Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) won the first round of the 2018 Superprestige Trophy in Gieten, beating his long-time rival Wout Van Aert (Cibel-Cebon) by 31 seconds after the pair broke away from the peloton on the opening lap. Toon Aerts (Telenet Fidea Lions) rounded off the podium 1:30 down on the winner.
Van Aert and van der Poel were only together briefly, before the Dutchman made his break for victory on the second lap of the race. From then the race was more or less decided, with van der Poel time trialing his way around the fast but sandy circuit, once he got a comfortable gap over Van Aert.
The battle for third place was more interesting than the fight for victory, with a large group together for much of the race until Aerts got away three laps from the finish.
Van der Poel's victory marks a remarkable comeback. He crashed on Saturday while riding Brico Cross in Lokeren, sustaining damage to his right ankle ligaments. It was initially feared that he had broken his ankle, though clearly his injuries hadn't hindered his ability to race - and win.
How it happened
The men tackled 11 laps of the same 4.9km circuit as the women - mixed dirt, tarmac and especially sand. Mathieu van der Poel and Wout Van Aert have shared the spoils in the previous four editions at the race, with van der Poel winning in 2014, 2016 and last year and Van Aert taking victory in 2015.
From the start it was the same story we've seen many times before, as van der Poel and Van Aert soon distanced themselves from the rest of the peloton to fight for the win. It was the same scenario as last year's race as the world and European champion broke away almost immediately. By the end of lap one, the duo had a ten-second gap over the peloton, with van der Poel's strained ankle ligaments clearly not bothering him just a day later.
On the second lap, van der Poel was away, leaving Van Aert behind to strike forth for victory. Further back, Lars van der Haar, Toon Aerts (both Telenet Fide Lions) and Michael Vanthourenhout (Marlux-Bingoal) led the chase some 25 seconds behind.
At the end of lap three, van der Poel was 14 seconds ahead of Van Aert, while Aerts and Vanthourenhout lay 35 second down. Daan Soete (Pauwels Sauzen-Vastgoedservice) and van der Haar were a further nine seconds down, with the fight for the final podium spot very much on.
From there, the time gaps only grew, as did the chase group behind the 'big two'. Midway through the race, at the end of lap five, van der Poel was 27 seconds ahead of Van Aert, while Soete, van der Haar, Aerts and Vanthourenhout had merged together and were joined by David van der Poel (Corendon-Circus). That group lay 1:08 back.
Lap eight saw some separation in the chase group as Aerts got away from the rest, distancing the remains of the chase by seven seconds by the start of lap nine. Still, he was 1:35 behind van der Poel, who was comfortably riding to victory by that point.
Heading into the penultimate lap, the top three positions looked decided, with van der Poel 33 seconds ahead of Van Aert and 1:29 ahead of Aerts, who was comfortably solo in third place. That was the final podium decided, and the first round of eight Superprestige races over and done with.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Mathieu Van Der Poel (Ned)||0:48:03|
|2||Wout Van Aert (Bel)||0:00:31|
|3||Toon Aerts (Bel)||0:01:30|
|4||Lars Van Der Haar (Ned)||0:01:40|
|5||Marcel Meisen (Ger)||0:01:49|
|6||Daan Soete (Bel)||0:02:03|
|7||David Van Der Poel (Ned)||0:02:17|
|8||Kevin Pauwels (Bel)||0:02:23|
|9||Joris Nieuwenhuis (Ned)||0:02:26|
|10||Gianni Vermeersch (Bel)||0:02:52|
|11||Jens Adams (Bel)||0:03:00|
|12||Tom Meeusen (Bel)||0:03:14|
|13||Michael Boroš (Cze)||0:03:22|
|14||Diether Sweeck (Bel)||0:03:36|
|15||Braam Merlier (Bel)||0:03:45|
|16||Tim Merlier (Bel)||0:03:59|
|17||Thijs Aerts (Bel)||0:04:18|
|18||Nicolas Cleppe (Bel)||0:04:28|
|19||Toon Vandebosch (Bel)||0:04:34|
|20||Stan Godrie (Ned)||lap|
|21||Sieben Wouters (Ned)||lap|
|22||Thomas Pidcock (GBr)||lap|
|23||Roel Van Der Stegen (Ned)||lap|
|24||Jakob Dorigoni (Ita)||lap|
|25||Wietse Bosmans (Bel)||lap|
|26||Kyle Agterberg (Ned)||lap|
|27||Gosse Van Der Meer (Ned)||lap|
|28||Thymen Arensman (Ned)||lap|
|29||Maik Van Der Heijden (Ned)||lap|
|30||Kelvin Bakx (Ned)||lap|
|31||Mees Hendrikx (Ned)||lap|
|32||Gioele Bertolini (Ita)||lap|
|33||Loris Rouiller (Swi)||lap|
|34||Gert-Jan Bosman (Ned)||lap|
|35||Bart Artz (Ned)||lap|
|36||Daniel Tulett (GBr)||lap|
|37||Tomas Kopecky (Cze)||lap|
|38||Tijmen Eising (Ned)||lap|
|39||Yorben Van Tichelt (Bel)||lap|
|40||Ryan Kamp (Ned)||lap|
|41||Cameron Mason (GBr)||lap|
|42||Martin Mijnten (Ned)||lap|
|43||Yu Takenouchi (Jpn)||lap|
|44||Koen Van Helvoirt (Ned)||lap|
|45||Bart Barkhuis (Ned)||lap|
|46||Jakub Ríman (Cze)||lap|
|47||Felix Holst (Ger)||lap|
|48||Niels Bakker (Ned)||lap|
|49||Marco Oberteicher (Ger)||lap|
|50||Tim Rieckmann (Ger)||lap|
|DNF||Laurens Sweeck (Bel)|
|DNF||Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel)|
|DNF||Quinten Hermans (Bel)|
|DNF||Adam Toupalík (Cze)|
|DNF||Maarten Visker (Ned)|
|DNF||Eli Iserbyt (Bel)|
|DNF||Jens Dekker (Ned)|
|DNF||Ben Turner (GBr)|
|DNF||Jirí Štepáník (Cze)|
|DNS||Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel)|
|DNS||Joshua Dubau (Fra)|
|DNS||Lucas Dubau (Fra)|
|DNS||Thomas Joseph (Bel)|
|DNS||Eddy Van Ijzendoorn (Ned)|
|DNS||Sergio Ivan Fernandez Rodriguez (Spa)|
|DNS||Mika Van Gestel (Ned)|
|DNS||Carlos Schreuder (Ned)|