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Wout Van Aert dominates in the sand

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Kevin Pauwels (Bel)

Kevin Pauwels (Bel)
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Lars van der Haar

Lars van der Haar
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout van Aert (Bel)

Wout van Aert (Bel)
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace)

Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace)
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Riders make their way up the climb.

Riders make their way up the climb.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Riders make their way up the climb.

Riders make their way up the climb.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Running up the sand hill at Zonhoven.

Running up the sand hill at Zonhoven.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Riders make their way up the climb.

Riders make their way up the climb.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Big crowds in Zonhoven

Big crowds in Zonhoven
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Big crowds in Zonhoven

Big crowds in Zonhoven
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Struggling up the climb

Struggling up the climb
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout Van Aert

Wout Van Aert
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout Van Aert

Wout Van Aert
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Lars van der Haar

Lars van der Haar
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Tim Merlier (Bel) crashes in the sand at Zonhoven.

Tim Merlier (Bel) crashes in the sand at Zonhoven.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Tim Merlier (Bel) crashes in the sandat Zonhoven.

Tim Merlier (Bel) crashes in the sandat Zonhoven.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Tim Merlier (Bel) crashes in the sandat Zonhoven.

Tim Merlier (Bel) crashes in the sandat Zonhoven.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Tim Merlier (Bel) crashes in the sandat Zonhoven.

Tim Merlier (Bel) crashes in the sandat Zonhoven.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Rob Peeters (Bel) negotiates the sand pit at Zonhoven.

Rob Peeters (Bel) negotiates the sand pit at Zonhoven.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Tim Merlier (Bel) havving difficulties.

Tim Merlier (Bel) havving difficulties.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Tim Merlier gets a new bike.

Tim Merlier gets a new bike.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Tim Merlier (Bel)

Tim Merlier (Bel)
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Lars van der Haar and Wout van Aert on the sand climb at Zonhoven

Lars van der Haar and Wout van Aert on the sand climb at Zonhoven
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Kevin Pauwels waves objects to Rob Peeters' line in the finish.

Kevin Pauwels waves objects to Rob Peeters' line in the finish.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Rob Peeters finishes second ahead of Kevin Pauwels.

Rob Peeters finishes second ahead of Kevin Pauwels.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Kevin Pauwels crosses the line for third on Zonhoven.

Kevin Pauwels crosses the line for third on Zonhoven.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Sven Nys

Sven Nys
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Lars van der Haar

Lars van der Haar
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Sven Nys

Sven Nys
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Jens Adams

Jens Adams
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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David Van der Poel

David Van der Poel
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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 Dieter Sweeck (Bel)

Dieter Sweeck (Bel)
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Corne van Kessel (Ned)

Corne van Kessel (Ned)
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wietse Bosmans (Bel)

Wietse Bosmans (Bel)
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Nys leads the pack downhill

Nys leads the pack downhill
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Marcel Meisen (Ger)

Marcel Meisen (Ger)
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The bunch tackles the climb

The bunch tackles the climb
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Klaas Vantornout (Bel)

Klaas Vantornout (Bel)
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Etienne Sleidhy (Fra)

Etienne Sleidhy (Fra)
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Klaas Vantornout (Bel)

Klaas Vantornout (Bel)
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Sven Nys finishes fourth in Zonhoven.

Sven Nys finishes fourth in Zonhoven.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Laurens Sweeck (Bel)

Laurens Sweeck (Bel)
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) takes the trophy and the winner's check

Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) takes the trophy and the winner's check
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Sven Nys (Crelan-Euphony) and Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb - Napoleon Games) go shoulder to shoulder up the sandy ramp

Sven Nys (Crelan-Euphony) and Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb - Napoleon Games) go shoulder to shoulder up the sandy ramp
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) was cheered on by the huge crowds

Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) was cheered on by the huge crowds
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Lars van der Haar (Giant-Alpecin)

Lars van der Haar (Giant-Alpecin)
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) conquers sand at Zonhoven

Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) conquers sand at Zonhoven
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) handled the sandy pit descent with ease

Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) handled the sandy pit descent with ease
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) won alone in Zonhoven

Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) won alone in Zonhoven
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) celebrates another major victory at the SuperPrestige Zonhoven

Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) celebrates another major victory at the SuperPrestige Zonhoven
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) on the podium

Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) on the podium
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace)

Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace)
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) takes top spot on the podium at Zonhoven

Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) takes top spot on the podium at Zonhoven
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)

The impressive display of form of Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) is far from coming to an end. Instead the young Belgian rider crushed his rivals at the feared Zonhoven sand pit on Sunday afternoon during the second round of the Superprestige series. Van Aert literally ran away in the sand from his rival during the third of 10 laps and collected a one-minute gap over the first chasers. As if he wanted to emphasize his dominance, he stood up on the pedals as he raised his fists in the air when crossing the finish line in Zonhoven.

“It’s a very nice victory in a race that I was very much looking forward to,” Van Aert told Telenet Play Sports. It was his first participation in the Elite men's category in Zonhoven. “Diving into the sand pit during the final lap cannot be compared with anything. It’s a massive kick.”

Van Aert also won the opening round of the Superprestige series in Gieten, Netherlands and now holds a bonus of five points over Lars van der Haar (Giant-Alpecin) who settled for fifth place in Zonhoven. Just ahead of him Van Aert’s teammate Rob Peeters won the sprint for second place from last year’s winner Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games). The latter briefly protested when Peeters closed the door on him as he was trying to sneak in between Peeters and the barriers. Sven Nys (AA Drink-Crelan) also featured in this group but he flatted away at the end, finishing fourth.

It was the seventh victory of the season in eight races for Van Aert. His only defeat came at the World Cup round in Valkenburg when he was beaten by Van der Haar. Shortly after Valkenburg the Belgian rider became ill, possibly explaining his defeat.

After two laps of racing in Zonhoven there were still no major gaps between the top guns although some riders were clearly in the hurt box. After a fast passage through the sand pit there were only three riders left in front, being Van der Haar, Van Aert and his team-mate Tim Merlier. At the last uphill running sand section of the course Van Aert took over the command and Merlier got dropped. During the following lap Van der Haar did most of the work but when reaching the same running section the race was decided. Van Aert stormed forward and Van der Haar was unable to hold on. “I tried to hang on and it worked once, twice but then I had to let him go. He was impossible to beat today,” Van der Haar said.

Most of the crowd in Zonhoven – including tennis legend Kim Clijsters – gathered at the sand pit, an old quarry that was used to build the nearby highway. Although the crowd witnessed several crashes and technical skills the race was not decided there, Van Aert stated. “The sand pit is spectacular but not decisive. It’s a place where you can lose the race but not where you win it. The crucial points is at the back of the course with the tough running section. Today I had good sensations in my legs. The plan was not to take initiative in the first half of the race but in the running sections I upped the pace. It’s something I can do without hitting the red zone. I had a gap on Lars and knew I should not wait for him. I rode at a good pace. It’s easier to ride alone over here than in groups,” Van Aert said.

At the sand pit Tim Merlier crashed spectacularly, forcing him to pick up his bike at the other end of the barriers. The crowds went ecstatic when Nys managed to ride up one of the sand climbs in the eighth lap – knocking off Pauwels’ glasses in the same move – and did so again in the final lap when reaching out for a podium result.

Nevertheless, it was Rob Peeters who ended up as best of the rest. He won the sprint from Pauwels at more than a minute from his winning team-mate.

“I’m a man of ups and downs. I excel when there’s sand or when it’s hard. The course was never as hard as today so then I’m at the front. My sand-riding skills were scary this week. Mostly it then screw it up the races but not today,” Peeters said.

When asked whether he closed the door for Pauwels he looked at the TV images and said he made no mistake. “Suddenly I felt something at my shoe. I can’t help it when he decides to take the smallest gap. I think I rode straight forward.”

Pauwels wasn’t planning to file a complaint. “Second place was possible so I was disappointed at first. The gap was small and if he moves a little to the left he closes the door. I’m pleased with third place. Wout ran away and quickly had a big gap. He was much stronger today,” Pauwels said.

A late flat held Sven Nys back in the end but he echoed Pauwels’ view on Van Aert. “I had something left to fight for second place but lost pressure so I couldn’t take risks. If I would’ve switched bikes then Lars would’ve passed me. I figured Wout would win as there was a lot of running today. If there’s something Wout is extremely good at, it’s running. We’ll see if the tide turns. If you can ride away by a minute seemingly on a playful manner then you can say you’re the best,” Nys said.

Belgian champion Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) abandoned the race after a hard crash on a downhill sand section halfway the race.

The third round of the Superprestige series is held in Ruddervoorde, Belgium on November 8.

Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Wout Van Aert (Bel)1:00:51
2Rob Peeters (Bel)0:01:09
3Kevin Pauwels (Bel)
4Sven Nys (Bel)0:01:17
5Lars Van Der Haar (Ned)0:01:18
6Laurens Sweeck (Bel)0:01:45
7David Van Der Poel (Ned)0:02:04
8Julien Taramarcaz (Swi)
9Jens Adams (Bel)0:02:07
10Tom Meeusen (Bel)0:02:21
11Diether Sweeck (Bel)0:02:24
12Joeri Adams (Bel)0:02:26
13Thijs Van Amerongen (Ned)0:02:30
14Toon Aerts (Bel)0:02:36
15Jim Aernouts (Bel)0:03:09
16Vincent Baestaens (Bel)0:03:24
17Gianni Vermeersch (Bel)0:03:36
18Michael Boros (Cze)0:03:39
19Tim Merlier (Bel)0:03:53
20Stan Godrie (Ned)0:03:59
21Jens Vandekinderen (Bel)0:04:36
22Niels Wubben (Ned)
23Radomir Simunek (Cze)
24Niels Koyen (Bel)
25Yu Takenouchi (Jpn)
26Brian Matter (USA)
27Kevin Cant (Bel)
28Edwin De Wit (Bel)
29Fabian Obrist (Swi)
30Sleidhy Étienne (Fra)

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