4 José De Clercq (Bel)                                        
5 Chris Geerts (Bel)                                          
6 Albert Huysmans (Bel)                                       
7 Etienne Van de Velde (Bel)                                  
8 Jan Guido Geudens (Bel)                                     
9 Guy Ceuppens (Bel)                                          
10 Romain Tuteleers (Bel)                                     
11 Johan Govaerts (Bel)                                       
12 Alex Spruyt (Bel)                                          
13 Laurent De Vos (Bel)                                       
14 Albert Bertels (Bel)                                       
15 Jackie De Meester (Bel)                                    
16 Roland Hurtecant (Bel)                                     
17 François Van Dael (Bel)