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Van der Poel came out on top in a very exciting three-rider battle at the Superprestige race in Gieten, holding off Pauwels and van der Haar in the sprint; despite a mechanical van Aert was 10th and defended the overall lead












27.12.2015 @ 18:55 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Mathieu van der Poel confirmed his status as the strongest rider in the cyclo-cross peloton at the moment when he made it three in a row at the Superprestige race in Gieten. After an exciting three-rider battle, he beat Kevin Pauwels and Lars van der Haar in the sprint while Wout van Aert was taken out of contention by a mechanical and had to fight his way back to claim 10th which was enough to defend the overall lead.


A knee injury meant that it was a slow start to the season for Mathieu van der Poel but after he has recovered from his health issues, the fortunes have changed for the world champion. After he grabbed his first major win in the World Cup race in Namur last Sunday and won yesterday’s World Cup race in Heusden-Zolder, he made it three in a row when he came out on top in today’s Superprestige race in Gieten.


The event is one of the Christmas classics and is made famous by the fact that it takes places under the lights in the early evening. However, the course doesn’t include many difficulties and that often turns the race into a tactical affair.


That was the case for the 2015 edition of the race too. After the favourites had tested each other in the first half of the race and Mathieu van der Poel, Tom Meeusen and Wout van Aert had all briefly been lone leaders, it was a very big group of more than 15 riders that gathered at the midpoint of the race. However, it quickly turned out that van der Poel, Kevin Pauwels, Wout van Aert, Lars van der Haar and Tom Meeusen were the strongest and the quintet quickly separated themselves from the rest.


The tactical battle meant that no one really made full-on attacks and it took a mechanical for the first rider to lose contact. At a point when Pauwels and van der Poel had a small advantage, van Aert had to jump off his bike and run almost half a lap to get to the pit zone. When he was finally on a new bike, he was not even in the top 20 and his comfortable overall lead was suddenly in danger.


Van der Haar was the first to regain contact and when Meeusen also made it back, it became clear that the front quartet would decide the race in the final lap. It was always evident that positioning would be decisive and it was van der Poel who managed to keep the pole position for most of the lap.


That nearly proved decisive. When the world champion made a big attack in one of the harder section after Meeusen had move into second, the latter blew up in a spectacular fashion and this allowed van der Poel to get a small advantage. At that point, it looked like the race was over but an impressive effort by Pauwels made sure that the trio was back together as they approached the finishing straight.


Van der Poel again spent a lot of energy to maintain the lead position as they hit the stairs that led to the finishing straight. That decided the race in his favour as van der Haar made a small mistake while being in second position. That opened a small gap and even though the strong Pauwels reacted as soon as they hit the tarmac, it was too late. He never managed to pass van der Poel who had time to sit up and celebrate his win.


Van Aert fought heroically to limit his losses in the Superprestige standings and by crossing the line in 10th, he held onto a narrow 3-point lead over Pauwels who moves into second. He was lucky that Sven Nys who had started the day in second, had another bad day. After he had initially seemed to be out of the battle for the best positions, the veteran made a fine comeback to take sixth but he still dropped to third, 5 points behind van Aert.


The Superprestige series now takes a lengthy break as the penultimate round will take place on February 7 in Hoogstraten. The next major cyclo-cross race is the Azencross in Loenhout on Tuesday, the next round in the Bpost Bank Trofee series.


How it unfolded:

After his bad luck in yesterday’s race, Lars van der Haar was in a determined mood right from the start and sprinting out of the starting gates to grab the lead position. Wout van Aert and Kevin Pauwels joined as a split occurred behind the trio and as van Aert took over the pace-setting, Mathieu van der Poel had to accelerate to bring the main group back together. Meanwhile, both Sven Nys and Klaas Vantornout had started the pace poorly and found themselves behind the split when the first 8 riders got a small gap.


Halfway through the first lap, van der Poel hit the front and suddenly got a gap. He held an advantage of a few seconds over a five-rider group that included van der Haar, van Aert, Pauwels, Tim Merlier and David van der Poel. Nys was drifting even further backwards while Vantornout was moving up. Van der Haar managed to get clear but was still trailing by a few seconds as they reached the finish for the first time. At this point, Nys was not even in the top 20.


Van der Haar quickly bridged the gap to van der Poel while Pauwels realized that he was about to miss the boat and jumped clear with van Aert. The pair managed to rejoin the leaders to make it a front quartet. Moments later, Tom Meeusen also made the junction while a five-rider chase group with Merlier, David van der Poel, Corne van Kessel, Toon Aerts and Diether Sweeck had gathered further back.


Meeusen went straight past the front group and as the favourites were watching each other, the Telenet-Fidea captain quickly got a big gap. The hesitation meant that the chase group regained contact and Merlier went straight to the front to work for van Aert.


