Pauwels tops Van der Poel in Middelkerke

World Champion barely hangs on for overall series victory

In a very exciting eighth and final round of the Superprestige cyclo-cross series in Middelkerke, Belgium, it was world champion Mathieu van der Poel (BKCP-Powerplus) who captured the overall series victory. The second place from Van der Poel behind race winner and final rival Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) was just enough to hold on to his series lead and the 27.500 euro bank cheque that comes along with it. 

“It was very close but I’m very satisfied,” Van der Poel told Vier after the race. “I had to dig quite deep. I didn’t have a great day.”

If Pauwels won the race, Van der Powel had to finish right behind him to hang onto the series lead. During the first half of the race Van der Poel seemed to have everything under control. Instead of riding behind Pauwels he rode in front, distancing a group that featured Pauwels but also Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) and Lars van der Haar (Giant-Alpecin). The world champion made the difference by hopping the barriers and hopping a ditch just before the finish line. “A few times I created a gap but I twice got stuck in the sand, which cost me a lot of energy,” Van der Poel said.

With three laps to go Van der Poel was once again leading the race until he went over the handlebars when hopping into a short sand section. “That crash hurt my vital parts. It hurt a lot,” Van der Poel said.

While Van der Poel recovered he was passed by Wout Van Aert, Lars van der Haar and Kevin Pauwels. During the penultimate lap Pauwels exploited a small mistake from Van der Poel to create a gap. Pauwels overtook Van Aert by hopping over the barriers and then sped away by hopping over the ditch, in true Van der Poel-style.

When hitting the bell lap Pauwels was the virtual winner of the Superprestige series since Van Aert rode in between Pauwels and Van der Poel.

“When Kevin quickly created a gap and left Wout behind it was hard, also mentally. I bridged back up with Wout and gave everything I had in the final lap. With the barriers and the ditch I had a few more cards to play but in the end I was wasted,” Van der Poel said.

Pauwels rode his best passage of the sand section but behind him Van Aert rode his worst and saw Van der Poel riding away. Pauwels spotted that the situation had turned around in favour of Van der Poel. The gap was too big to close down for Van Aert. “It’s very painful. It’s great that I was riding well but it’s too bad Wout wasn’t a tiny bit stronger. I kept an eye on them but saw that Mathieu had dropped Wout,” Pauwels told Vier.

Pauwels once again hopped the barriers and the ditch and headed for his third Superprestige victory of the season. When looking back Pauwels spotted Van der Poel and he realized the overall win wouldn’t be for him. He celebrated the race victory without a smile. “It’s too bad but the win adds glamour to my season. It’s another big victory. Next year it will be even harder,” Pauwels said.

Van der Poel crossed the line, lying exhausted over his handlebars. Pauwels clearly made him work hard for his money. Van Aert was third ahead of Lars van der Haar, Tom Meeusen and Jens Adams (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace). Sven Nys (Crelan-AA Drink) bounced back from a poor start to take seventh place ahead of Belgian champion Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Napoleon Games), Vincent Baestaens (BKCP-Powerplus) and Tim Merlier (Sunweb-Napoleon Games).

 Brief Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb - Napoleon Games Cycling Team  
2Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) BKCP - Powerplus Cycling Team  
3Wout Van Aert (Bel) Vastgoedservice - Golden Palace Cycling Team  
4Lars van der Haar (Ned) Team Giant - Alpecin  
5Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team  
6Jens Adams (Bel) Vastgoedservice - Golden Palace Cycling Team  
7Sven Nys (Bel) Crelan - AA Drink Team  
8Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Sunweb - Napoleon Games Cycling Team  
9Vincent Baestaens (Bel) BKCP - Powerplus Cycling Team  
10Tim Merlier (Bel) Sunweb - Napoleon Games Cycling Team  

 

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