If Kevin Pauwels had hoped to use the Superprestige stop at Gieten to avenge Saturday’s World Cup defeat at the hands of Sven Nys, he was in for a disappointment.
The two had been part of a five-man lead group until just under three laps to go, when Nys twisted the throttle on a cobbled section. He took a small gap, but Pauwels was quickly on him, leaving world champion Zdenek Stybar (Quick Step) to lead what proved to be a fruitless pursuit.
So, as in Koksijde, the race boiled down to a two-man battle — Pauwels v. Nys — and once again the older rider prevailed, leading out the sprint and holding his advantage to the line.
This time the Sunweb-Revor rider couldn’t argue that his Landbouwkrediet rival pinched him off against the barricades. The sprint went right up the middle of the finishing straight, and Pauwels was just a little bit slower than Nys when push came to shove.
A resurgent Rob Peeters nearly spoiled the party, but the Telenet-Fidea rider made his move a little too late in the game and had to settle for third.
Pauwels said afterward that he felt badly about not being able to redress what he called Saturday’s “injustice” in Koksijde, where he said he was the better man.
But Pauwels conceded that on Sunday, “Sven was stronger.”
Stybar, Peeters punch it early
Stybar led the field off the start line, and then Peeters took over. He nearly came to grief while bunny-hopped a double set of barriers, unclipping over the second, but recovered nicely and with Stybar had a slight gap going into a series of grassy, muddy U-turns.
Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor) was chasing solo ahead of a big group and hooked up just after a short staircase preceding the pits. Stybar led the trio through the start-finish, and Dieter Vanthourenhout (BKCP-Powerplus) began his own solo chase some 14 seconds down, but he wouldn’t escape the large chase group.
But Nys did. The Landbouwkrediet rider bridged to the leaders and with seven laps remaining the lead group was a quartet.
Pauwels was next to leap across the gap, latching on in the U-turns as Tom Meeusen (Telenet) led a four-man chase.
Nys took charge on the backside of the course and 24 minutes into the race his five-man group had an advantage of 12 seconds over the Meeusen group with six laps to go.
Vanthourenhout biffs it
The pursuit lost Vanthourenhout when he botched the barrier-hop, unclipping both shoes and going over the bars.
Up front, Nys accelerated over the staircase and past the pits, and Peeters seemed briefly in difficulty, but the Telenet rider had latched back on as Stybar led the group through and into five laps to go. Behind, Bart Aernouts (Rabobank-Giant) was at the sharp end of a three-man chase with Meeusen and Radomir Simunek (BKCP-Powerplus)
The leaders slowed a bit, assessing the situation, then Peeters took the front, trailed by Stybar and Vantornout, with Nys and Pauwels dangling a bit.
The Aernouts trio began making some headway, and with four laps to go had closed to seven seconds of the leaders. First Meeussen, then Aernouts caught on as three of the leaders pitted, leaving Peeters and Vantornout off the front. They had three seconds at the stairs. Stybar led the chase. Simunek was trailing.
Then Meeusen pitted and Vantornout was alone, quickly building a five-second lead.
With three to go, 43 minutes into the race, Vantornout was just ahead of a Nys-powered five-man chase. Aernouts was losing ground.
The chasers caught Vantornout in the U-turns and it was a six-man group up front, with Nys on point.
Nys gives it the gas
Then Nys twisted the throttle on a cobbled section. He took a small gap, but Pauwels was quickly on him, leaving Stybar to lead the pursuit some three seconds behind.
As they crossed the start-finish line with two to go Nys was looking over his shoulder. Apparently happy with their advantage he veered right wide and forced Pauwels into the lead.
Pauwels looked tired as they hit the double barriers and Nys resumed the lead. The four-man chase — Stybar, Meeusen, Peeters and Vantornout — was a half-dozen seconds behind and losing ground.
And suddenly the pursuit was completely out of sight. Barring a mechanical or crash, the winner would be either Nys or Pauwels.
Bell lap: Again Nys slowed, glancing over his shoulder, and Pauwels took the front. The Stybar chase had fallen to 24 seconds behind.
Nys kept Pauwels on the front until resuming the lead on a cobbled section. The two had bags of time and slowed a bit, resting for what seemed certain to be another two-up sprint.
But their private party turned into a threesome as a resurgent Peeters bridged the gap coming onto the pavement, but his move was just that little bit too late —Nys led out the sprint and took the victory ahead of Pauwels with Peeters a distant third.
Peeters was delighted to be the best of the rest behind Nys and Pauwels, especially after having not been chosen to race Saturday’s World Cup at Koksijde.
“When the selection was made for Koksijde, they really didn’t take into account the many equipment failures the week before,” he said. “I look forward to the new selection on Monday.”
The sixth round of the Superprestige series, the Fidea Scheldecross, will be December 10.
- 1. Sven Nys (Bel), 1:01:12
- 2. Kevin Pauwels (Bel),
- 3. Rob Peeters (Bel), 1:01:18
- 4. Klaas Vantornout (Bel), 1:01:28
- 5. Tom Meeusen (Bel), 1:01:30