Today was the Niels Albert Show. After letting the Dutch set the pace for half a lap, Albert lit things up and only Zdenek Stybar of the Czech Republic tried to latch on. He got close (8 seconds) but was never able to close it down, as Albert absolutey laid the smackdown on everyone for the next 9 laps. Sven Njis jumped out of the chase group with 3 to go and finished 3rd.
Lars Boom looked good early, but after swapping bikes on lap 3 and easily getting back into the chase group he simply dropped away. I thought he had crashed, such was the speed of his exit. We'll get the low down later today I'm sure, but he had a horrendous result (for him) at 20th. The Americans were buried as well, with Jeremy Powers showing up in 35th to lead the contingent.
Albert's show of power (avg. 18mph for the race) for 9 laps, 3 months after splitting his spleen in half (no kidding) is hard to quantify. Let's just leave it at 'bike racers are tough' - duh, tell us something we don't know. But at the tender age of almost 22 (next week), he could be the new heir apparent for Belgium cross. Remember, he was U23 world champ last year and has also been U19 world champ. He obviously performs well on the biggest stage.
I was also really, really impressed with Stybar - as I've been all season. He is the most dogged rider I can think of and simply will not give up once he's in the chase (see Roubaix world cup 2 weeks ago). He could never close Albert closer than 11 seconds, but he never gave him a chance to sit up either until the very end. Henceforth I will call him Tenacious Z.
So there you go. There are a few more races that will take us into February, but now I can fully focus on the road season. And with ToC and The Race Formerly Known as Het Volk right around the corner, I'm starting to get fired up.