Van Aert soon took over from his teammate as more riders regained contact and he made the group split, with just van Kessel, Sweeck, van der Poel and van der Haar able to hang on. However, the group was still not fully committed and so more riders rejoined from behind. At the end of the lap, they were 7 seconds behind Meeusen while a group with the likes of Vantornout, Laurens Sweeck and Nys was 20 seconds further adrift.


Van Aert didn’t receive any help but he slowly brought Meeusen back. He went straight to the front and immediately got a gap. However, another regrouping took place and it was a six-rider front group with that included van Aert, van der Haar, Pauwels, van der Poel, Meeusen and van Kessel that gathered. Meanwhile, Nys had slowly gained some momentum and he was approaching the front group from behind.


Van der Haar again hit the front and his fast pace immediately put Meeusen and van Kessel in difficulty. However, the group was back together as they ended the fourth lap while Nys led the big second group across the line 14 seconds later.


Van der Poel took over the pace-setting as the pace went down and this allowed van Kessel to rejoin the group after the Dutchman had briefly lost contact. Moments later, the big group rejoined the front group and just after the halfway, a very big front group had been formed.


Nys tried to surprise his rivals by going to straight to the front but Philipp Walsleben reacted immediately. The German briefly took over the pace-setting and Meeusen was the next to take charge. However, it wasn’t until van der Poel hit the front that splits briefly started to occur. Van der Poel and van der Haar briefly got a small advantage but for most of the lap the group stayed together.


As they approached the finish, van der Poel, van der Haar, Meeusen, Pauwels and van Aert finally opened a bigger advantage of 10 seconds over the group with Nys and Vantornout and moments later the world champion got a small gap. As van der Haar slowed down, the gap widened and this forced van Aert to hit the take over the pace-setting. However, he failed to close much of the gap and it only started to narrow when Pauwels accelerated hard.


It took some time for him to make it but finally Pauwels closed the gap. Van Aert and van der Haar had lost a few metres while Meeusen was even further back. Pauwels went straight to the front and as he upped the pace even further, the gap widened.


Van Aert tried to make back when disaster struck for the Belgian. A mechanical forced him into running mode and as they reached the finish at the start of the penultimate lap, he was already more than 20 seconds behind the leading pair. Van der Haar was trailing by 8 seconds while Meeusen was three seconds further adrift.


Pauwels did not slow down and van der Poel could only hang on for dear life. Meanwhile, van Aert had to run almost half a lap before he could finally get a new bike. As he was even caught up in a small crash, he was not even in the top 20 when he finally reached the pit.


Pauwels finally slowed down and as van der Poel again hit the front, van der Haar managed to regain contact. Meeusen was still in fourth position while Nys, Vantornout, Laurens Sweeck and Walsleben formed the next group.


There was plenty of hesitation in the front group as no one wanted to fully commit to an attack and this allowed Meeusen to slowly get closer. At the start of the final lap, he was only 2 seconds behind while the Nys group was 21 seconds further adrift. Van Aert had joined a bigger group and was riding in around 15th position one minute behind the leaders. Moments later, Meeusen rejoined the leaders.


Pauwels sets a fast pace as they started the first lap and briefly got a small gap but van der Haar made sure that the front quartet was back together as they approached the midpoint of the circuit. Van der Poel was the next to take over and had the lead position as they sprinted towards an important turn. Meeusen nearly managed to hit the front but it was van der Poel who remained in control as they hit the most technical section.


Just after a turn, van der Poel tried another attack and Meeusen had to dig deep to try to maintain contact with the world champion. The attempt was costly as he cracked spectacularly and as he was riding in second position, van der Poel suddenly had a gap.


Pauwels realized the danger and with a monster turn, he brought the world champion as they hit the next series of turns. Van der Poel remained on the front though, with Pauwels and van der Haar lined out behind him.


Pauwels hit the front as they hit a tarmac section near the end and he made a big attack. Van der Haar lost contact but van der Poel managed to pass Pauwels and as the pace again went down, the trio came back together.


Van der Poel rode hard on the front as the battle for positions was furious and it was van der Haar who moved into second position. That turned out to be decisive. Van der Haar made a mistake as they hit the stairs just before the finishing straight and this allowed van der Poel to get a small gap. Pauwels reacted as soon as they hit the tarmac but it was too late. Van der Poel held the Belgian off to take the win while the Sunweb captain led van der Haar across the line to take second. Meeusen was fourth, Sweeck fifth and Nys sixth while van Aert managed to take 10th and defend the overall lead.



1. Mathieu van der Poel 59.06

2. Kevin Pauwels

3. Lars van der Haar +0.02

4. Tom Meeusen +0.25

5. Laurens Sweeck +0.27

6. Sven Nys +0.32

7. Klaas Vantornout +0.44

8. Corne van Kessel

9. Philipp Walsleben

10. Wout van Aert +0.49


Overall standings:

1. Wout van Aert 80

2. Kevin Pauwels 77

3. Sven Nys 75

4. Lars van der Haar 68

5. Klaas Vantornout 54

6. Laurens Sweeck 49

7. Tom Meeusen 36

8. Corne van Kessel 34



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