The Superprestige series opener could not have been more exciting with a splendid duel between young cyclo-cross giants Mathieu van der Poel (Beobank-Corendon) and Wout Van Aert (Creland-Vastgoedservice) in Gieten, Netherlands. The Dutch champion Van der Poel came out victorious when World champion Van Aert dropped his chain after a tremendous sand duel just before the finish.
Last year's overall Superprestige winner Van Aert held on to second place ahead of fellow youngster Laurens Sweeck (ERA Real Estate - Circus).
It's the second win in Gieten in the Elite Men category for Mathieu van der Poel, his first came in 2014, but it was an emotional victory after a disappointing world championships last season and a knee surgery that delayed his start to the year.
"All the things from the last few months were coming together. I didn't expect this even though this course perfectly suits me as it wasn't too tough. It's no fun to need surgery again before the start of the season," Van der Poel told Telenet Play Sports. It was the second year in a row he needed surgery on his knee, this time at the end of July.
The Beobank-Corendon rider hit out hard in the early part of the race, showing that he is on form after a delayed start to the season, and only Van Aert could follow. The pair traded jabs, with Van Aert stronger in the sand, and Van der Poel able to ride back on the grass.
Each rider had his mistakes - Van der Poel tumbled while bunny-hopping the barriers and Van Aert chose a poor line in the sand and had to dismount and run. But they were equally matched, and briefly called a truce to the relentless attacking on the penultimate lap, allowing Laurens Sweeck (ERA-Circus) to rejoin.
But the cease-fire was short-lived, and soon Van der Poel and Van Aert's attacks distanced the Neerpelt winner, leaving two to battle for the final lap.
Resuming their aggressive rivalry from last season, Van der Poel and Van Aert elbowed and chopped their way through the final sand section, with the Dutch champion cutting the Belgian's line in a corner on a run, forcing Van Aert to stumble. When Van Aert remounted, he found out that the slip was just enough to throw his chain off the chainring, and soon Van der Poel was gone.
Van der Poel gave a roar of joy as he crossed the line victorious, while Van Aert could only shake his head at his misfortune.
Sweeck, who won in Neerpelt on Saturday, struggled in the first part of the race, but mid-way through he made it across to the chasing group behind the two leaders, joining Telenet-Fidea's Tom Meeusen and Toon Aerts and Jens Adams (Crelan-Vastgoedservice), and then attacked that group to make it across, albeit briefly, to the pair ahead.
"It was very briefly. I went over the limit to bridge up and hoped they would keep their guns quiet for a while but Wout accelerated straight away. I blew my engine and needed time to get back into my rhythm," Sweeck said.
Jens Adams won the battle for fourth place from Toon Aerts, Klaas Vantornout and Tom Meeusen. Tim Merlier (Crelan-Vastgoedservice) won the sprint for eighth place from David van der Poel (Beobank-Corendon).
European champion Lars van der Haar (Giant-Alpecin) also made his comeback to competition after an injury. He managed the hole shot but then struggled during the first half of the race. "I was unable to follow other riders. It improved when riding at my own pace and I gained confidence to fight back into the top-10. I hope to be back on top form for the European championships," Van der Haar said.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Mathieu Van der Poel (Ned) Beobank-Corendon||0:58:35|
|2||Wout Van Aert (Bel) Crelan-Vastgoedservice||0:00:08|
|3||Laurens Sweeck (Bel) ERA-Circus||0:00:13|
|4||Jens Adams (Bel) Crelan-Vastgoedservice||0:00:16|
|5||Toon Aerts (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:00:22|
|6||Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Marlux-Napoleon Games||0:00:25|
|7||Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:00:39|
|8||Tim Merlier (Bel) Crelan-Vastgoedservice||0:00:42|
|9||David Van der Poel (Ned) Beobank-Corendon||0:00:43|
|10||Lars van der Haar (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin||0:00:58|
|11||Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Marlux-Napoleon Games||0:01:08|
|12||Vincent Baestaens (Bel) Beobank-Corendon||0:01:15|
|13||Michael Boros (Cze) ERA-Circus||0:01:26|
|14||Diether Sweeck (Bel) ERA-Circus||0:01:42|
|15||Corne Van Kessel (Ned) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:02:09|
|16||Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Team Steylaerts||0:02:13|
|17||Twan Van Den Brand (Ned)||0:02:14|
|18||Julien Taramarcaz (Swi) ERA-Circus||0:02:15|
|19||Daan Hoeyberghs (Bel) Beobank-Corendon||0:02:28|
|20||Patrick Van Leeuwen (Ned)||0:02:30|
|21||Joeri Adams (Bel) Kalas-NNOF||0:02:35|
|22||Stan Godrie (Ned)||0:02:47|
|23||Gert-Jan Bosman (Ned)||0:03:58|
|24||Niels Wubben (Ned)||0:04:44|
|25||Jens Vandekinderen (Bel) Kalas-NNOF||0:04:49|
|26||Kenneth Van Compernolle (Bel)|
|27||Thijs Al (Ned)|
|28||Michiel Van Der Heijden (Ned)|
|29||Quincy Vens (Bel)|
|30||Kevin Cant (Bel) ERA-Circus|
|31||Yu Takenouchi (Jpn)|
|32||Bart Barkhuis (Ned)|
|DNF||Philipp Walsleben (Ger) Beobank-Corendon|
|DNF||Rob Peeters (Bel) Crelan-Vastgoedservice|
|DNF||Thijs Van Amerongen (Ned) Telenet Fidea Lions|