If it’s Sunday it must be Diegem and Superprestige! Testify!
Niels Albert may well have the BPBTrofee sown up, but on the start line today Sven Nys had a lead of 11 points in the Superprestige series. And with three rounds left and 15 points for the win, there was still all to race for. The World Champion, Albert, had won this race three years in a row and was looking to take the fourth win on the trot, while Nys bounced back from his bad day in Loenhout to win yesterday’s stand-alone race in Bredene. Zdenek Stybar was also in the mix looking to continue his run of good form ahead of the Czech national ‘cross championships later in January. As if that wasn’t enough to whet the average ‘cross fans appetite, the elite men’s race was run in the evening, under floodlights.
Today’s course was supposed to be a little easier than others and the expectation was that the race would be quite open. Even so there were still several muddy sections, not least the pits, a sand trap, steps and a bridge, plus a few slippery corners. Despite the testing conditions and constant rainfall, there were no major crashes to hold things up. The tifosi seemed to be in good spirits and there were several home-made banners around the course referring to the infamous beer incident on Friday. ‘No problems here, we don’t throw beer!’. The organizers made use of a football pitch for part of the route and the stand was open to let fans sit and watch, so they were able to keep dry on a miserable & wet Flemish evening.
The young Dutch lad Lars van der Haar got off to a quick start and took the peloton into the field for the first time. The bunch strung out quite quickly due to the high pace set by him and later Vantornout. Albert and Stybar were initially poorly placed but both fought their way to the front. Nys struggled and was out of the points positions for a long time. Meanwhile at the front Vantornout pulled away from the group of leaders containing Albert, Pauwels & Stybar among others. There was no real organized chase and Vantornout built up a small lead. It was Albert who decided things could not continue and elected to hunt the leader down alone.
Albert caught his man and during the fifth lap made the decisive move to distance himself from Vantornout and the chasing pack. He went on to build up an unbridgeable lead and gave a masterclass in quick bike changes and riding in the sand to take his fourth Diegem win in the trot. Attention turned to who would finish second and where Nys would place. Lars van der Haar tried to pull away from the chasing group in the last lap but was swiftly reeled in by Pauwels & Stybar who would take 2nd & 3rd respectively. Astonishingly Nys managed to limit the damage by finishing 7th. He preserved his lead in the series but the gap has shrunk to 5 points with two rounds to go.
The next Belgian cross race is on New Year’s Day in Baal, Sven Nys’ hometown, for the BPBTrofee. He has won it so often they named after him! It’s his race and he wants to win it, even though he has dropped down the series rankings.
Final result from today: