Mathieu van der Poel (Beobank-Corendon) got the better of rival and new world champion Wout Van Aert (Crelan-Charles) in the final round of the Superprestige series in Middelkerke and so secured overall victory in the season-long race series. Van der Poel won seven of the eight Superprestige races, falling one point short of the maximum 120 points.
In a sub-hour race on Saturday afternoon, Van der Poel rode away from Van Aert halfway the technical race and finished twenty seconds ahead of his archrival. Laurens Sweeck (ERA Real Estate-Circus) was third at half a minute.
Van der Poel made victory look easy in Middelkerke, savouring his Superprestige victory.
“Before the race I said that I love to do courses like this one. You just have to do your own thing. If you’re good enough then the gaps will come eventually,” Van der Poel told Telenet Play Sports immediately after his win.
“It’s great to win a classification this season. Eight out of eight would’ve been nice but I’m very pleased anyway,” Van der Poel added, before getting ready for a cyclo-cross gala television show in the Middelkerke casino.
Wout Van Aert was able to deal with yet another second place behind Van der Poel in the Superprestige. The Belgian rider won one round in Francorchamps and then finished runner-up in every other round. In Middelkerke, he struggled to produce a fight.
“It’s the reality. It’s better to finish second than nowhere at all. It wasn’t about details on this course. Mathieu was better,” Van Aert told Telenet Play Sports.
Van Aert started the final Superprestige round with a deficit of only five points, with fifteen points on offer for the winner. “He’s the deserved winner of the series with seven wins. That’s quite unique. I knew it would be hard to move ahead of him today,” Van Aert added.
A fast start
Van Aert took the best start in long start in Middelkerke, leading into the challenging course just behind the North Sea sand dunes.
He was leading ahead of impressive non-elite rider Vincent Baestaens and Van der Poel. Baestaens crashed halfway the opening lap and soon started fading back. However, after the opening lap there were still nine riders together.
Van der Poel accelerated a first time during the second lap and half a lap later there were only four riders left in front. They were Van der Poel, Van Aert, Corné van Kessel (Telenet Fidea Lions) and local rider Gianni Vermeersch (Steylaerts-Verona). Van der Poel accelerated a second time on a slippery off-camber section and again at the barriers. He started the third of seven laps with a small bonus over Van Aert, Van Kessel and Vermeersch. Lars van der Haar (Telenet Fidea Lions) followed a few seconds further back while Laurens Sweeck trailed the leader by fifteen seconds.
Van Aert kept working to come back and with a good passing of Van Aert and Van Kessel in the long sand section, the group was back together.
“I wasn’t going too well in the sand during the first laps. It was harder than during the warm-up because they cleaned it up. Later, you save some energy in order to get better through the sand,” Van der Poel explained.
Van Kessel and Vermeersch got dropped in the third lap, with Van der Haar moving into third place at seven seconds from the two leaders. During the fourth lap, Van der Poel kept taking the initiative and slowly rode away from Van Aert. This time, Van Aert was unable to close the gap and it grew by five seconds lap after lap.
“Especially during the second half of the race my tank was empty. A few good passages through the sand allowed me to come back on Mathieu but I was never able to dominate. I never believed that I could win today,” Van Aert admitted.
Van der Haar, Vermeersch and Sweeck were battling for third place. The three riders hit the penultimate lap together at half a minute from the leader, twenty seconds from Van Aert, with sixth-placed Tom Meeusen (Telenet Fidea Lions) at 25 seconds from them. Sweeck made his move in the penultimate lap, Van der Haar tried to hang on but had to settle for fourth place.
Third place sweet for Sweeck
Sweeck was pleased with his ninth third place of the season, equalling Kevin Pauwels (Marlux-Napoleon Games). Sweeck finished third overall in the final Superprestige standings with 92 points, twenty more than Pauwels who had an off day in Middelkerke.
“The sand was important today. You could gain ten seconds with a good passage but you could also kill yourself there. I’m pleased that I can confirm my third place overall with a podium here. I missed a podium result in the World Cup due to illness so I’m glad with this one,” Sweeck told Telenet Play Sports.
Vermeersch was pleased with fifth place, his best result in the Superprestige series this season. Meeusen remained in sixth place. Corné van Kessel struggled in the final laps and was passed by Baestaens for seventh place. Laurens’ brother, Diether Sweeck (ERA Real Estate-Circus), finished in ninth place at two minutes from the winner. Veteran Klaas Vantornout (Marlux-Napoleon Games) was tenth and finishes sixth overall.
The C1-race in Middelkerke was the last round of the three major cyclo-cross series. Sunday’s race in Hulst, Netherlands and next weekend’s Belgian races in Leuven and Oostmalle are the final UCI-races of the season.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Mathieu Van der Poel (Ned) Beobank-Corendon||0:56:26|
|2||Wout Van Aert (Bel) Crelan-Vastgoedservice||0:00:20|
|3||Laurens Sweeck (Bel) ERA-Circus||0:00:30|
|4||Lars van der Haar (Ned) Team Giant-Alpecin||0:00:37|
|5||Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Team Steylaerts||0:00:59|
|6||Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:01:25|
|7||Vincent Baestaens (Bel) Beobank-Corendon||0:01:46|
|8||Corne Van Kessel (Ned) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:01:55|
|9||Diether Sweeck (Bel) ERA-Circus||0:01:58|
|10||Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Marlux-Napoleon Games||0:02:03|
|11||Jim Aernouts (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:02:06|
|12||Wietse Bosmans (Bel) Beobank-Corendon||0:02:11|
|13||Tim Merlier (Bel) Crelan-Vastgoedservice||0:02:15|
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