GIETEN, Netherlands (VN) — Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Revor) won a nail-biter at the Superprestige stop here on Sunday, just holding off a charging Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony) at the line.
The two had been part of a three-man escape including Sunweb’s Kevin Pauwels, but shed him near the end of the final lap of a muddy, wind-whipped circuit.
Vantornout took a lead of a few bike lengths over the Belgian champion onto the paved finishing section, and looked to have an easy win in the bag, but Nys — who had led for most of the race — found a second wind somewhere, punched it and nearly overhauled the Sunweb rider at the line.
Pauwels hung on for third.
World champion Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) had another less-than-stellar outing, finishing fifth on the day. But American Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) bounced back from a disappointing World Cup ride on Saturday to finish 15th on Sunday.
Nys gets busy early
Nys had a much better start than at Saturday’s World Cup in Koksijde, hovering near the front early in the first lap with Pauwels and Vantornout and then taking the lead on a long muddy stretch. Albert, meanwhile, was well down the field.
Nys and Vantornout opened a small gap over a chase led by Pauwels. Rob Peeters (Telenet-Fidea) finally closed the gap to the two leaders and it was a 10-man front group that wrapped up the first lap.
Nys began pushing the pace just past a sandy running section and Peeters moved into second with Vantornout third. Meanwhile, Albert had begun working his way forward and was sitting eighth behind the AA Drink duo of Bart Aernouts and Thijs Van Amerongen.
Albert inches up
By the end of lap two Albert had moved into fourth, while early fast-starter Lars Van Der Haar (Rabobank-Giant) was trying to latch on.
Philip Walsleben (BKCP) was next to step up, leading the front group over the barriers, with Peeters second and Nys third. Vantornout, Albert and Pauwels were next in line.
Nearly everyone pitted this go-round save Albert, who moved into second behind Peeters.
Peeters upped the ante, trimming the group to seven riders — himself, Albert, Walsleben, Vantornout, Nys, Pauwels and Aernouts.
Past the flyover Albert finally moved into the lead. He held it onto the pavement going into four laps to go, but was already looking tired — and he would get no rest here as Nys attacked through the start-finish. Pauwels quickly grabbed the Belgian champion’s wheel, and behind Walsleben led the chase.
Nys kept driving with Pauwels on his wheel as Vantornout, Walsleben, Peeters, Albert and Aernouts fought to close the gap.
Past the sandy run Nys accelerated once more and this time both Sunweb riders went with him. Vantornout briefly lost the wheel when he detoured into the pit and Nys and Pauwels did not, but he quickly rejoined the leaders as Albert led the others, already eight seconds down.
With three laps remaining Nys was still on the front with Vantornout and Pauwels in his slipstream. The four-man chase followed 10 seconds later with Aernouts on point, flicking an elbow for Peeters to pull through.
Once over the barriers Vantornout resumed the lead, with Nys second and Pauwels third. Behind, Albert was in charge of the chase.
Vantornout on point
All three leaders pitted and Vantornout came out strong, taking a few bike lengths over the others. Behind, Peeters left the chase and tried to bridge to the leaders, leaving Albert, Aernouts and Walsleben in his wake.
Nys was back in front as the lead trio hit the start-finish for two laps to go. Peeters was in no-man’s land at 11 seconds down, with Albert just behind.
This time around Vantornout pitted, but Nys and Pauwels did not. They took a gap of a few bike lengths that suddenly widened as Vantornout got hung up on a barrier while using it to carve a tight right-hand turn, but the Sunweb rider didn’t panic and worked his way back up to them.
The chase was losing impetus with both Peeters and Albert struggling to clear the flyover. Nys, meanwhile, stayed on the front with Pauwels on his wheel and Vantornout third.
Nys led the two Sunwebs across the line for the last go-round and briefly forced Pauwels into finally sticking his nose into the wind. Then the Belgian champ resumed control, and it was Vantornout glued to his wheel as the leaders hit the barriers for the final time.
Again Nys accelerated past the sandy run but got no advantage. Then he and Pauwels both pitted and this time Vantornout kept going, straight into the lead.
Vantornout worked hard to shed Nys but the Belgian champ clung to his wheel with Pauwels bringing up the rear. The next time Vantornout floored it he gapped his own teammate, but not Nys.
After a quick bobble in the mud by Nys it was Vantornout who hit the pavement first with a sizable advantage. Nys appeared to write the race off, then reconsidered and chased the Sunweb rider to the line, missing another come-from-behind win by a tire’s width.
Nys now leads the Superprestige series with 74 points. Albert sits second with 63 followed by Pauwels with 61.
Editor’s note: Stay tuned for more from Gieten.