PLZEN, Czech Republic (VN) — World champion Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) won round two of the 2012-13 World Cup on Sunday, taking the series lead for good measure.
Albert got away with five and a half laps to go, chased by Belgian champ Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet), and it was looking like a two-man race — until Nys crashed on a slippery descent and found himself mired well back in traffic, running to the pits.
World Cup leader Kevin Pauwels and Sunweb-Revor teammate Klaas Vantornout spent the remainder of the race battling for second place, while Nys wrestled with a parade of Telenet-Fidea riders, among them Rob Peeters, Tom Meeusen and Bart Wellens.
But the flowers would go to Albert, who rode flawlessly and unchallenged for six laps to take the victory. Scrubbing the mud from his rainbow jersey, he saluted the crowd as he crossed the line. Vantornout followed in the runner-up spot at 36 seconds down.
Peeters appeared to pip Pauwels for third at 45 seconds — but the Telenet rider was absent from the official results. The Belgian website Sporza.be reported that Peeters had been disqualified for riding through the pit without taking a bike, and the third step on the podium went to the World Cup leader.
A grim Nys had to settle for sixth at 1:31, behind Meeusen and Wellens. “A day to forget,” he tweeted later.
Jonathan Page was the top American on the day, finishing 32nd at 6:29.
Rough start for Powers
After a fine seventh-place showing in round one of the series in Tabor, U.S. national champion Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) found himself sprawled on the deck just after the start of round two, going down in a right-hander leading off the pavement.
“Some idiot crashed me at the start,” Powers said later via Twitter. “Then I got something in my cogs, which snapped my hanger off with two [laps] to go. Super pissed. A lot of time and energy goes into a race like this for everyone so it’s tough to take.”
Pauwels and Meeusen got out front quickly, pursued by Nys, Vantornout and Albert, with Bart Aernouts (AA Drink) and Peeters just behind.
At the long, steep staircase the lead group comprised seven men, led by Pauwels with Nys in second. Nys took the front as they hit the paved finishing straight and gave it some stick, and then Albert did likewise.
Behind, Radomir Simunek (BKCP) was closing in as teammate Albert drove the lead group. Nys clung to his wheel, but the others lost contact, and Meeusen, Pauwels and Vantornout linked up to form a three-man chase.
With six laps to go Albert had three seconds on Nys with the Meeusen-Pauwels-Vantornout chase at 11 seconds. Aernouts was already a half-minute down.
Nys slides out of contention
Then Nys laid it down on a slippery descent and had to wrench his bars back into position. He found himself behind Aernouts, running to the pits for a fresh machine. The pits proved a popular spot during the filthy race, with some riders visiting twice per lap.
Ahead, Albert was alone in the lead, a half-dozen seconds ahead of Pauwels, who had escaped Meeusen and Vantornout. Aernouts and Nys were further behind, with Peeters closing in.
With five to go Albert had nine seconds on Pauwels. Meeusen and Vantornout were 22 seconds down with the Nys chase at 42 seconds.
Vantornout got away from Meeusen during the lap, working his way up to Pauwels, as Nys in turn left Aernouts behind.
With four to go Albert led the Sunweb chase by 16 seconds. Meeusen followed at 31 seconds with Nys at 47, dogged by Peeters.
Vantornout moved into second as Pauwels struggled in the mud. Meeusen followed in fourth, but Nys was moving up, with Peeters just behind.
Vantornout closes in
Three to go: Albert was looking over his shoulder as Vantornout closed to within 11 seconds. Pauwels followed at 19 seconds, with Meeusen at 35 and Nys and Peeters at 49 seconds.
Peeters got away from Nys during the lap, and Pauwels managed to rejoin his teammate.
With two laps remaining the Sunweb chase was at 19 seconds. Meeusen was still fourth at 35 seconds, with Nys and Peeters a further 15 seconds down.
Vantornout and Pauwels fenced for second as Nys and Peeters battled for fifth, while Meeusen soldiered along grimly in fourth, before botching a remount, bouncing along on his rear wheel, and finally crashing.
Albert was out of sight of the Sunweb chase as he hit the staircase for the penultimate time. He was out of the saddle and hammering going into bell lap, 15 seconds ahead of Vantornout with Pauwels third at 23 seconds after having slipped on the greasy staircase.
Peeters had joined Meeusen after his miscue, 51 seconds behind, while Wellens had joined Nys at 1:08 down.
But they were all battling for the crumbs — ahead, Albert was celebrating his victory.
Editor’s note: Stay tuned for more from Plzen.