With Wout van Aert in Bern getting ready for Sunday's World Cup, Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon - Circus) waited a little longer than usual to unleash his trademark winning attack on Saturday at Superprestige Niels Albert CX in Boom.
A little longer, but not really that long.
After letting Lars van der Haar (Telenet Fidea Lions), Toon Aerts (Telenet Fidea Lions), Quinten Hermans (Telenet Fidea Lions) and Laurens Sweeck (Pauwels Sauzen - Vastgoedservice) take turns at the front, Van der Poel attacked on an uphill in Lap 4. He carried the effort through a series and up and downs, and at the end of the lap he had 10 seconds on his chasers.
As has happened in race after race after race, that was the closest his competitors would get. Van der Poel coasted to his latest victory, keeping the gap at a comfortable 12 to 20 seconds through the bell lap and not going too deep ahead of Sunday's showdown in Switzerland.
He coasted in the last lap to cross the line with a win that was much easier than his four-second gap to second suggests.
Trading Leads Early
Straight from the holeshot, it was the familiar face of Lars van der Haar at the front. Van der Haar led most of the first lap before Van der Poel took over on one of the steep uphills in the middle part of the lap.
Van der Poel opened up some space on the rest of the riders at the front of the race, but the Telenet Fidea Lion duo of Aerts and Hermans covered his move. After one lap, it was Aerts, Van der Poel, Hermans, Vermeersch, Daan Soete (Pauwels Sauzen - Vastgoedservice) and Sweeck in the lead selection.
The first lap was a tough one for a couple of the expected contenders. Michael Vanthourenhout (Marlux - Bingoal) slipped out on a dusty corner, and Van der Haar crashed into the second barrier, knocking him out of contention as well.
At the start of the second lap, Aerts put in a dig, but Van der Poel quickly covered it. Even with different riders on the front of the seven-man group, including two Telenet Fidea Lions at one point, Van der Poel still kept himself at second or third wheel, not allowing the mass of Belgians to swallow him up.
During the third of nine laps, Hermans and Sweeck each took the lead spot, and after the first third of the race, the lead group was down to Hermans, Van der Poel, Vermeersch and Sweeck.
Van der Poel Makes His Move
Fans and his competitors were no doubt waiting for Van der Poel to drop the proverbial boom on Saturday's race. His move happened in Lap 4.
Van derPoel accelerated up an incline and then stayed on the gas through a series of downs and ups. When the dust of the Boom sand settled on the sunny afternoon, Van der Poel's advantage was 9 seconds.
Behind him, Laurens Sweeck snapped his seatpost entering the second sand pit and fell off the pace. The chase was down to Hermans, Aerts and Vermersch.
Van der Poel extended his advantage to a maximum of 19 seconds with two to go, and then laid off the throttle a bit, knowing he has to race again tomorrow in Switzerland.
Although he crossed the line just four seconds ahead of the two chasers, the gap belies the ease with which Van der Poel won in the second half of the race.
Aerts and Vermeersch dropped Hermans in the final lap, and Aerts beat Vermeersch in the sprint to take second. Vermeersch took third.
A photo gallery and results are below.