A very tough course with mud, off-cambers, little climbs and some sand was what awaited the riders today in the Belgian town of Ruddervoorde.
Today’s race was the fourth round of the Superprestige and also World Champion Mathieu van der Poel’s (Corendon-Circus) first race of the season. Van der Poel already won here the past three years and was eager to turn that into four years.
The leader in the Superprestige was his fellow countryman Lars van der Haar (Telenet-Baloise Lions), but a battle between Van der Poel and Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) was what everybody expected today.
That expectation got filled in the beginning of the race as the two rivals went head to head. Iserbyt, however, was the one making it into the field first. Not intimidated by Van der Poel, Iserbyt led throughout the first minutes of the race.
Van der Poel took over then, but Iserbyt having the pressure on him today to prove himself in the presence of the World Champion, tried to retake his position.
It seemed like a great battle was about to unfold itself.
At the end of the first lap, it was Iserbyt’s teammate Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) who took the lead. Corné van Kessel (Telenet-Baloise Lions), Belgian champion Toon Aerts (Telenet-Baloise Lions) and Belgian road champion Tim Merlier (Creafin-Fristads) joined the Iserbyt-Van der Poel group as well.
In the first half of the second lap, Van der Poel and Iserbyt watched from the second row as Vanthourenhout was setting the pace with Aerts in his wheel. That would only take a few minutes as Van der Poel went to the front in the second half of the lap. Iserbyt knew he had to have his wheel and fought his way to the front as well.
The two had a 2 seconds advantage on Vanthourenhout and a 4 seconds advantage on Aerts at the end of the lap.
In the third lap, it was Laurens Sweeck (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) who made his way to the front and even took the race’s lead a little later. An extraordinary passage by Sweeck in the sand gave him 5-second advantage by the end of the lap.
Van der Poel had to step up, because he wasn’t going to get any help of Sweeck’s teammate Iserbyt.
When the three changed bikes and Tom Pidcock (Trinity Racing) didn’t, it was the British champion taking first position but then dropping to second after a crash a little later. Van der Poel then came through again taking over the lead. Pidcock and Iserbyt got dropped, while Sweeck was trying to hold on to the wheel of the World Champion.
This time it was Van der Poel with the extraordinary passage in the sand which allowed him to open up a little gap on Sweeck. Pidcock, Aerts, Merlier and Iserbyt already had a 22 seconds arrear at the end of the fourth lap.
What people expected to be a battle between van der Poel and Iserbyt, turned out to be a battle between van der Poel and Sweeck.
In the fifth lap, Van der Poel set the pace even higher. A gap of 8 seconds opened up on Sweeck towards the end of the lap. Aerts was going solo in third position with a 30 seconds arrear on Van der Poel, while Pidcock, Merlier and Iserbyt were already 44 seconds behind.
By the end of the sixth lap, van der Poel’s advantage on Sweeck amounted 20 seconds. Aerts’ arrear had gone up to 34 seconds.
It was clear to everybody that van der Poel was going to take the win. With a jump on the bridge in the last lap, Van der Poel celebrated and entertained the crowd.
Starting his season with a victory, the king of cyclocross had reclaimed his throne.
“It was a tough course, very technical as well. It was searching for the ’cross feeling the whole race, but I didn’t really find it,” Van der Poel told Sporza after the race (translated). “I was good though, the base is good and I used it to make the difference. I didn’t have the impression I had an acceleration. I was just riding my own pace and couldn’t go over my limit. That I felt the most in the beginning. If someone accelerated, I let a gap. My base is definitely good, otherwise you don’t win, but the interval has to come back.”
Sweeck finished second with a 23 seconds arrear. Aerts completed the podium. Sweeck and Aerts lead the Superprestige together now, each having 45 points.
Iserbyt, who won on the Koppenberg on Friday, took fifth.
“It went pretty good in the beginning, but van der Poel always went through the corners a little faster. He pushed me to my limit,” Iserbyt said (translated). “Then I made a little mistake and hit a pole. After that, I didn’t find the good feeling anymore. It wasn’t my best day, maybe because of the Koppenberg, but I don’t want to look for excuses. I was not that good today. That’s not a shame, but it’s too bad it was just now.”
Andrew Juiliano (Voler Pro CX / Cure IBD p/b Shimano) finished 49th and Tyler Cloutier (TCCX) 61st.
Full results are below.
|Rank||BIB||Last Name||First Name||Country||Result|
|1||1||VAN DER POEL||Mathieu||NED||1:03:56|
|11||5||VAN DER HAAR||Lars||NED||1:06:57|
|36||12||VAN DER POEL||David||NED||-2 LAPS|
|40||24||VAN COMPERNOLLE||Kenneth||BEL||-2 LAPS|
|41||73||VAN DEN BROECK||Arno||BEL||-2 LAPS|
|56||19||DE WIT||Edwin||BEL||-4 LAPS|
|64||69||MÖRTSELL RÖRFORS||Lukas||SWE||-5 LAPS|