Sven Nys (Crelan-KDL) laid down a last-ditch attack to beat Philipp Walsleben (BKCP-Powerplus) on Sunday in the Superprestige round at Asper-Gavere.
The two men were off the front, chased by Belgian champion Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Napoleon Games), and seemed evenly matched until Walsleben snarled his drivetrain on the final lap.
Nys pounced, quickly prying open a gap. Unruffled, the German champion sorted himself out, chased the world champ down, and passed him en route to the pits for a fresh bike. And suddenly it looked like Walsleben’s race to lose.
Then Nys laid down a powerful attack and took the lead going onto the pavement for the sprint. It was a long drive to the line, but he held his advantage, and Walsleben had to settle for second.
Vantornout rounded out the podium in third.
“I felt it last weekend in Hamme-Zogge … and now I feel that my level is on the top, is 100 percent. Then you can win two races in one weekend,” said Nys.
“This kind of race it’s not necessary to start really fast. You need to ride on your own level, and the strongest guys are coming in the front at the end.”
Walsleben said he was satisfied with second, though he had believed he could win.
“I sat in front on the last climb, but I made a little mistake while going from the big chainring to the small and my chain blocked a little bit. Happily, nothing broke so I could close the gap the gap again to Sven, and then I thought, ‘Whoa, I must be a little bit strong,’” he said.
“But then he surprised me a little bit in the last section before the finish. It was a tactic I also thought about yesterday evening, but I didn’t think about it today in the race because I was a little bit tired.”
Meisen, van der Haar start fast
Marcel Meisen (Kwadro-Stannah) and Lars van der Haar (Rabobank) led in the early going, with Vantornout right behind. Nys and Albert were well back of the 10-man lead group, with Albert heading the first chase and Nys leading a second, larger pursuit.
Vantornout took over on the second go-round, putting some daylight between himself and the others. Walsleben bridged to him, and at the end of the lap the two had a five-second advantage over a chase containing van der Haar and Julien Taramarcaz (BMC), with Nys some nine seconds down.
Albert and van der Haar were next to join the leaders, and with five to go they had 16 seconds on a Nys-powered pursuit.
Albert slides out
Albert was first to fade, sliding out and into the course tape on a slick, curving descent. He found himself back with a surging Nys, who had a slight edge over Telenet-Fidea teammates Tom Meeusen and Rob Peeters.
The Telenets closed the gap, and then Nys accelerated on a steep, slick ascent leading to the pits, perhaps six seconds down on the leaders and closing.
By midrace Nys was four seconds behind as Van der Haar leds the trio. The Telenets were seven seconds down, with Albert at 15 and already looking like a beaten man.
Then Nys reached the leaders. But so, too, did Meeusen and Peeters.
Walsleben makes his move
Walsleben punched it on the long climb leading to the pit, and Vantornout followed; the two quickly opened a six-second gap, and then the German left the Belgian behind. Nys, van der Haar and Peeters were chasing, while Meeusen and Albert dropped back and out of the hunt.
With three to go, Walsleben was on his own. Vantornout led Nys, van der Haar and Peeters at 10 seconds.
Then Nys took over the chase, breaking free and leaving Vantornout to lead a second pursuit with Peeters and van der Haar.
Going into two to go Nys caught Walsleben and the two rolled through the finish line together. Peeters, Vantornout and van der Haar were 13 seconds down, with Albert a distant 23 seconds behind.
Nys took the front, setting a fast tempo, but Walsleben stayed with him. Behind, Peeters led Vantornout; van der Haar had lost the wheel, but soldiered grimly on, with Albert just behind.
Nys, Walsleben duel
Going into bell lap, Nys looked back to gauge the pursuit — Meeusen and Vantornout were 18 seconds down, with van der Haar and Albert at 27.
Walsleben had a dig and opened a small gap going into a long muddy run. Nys closed it, but left Walsleben on the front, as behind, Vantornout broke free into sole possession of third.
Then Walsleben locked up his drivetrain and saw Nys slip past. The German quickly got back in gear and repaid Nys with a powerful pass on the climb to the pits. Both took fresh bikes, and it seemed Walsleben might have been the stronger of the two.
But Nys made one of his trademark final surges along the fence line leading to the pavement, and Walsleben never saw the front again. Nys took the win, and extended his advantage in the overall standings.
“I felt that I had the good lines and that I was not over my limit in the race, and, two laps before the end, you need to have contact with first place. And I had it on the right moment, and I knew Philipp was really strong in the sprint, so I had to do something in the last half lap,” said Nys.
“I put him a little bit under pressure on the climb, but I felt that I was not on my limit, [then] waited until after the pits, and thought to myself, ‘Don’t wait until the sprint, but do it in the last sector before.’ And my explosion was strong enough to make the gap.”
Nys now leads the Superprestige series with 58 points. Niels Albert (BKCP-Powerplus), who finished fifth on the day, sits second, with Vantornout third; the two are tied on points with 51 each.
The next round of the series will be November 24 at Gieten.
Cant claims women’s race
Sanne Cant (Enertherm-BKCP) won the women’s race by 16 seconds over Helen Wyman (Kona) with Nikki Harris (Telenet-Fidea) third.
Wyman was disappointed to finish second on what she called “a good course for me.”
“Yesterday I felt good and I thought normally [when I feel good] I’m awesome on the second day,” she said. “But we started and I was trying as hard as I could. I made a few stupid mistakes on the first lap, then I thought, ‘No, I’m not doing that again.’ But my legs just didn’t come around.
“I was always so close, almost there but not quite there. I don’t know, maybe I didn’t go fast enough in a few sections. But I tried as hard as I could and I always seemed to the at the same distance and I just didn’t seem to be able to close the gap.”
Harris had her own set of problems — she lost ground in the last lap when she got a pit bike with its front brake open. She finished 13 seconds down on Wyman, and it seems likely that the miscue certainly cost her second place, if not a shot at first.
Editor’s note: Dan Seaton contributed to this report.