ROUBAIX, France (VN) — Sven Nys (Landbouwkrediet-Euphony) won a tactical battle with world champion Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) and Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor) at the Roubaix round of the World Cup on Sunday.
Julien Taramarcaz (BMC) was an early aggressor on the fast but sloppy circuit, forging a lead group containing World Cup leader Albert, Pauwels and Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) as Nys chased from well down the field, having been taken by surprise as several men rode around the barriers on the first lap.
“Here it was not so easy, because it’s a lot of corners, and you can’t make up so many seconds at the beginning of the race,” said Nys. “Everybody was going really fast, and I felt like I was not technically stronger than the rest of the peloton. So I had to wait until there was a gap to close it and to pass the riders.”
Taramarcaz and Albert did all the work up front while Pauwels sat on and Meeusen struggled to hold the wheel.
The Taramarcaz-Albert train finally shed the Telenet rider, but with five and a half laps to go Nys had latched onto him and towed him back to the front as Albert’s teammates Radomir Simunek and Dieter Vanthourenhout likewise closed in.
It was a seven-man group out front with five laps remaining, and Nys finally worked his way into the lead.
“I knew that when I came to the front that they stopped pedaling. Everybody came back, but it gave me a little bit of recuperation, and then I felt okay,” he said. “I knew that if I did everything right in the last lap, technically, and with tactics, then I could win the race.”
With four to go the Belgian champion had trimmed the group to himself, Taramarcaz and Pauwels, with Albert fourth at three seconds down. Pauwels finally took the front, but didn’t do much with it, and as Lars Van Der Haar (Rabobank) and Rob Peeters (Telenet) led a big chase to within sight of the leaders, it was Nys, Albert and Taramarcaz who took turns holding them off.
Albert gave it one last try on the bell lap, taking the lead and trying to shake the others off his wheel. But as the leaders headed toward the velodrome for the final time it was Nys who had put some daylight between himself and the others, as Taramarcaz finally cracked and the rainbow jersey began running out of gas.
Pauwels finally sprang to life and chased past Albert onto the track, but by that time Nys had his second World Cup victory of the season well in hand. The Sunweb rider would have to settle for second, with the World Cup leader third.
“Sven went into the last lap and I took the lead,” said Albert. “I thought I’d go full speed, but Sven passed me on the stairs. Then I had a little bit of trouble with my pedal and he got a gap of five meters. And for Sven, five meters at the end is more than enough to win the race.”
Nys conceded that he had been having some difficulties with the descents, especially the final one.
“The last downhill was a little tricky — I felt it was not my best place on the track,” he said.
Nevertheless, he added: “I’ve done what I need to do. I did one acceleration two corners from the finish and it was enough to win the race.”
The world champion tipped his hat to Nys, saying that he and Pauwels were both waiting “for when Sven’s form goes down a little bit.”
“For the moment it’s hard. We train and we give everything, but Sven is just better,” he said. }But it’s a long season, and a long time to Louisville at the end of the season. So I’ll keep trying to win the World Cup and a jersey, but for the moment we can only look and see what Sven does. It’s the same every week.”
Albert continues to lead the World Cup, with 280 points. Nys sits second with 265 while Pauwels is third with 254.
The fifth round of the World Cup is scheduled for December 23 in Namur, Belgium.
• U.S. cyclocross champion Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) was the top American, finishing 23rd at 2:06. Next best was Jonathan Page (Planet Bike) in 30th at 3:02. Neither man was particularly pleased with his performance.
Said Powers: “I was running in to the back of guys and I just couldn’t get going, I couldn’t get enough space to make a good race right now. It was a big moment, so I really wanted to do it, but I just kept running in to the back of people, and there was nothing I could do to get going.”
As for Page, he said he knew a top-15 finish would be tough “because the course was so fast. I expected it would be worse conditions. But it was so fast, and then you get a couple of trips around the track and you’re out in the wind, and it just gets harder.
“If things don’t go right on a course like today, it’s so fast that there’s not much you can do. You take what you can get, and today just wasn’t my day.”
Editor’s note: Dan Seaton contributed to this report.