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HAMME-ZOGGE, Belgium (VN) — Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet) capitalized on a miscue by Lars Van Der Haar (Rabobank-Giant) to win the Superprestige round at Hamme-Zogge on Sunday.
Van Der Haar bobbled on a barely rideable hill in the fourth go-round on the fast, tacky circuit and gave Nys his chance to get away from an elite lead group containing the Dutch rider, Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) and Bart Aernouts (AA Drink).
The Belgian champion quickly took a five-second lead as Pauwels led the pursuit followed by Van Der Haar and Aernouts. And his advantage would only grow. Putting in a strong, smooth ride, making no mistakes, Nys built his lead over a struggling Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) and Van Der Haar to nearly a half minute at one point.
“I felt good today, so I decided just to go for it, even though there was still a lot of race left,” said Nys. “I tried to assert myself several times and extend the gap and hoped that I could split the race so they couldn’t regain contact. But they must have been riding well, because the difference was not very large.
“I’m happy to win a race in front of so many people. I dedicate this win to my son: It’s his birthday tomorrow.”
Albert got off to a bad start and had to work his way forward through traffic before launching a solo chase derailed by a mechanical that sent him raging into the pit.
“I haven’t had a bad start any time in the last few weeks, but apparently once out of every 10 I have to mess it up,” he said.
Pauwels was having an off day, too, suffering a mechanical and a close encounter with the course fencing that left him chasing well down with Aernouts.
The world champion finally lit it up one final time in the waning moments of the race to take second, but Nys had already clinched the win. Van Der Haar finished third while Aernouts outsprinted Pauwels for fourth.
Nys now leads the Superprestige series with 45 points. Albert sits second overall with 42 while Pauwels is third with 36.
Hammering at Hamme-Zogge
It was a lovely, cool fall day, and the course was tacky and fast despite rain during the past few days.
The women were flying during their race, won by Sanne Van Paassen (Rabobank-Giant), and a number of them remarked afterward how easy it was to push the bike in the turns without much risk.
As the men shot off the line it was Van Der Haar taking the holeshot with Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb), teammate Pauwels and Nys on his wheel. Albert got a poor start and was well down the field during the first go-round.
Rob Peeters (Telenet-Fidea) and Vantornout exchanged the lead early on, fronting a long line of riders tackling the famous Hamme-Zogge flyover, a giant affair that begins with a rideable stretch, then segues into a staircase, a flat stretch and finally a descent. Nys was sitting comfortably in fifth wheel approaching the first of two staircase run-ups.
The end of the first lap saw a 13-rider group out front with Peeters on the front. Nys was in there, but Albert was in a chase group some seconds down. The two groups fused as the lap wore on, and Peeters, Vantornout, Pauwels, Nys, Van Der Haar and Albert had all made the cut, though the world champion remained well back in the bunch.
Nys tests his legs
Nys slipped up to the front going into the giant flyover and tried to force a selection on the following rollers. Pauwels followed and the two took a slight advantage over a chase led by Peeters. As the lap ended Pauwels was on point with Nys second and Van Der Haar third.
Aernouts joined the party early in lap three. Behind, Bart Wellens (Telenet) was leading the chase not far behind, and Albert had yet to make a move.
Aernouts was having trouble holding the wheel as Pauwels pushed the pace. Van Der Haar replaced him in third at the giant flyover and suddenly it was a three-man race. Aernouts clung to fourth as Vantornout led a large chase for fifth.
Going into lap four, 17 minutes into the race, Nys was at the head of a quartet, with Aernouts back on. Behind, Wellens led an octet with Albert in a second pursuit.
Then Van Der Haar bobbled on a barely rideable hill and gave Nys his chance. With Pauwels and Aernouts briefly stuck behind the Dutchman Nys quickly took five seconds, and with seven laps to go the Belgian champ was on his own as Pauwels led the pursuit. Albert was in a second chase some 17 seconds down.
Pauwels was getting no help in the chase. Meanwhile, Albert had left his chase group behind and was just five seconds behind that three-man chase.
With six laps to go Nys was alone out front and Albert was closing in on the chase. Ten seconds behind the leader, the others finally began rotating through, giving Pauwels some respite, and Albert tacked on to the rear of the group.
Now it was four against one, but the chase was making no headway. Pauwels slipped to the back of the group, and Albert moved forward on the flyover into second wheel behind Van Der Haar — only to suffer some sort of mechanical that sent him roaring into the pit. He threw the bike to his mechanic, grabbed a spare and began yet another lonely pursuit.
Five laps to go, the race half over: Nys was alone, 16 seconds ahead of the Pauwels chase with Albert at 21 seconds and closing.
The world champion chased back on going onto the first short staircase, and just past the flyover Aernouts took charge of the pursuit.
Bad luck and a biff for Pauwels
Despite its numerical advantage the group slipped to nearly a half minute down with four laps to go. Van Der Haar took the point again with Albert second wheel and Pauwels third. — and then the Sunweb rider dropped his chain and clipped a fencepost, and out the back he went.
As Van Der Haar pushed the pace he and Albert distanced Aernouts going onto the big flyover. But they were not catching Nys, who was looking smooth and focused, riding an error-free race.
With three to go Nys held a comfortable 24-second advantage over Albert and Van Der Haar, and that’s the way it would stay. On the bell lap the rainbow jersey finally put paid to Van Der Haar’s dreams of a runner-up finish, but the victory had long since gone to Nys.
“I honestly did not notice what had happened behind me,” said Sven after his sixth victory of the season. “At one point I looked back and saw nobody.”
Editor’s note: Stay tuned for a women’s report from Hamme-Zogge.