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Zonhoven: Nys Outslugs Albert in Sandy Brawl.

World and Belgian champions stand toe-to-toe in riveting duel. UPDATE: Now with video

Patric Verhoest

Sven Nys hit the gas in the last dirt stretch of sandy hell known as Zonhoven to win a spicy two-man, classic duel over World Champion Niels Albert. Throughout he last lap the two great riders faced off dramatically. Nys took the lead with ease as they left the pit, but Albert showed determination in grinding through the deep sand and passing Nys. The great champion refused to yield space as they banged bikes fighting for a narrow smooth strip in the flat, deep sand, as they ran shoulder to shoulder with Albert holding his position. But despite this show of mental toughness on Albert's part, he had no answer when Nys made his preemptive sprint for the win.

Albert was the pace-setter all day, keeping the speed high from the get-go and using his superior sand skills to navigate the double descent into the crazy pit of Zonhoven. Kevin Pauwels led the chase as Albert broke free, but Nys slowly took up the speed and closed in on Pauwels, who then cartwheeled a sandy descent and took himself out of competition on the day. It was a two-man duel from early on, but it briefly became a three-man duel as Lars van der Haar, the 21-year-old prodigy, caught the leaders with some four laps to go. Closing the gap was costly, however, and an acceleration by Nys put the kid back in his place... for now.

That left the two lone leaders, and for a time Nys looked like he was going to ride away, but Albert came right back, setting up the dramatic last lap. Albert saw what was coming from Nys, but this time he screwed up his courage and directly challenged Nys, yielding nothing, but not gaining enough to deprive Nys of the chance to win via the sprint. Albert looked disappointed afterward, but shouldn't be after a gutsy ride. Bart Aernouts emerged from the chasing scrum for a solo third place finish, smiling broadly at the end and throughout the podium celebration. Results:

  1. Sven Nys
  2. Niels Albert
  3. Bart Aernouts
  4. Kevin Pauwels
  5. Lars van der Haar
  6. Julien Taramarcaz
  7. Rob Peeters
  8. Bart Wellens
  9. Klaas Vantournout
  10. Walseben
Now here's the video highlights from :