Sven Nys put the hammer down on Niels Albert and the rest of the elite Cyclocross field with a classic victory in the Koppenberg Cross, his ninth on this hallowed terrain. Albert finished 15 seconds down, after shadowing Nys for most of the day, to move into the bpost Bank Series lead over Nys and a broken Kevin Pauwels.
The top two spots were rarely in doubt after Pauwels, entering the day as the series leader on time, cracked on the fourth lap. Albert and Nys were away, with the old master driving the pace, having already bagged the first sprint and 15" bonus. Nys repeatedly looked like the stronger man, particularly on the ascent in the field near the top of the Koppenberg, cycling's legendary cobbled climb.
There, facing mud, rollers and a stiff gradient, Nys treated the crowd and TV viewers to a moment of pure cyclocross greatness. On the final lap, after a couple muted passages, Nys went into overdrive, dropping the World Champion with an acceleration that cracked Albert, who emptied himself in pursuit but couldn't keep up, teetering behind and losing 10 seconds in a flash. It was the sight of a great champion doing what he does best, as well as he ever has, in as perfect a setting as the sport can offer. Like watching Ali knock out Foreman, or Michael Jordan nail a game-winning shot, or pick your comparison. I may not have seen Nys in his early years, but like anyone watching today I can say I saw this great champion do what he does best.
Albert held himself together and easily took the series lead, finishing 15 seconds down with another 15" in bonuses (to Nys's 30). He will live to fight another day. The same could not be said of Pauwels, however, at least not as far as this series is concerned. He finished some 2.30 down on the day, and won't see the top of the series with that kind of deficit until a few other riders suffer some bad days of their own. Results:
- Sven Nys
- Niels Albert, at 0.15
- Klaas Vantournout, at ?
- Nys, at 0.54
- Kevin Pauwels, at 2.14
- Klaas Vantournout, at 3.11
- Bart Aernouts, at 3.31