Van der Poel has become the rider to beat in 2015. Photo: Vier footage.

Van der Poel has become the rider to beat in 2015. Photo: Vier footage.

HOOGSTRATEN – Mathieu van der Poel continued his 2015 cyclocross dominance with another early break and solo win, this time at the Superprestige Hoogstraten, just a day after his victory in Lille at the BPost Bank Trofee. Kevin Pauwels finished second, and was the only rider for most of the race who put any kind of pressure on the young world champion. Wout van Aert finished third, a tremendous achievement as Lars van der Haar looked as if he had the final podium position locked up for the last half of the race.

The muddy course included a flat sandpit, several muddy bogs, and a drainage ditch that riders either had to dismount for or wheelie over. As the race began, Van der Haar took a customary holeshot, but within the first two tight turns, Van der Poel took over.

Getting ahead early was vital in today’s race. One of the earlier mud sections took plenty of early victims as Gianni Vermeesch crashed, creating a large bottleneck and keeping Van Aert stuck behind in the mid-twenty to thirtieth place. Van der Poel quickly attacked as per usual on the first lap, and by the time he approached the sand for the first time, he was a full eight seconds ahead of the chasing group.

Sven Nys had a good start, and was in fine position, although he crashed in the mud on the second lap. Marcel Meisen then crashed into the barriers while attempting to hop them not 15 seconds later.

Between the two crashes, Pauwels and Van der Haar found themselves alone giving chase to Van der Poel. Klaas Vantornout and Tom Meeusen both followed with a gap behind. In the pits during the early stages of the third lap, Pauwels was able to pull away from Van der Haar, and tried to remain within sight of the world champion ahead in first.

By the next lap, Nys was struggling to stay with the fourth place group as Van Aert caught up to them. Van der Haar opted to bypass the pits, and was able to come within seconds of Pauwels, but the mud buildup on his bike affected his ride for the next half lap, and he faded back once again. Meanwhile, Meeusen took charge of the fourth place chasing group and Van Aert followed behind in tow with Nys holding on in back.

In the last three laps, Van der Poel was able to gain seconds ahead of Pauwels until his victory looked secure. Van der Haar was 48 seconds behind the leader as he pulled into the sixth lap, with Van Aert now alone around 12 seconds behind in fourth. By the bell lap, Van Aert took the podium spot’s gap down to ten seconds, but it looked like it would be too little, too late.

Van der Poel pulled in for a casual win with his arms hanging in the air. No longer the tearful rider in Tabor, the young world champion is becoming all too familiar with this position up front despite Van Aert taking most of the wins in 2014. Pauwels arrived to the line in second. Van Aert was able to pass Van der Haar on the final lap, and have enough energy so that the Dutchman was unable to contest the podium position for long.

2015 Superprestige Hoogstraten, Brief Men's Reults

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