LILLE, Belgium (VN) — Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus) rode away from the field early on to win the Krawatencross in Lille on Saturday.
The race was the penultimate round of the Bpost Bank Trofee series.
Albert escaped in the second lap of what proved to be a very fast race on the sandy, zig-zag circuit and stayed away from a chase containing world champion Sven Nys (Crelan-Euphony), Kevin Pauwels and Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) and Rob Peeters and Bart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea).
He crossed the line alone for the victory, while behind, Belgian champion Vantornout took a slight edge over the chase on the final go-round to finish second, with Nys coming around Pauwels to take the final spot on the podium.
Albert continues to lead the Bpost series with one event remaining, the Internationale Sluitingsprijs February 24 in Oostmalle.
Wellens took the lead for the first lap on the sandy, zig-zag circuit, a veritable maze of turns around a small pond. Nys, Vantornout, Albert and Pauwels were right behind him.
A big lead group, containing more than a dozen riders, hit the line for the end of lap one. Belgian champ Vantornout took over the point, followed by Albert, who quickly opened a gap as the second lap began.
Albert built an advantage of three seconds along the beach before heading into the woods, pursued by Jim Aernouts (Sunweb-Napoleon Games), Radomir Simunek (Kwadro-Stannah) and Philippe Walsleben (BKCP-Powerplus).
Albert on a mission
After coming up empty at the Belgian and world championships Albert clearly felt it was his day to shine. At the end of lap two he had 12 seconds over the chase, now led by Lars Van Der Haar (Rabobank).
Then Pauwels shot out of the group and went after Albert on his own. Van Der Haar stayed at the front of the bunch, with Nys on his wheel.
A lap later Albert had six seconds on Pauwels with the group at 25 seconds down. Nys, Vantornout and Peeters were doing the heavy lifting in the chase — and then Nys went it alone, taking a few bike lengths at the barriers and then driving away.
That’s the way things stayed for a spell — Albert off the front, Pauwels in second and Nys third. Van Der Haar added a bit of excitement with a spectacular get-off while trying to ride the barriers, a spill that also took down Walsleben, but that was it for drama until Nys caught Pauwels with three laps to go.
Problems for Pauwels
Pauwels and Nys fenced briefly, and then the world champ shot away and into second as the Sunweb rider once again appeared to have drivetrain trouble. He rode back up to Nys with two laps remaining, and soon Peeters dragged Vantornout forward to make it a four-man chase, with Wellens just behind.
Wellens finally caught on, and crossing the line into the final go-round he made a bid for second that Vantornout quickly snuffed. Then the Belgian champ launched his own attack heading onto the beach.
Vantornout took charge of the battle for second on the final lap with Peeters on his wheel as Nys drifted to the back. Wellens once again lost contact.
Ahead, Albert punched his fight fist skyward as he crossed the line for the win, confirming his overall lead with one race remaining. Behind, Vantornout shed the others in the woods.
Peeters chased, with Pauwels on his wheel and Nys at the back, but Vantornout had made his move at just the right time. He held off the pursuit for second while Nys pipped Pauwels for third.