The third stop of the 2016 Hansgrohe Superprestige series was Sunday at Ruddervoorde outside of Bruges, Belgium. After a two-race hiatus from their increasingly legendary two-man battles, Matthieu van der Poel (Beobank-Corendon) and Wout Van Aert (Crelan-Vastgoedservice) were back on their competitive form at the slick, technical circuit at Ruddervoorde. Although not as beautiful as some of the Van der Poel—Van Aert battles, the two riders still gave fans an early-November cyclocross treat. Van der Poel was able to hold off Van Aert—and at times, himself—to stay perfect in the 2016 Superprestige series with a victory at the circuit outside Bruges.
Last year’s cyclocross circuit at Ruddervoorde was described by Sven as a “maze.” This year’s edition featured a more open design, with the technical quotient upped by several slick, punchy uphills and one particularly rough downhill onto a bridge over a drainage canal after a run-up. The latter portion of the track also featured a downhill “mini-Zonhaven” sandpit with a deceptively-tough uphill finish. In the women’s race, Sophie de Boer was superior both physically and technically in her dominating performance; for much of the men’s race, it appeared that Van der Poel was the stronger physical rider, while Wout Van Aert was more technically dialed in.
After Tuesday’s race at Koppenberg, Wout Van Aert said that it was the first time he felt like himself all season. This interview comment seemed to be a scary warning to his competitors, as he started the race off strong after Lars van der Haar (Giant-Alcepin) took the holeshot. Matthieu van der Poel had a much stronger start to the race than he did on Tuesday when Van Aert buried him with an early attack, and made his way into the lead group with Van Aert, and interloper Michael Vanthourenhout (Marlux-Napolean Games).
By the completion of the second lap, Van der Poel and Van Aert had separated from the pack and, as is common, it was game on between the two.
After withstanding Van Aert’s early pace, Van der Poel seemed determined to show that his legs were feeling good on Sunday. He rode hard at the front at through the third lap and created a sizeable gap to the chase group of Kevin Pauwels (Marlux-Napolean Games), Laurens Sweeck (ERA Circus), Vanthourenhout, van der Haar, and Toon Aerts (Telenet Fidea Lions).
— ERA-Circus (@ERA_Circus) November 6, 2016
Since battling with Van Aert was apparently not enough of a challenge, van der Poel decided that he should turn up the difficulty setting for the race by making a series of bobbles that cost him his emerging lead. Van der Poel was seemingly jinxed during the afternoon by a corner of the course near the RDB Pallets truck, where a bobble on a downhill corner allowed Van Aert to erase the lead van der Poel had worked hard to open up.
The race’s winning move came about forty minutes into the race at the start of the sixth lap when Van der Poel demonstrated that when engaged in a tight cyclocross battle, it is essential to seize on the smallest opportunity. Van Aert appeared to have a small issue with his bike and was forced to go to the pit at the start of the sixth lap. Van der Poel took advantage of the opportunity to put in an attack that staked him out to a four second lead that he extended to six at the end of the lap despite getting caught up on the course barrier at the, again, RDB Pallet corner.
With Van der Poel clearly having the stronger legs on the course, Van Aert’s last opportunity to get back in the race was when Van der Poel pulled yet another “Ay Yay Yay” at the start of the 7th lap when he washed out on a corner early in the lap. However, the World Champion was unable to close the gap, and was soon befallen by a disaster of his own when he dropped his chain on the ultimate lap right before the sketchy drainage canal downhill.
— Nicolás Van Looy (@Vanlooyalfas) November 6, 2016
Van Aert’s mechanical allowed Van der Poel to cruise home with a comfortable 29 second victory for his third straight Hansgrohe Superprestige victory. Despite the chain hiccup, Van Aert was able to get his bike rolling again and took home his third straight Superprestige second-place finish.
As has been the case at many of the European races this year, there is the battle between Wout Van Aert and Matthieu van der Poel, and then there is the battle for third. When we last left the chase group, a congregation of five riders and another two—David van der Poel (Beobank-Corendon) and Jens Adams (Crelan-Vastgoedservice)—in chase two had emerged. Halfway through the race, Laurens Sweeck seemed determined to emerge from the chase and perhaps close the gap to the two heads of state at the front of the race.
Sweeck closed to within just 13 seconds of the leaders after the end of the fifth lap with a full-throttled attack away from the others. That would be as close as the broad-shouldered Belgian would get, but his consolation prize for the strong push midway through the race was his third straight third-place Hansgrohe Superprestige podium. Kevin Pauwels finished fourth (1’08”) and Jens Adams bridged from chase two to take home fifth place (1’22”).
The déjà vu podium of Van der Poel, Van Aert, and Sweeck makes tallying the overall Hansgrohe Superprestige standings up pretty straightforward and provides a good opportunity for the youngest cyclocross fans to practice their multiplication tables (our resident favorite teacher-rider Jolien Verscheren would be proud). Van der Poel sits in first with 45 points, Van Aert in second with 42, and Sweeck in third with 39.
In the U23 Men’s race, Quinten Hermans (Telenet Fidea Lions) took a close victory over 2016 World Champion Eli Iserbyt, while Toon Vandebosch took the Junior men’s race with a dominant ride. Full Junior and U23 men’s results below.
The next race of the Hansgrohe Superprestige will be next Sunday, November 13, at Gavere. The race will be the 39th running of the event. Wout Van Aert will look to repeat his title after defeating some rider named Sven Nys in 2015, and Sanne Cant will look for redemption after this Sunday and a repeat of her title from last year.
See our full photo gallery from the 2016 Superprestige Ruddervoorde men’s race here. Full results below.
2016 Hansgrohe Superprestige Ruddervoorde Results - Elite Men
|1||Mathieu VAN DER POEL||NED||22||1:05:18||80|
|2||Wout VAN AERT||BEL||23||1:05:47||60|
|7||David VAN DER POEL||NED||25||1:07:18||17|
|20||Patrick VAN LEEUWEN||NED||32||1:10:02|
|24||Kenneth VAN COMPERNOLLE||BEL||29||1:11:28|
|29||Matthias VAN DE VELDE||BEL||23|
|33||Manuel Martin JIMENEZ||ESP||35|
2016 Hansgrohe Superprestige Ruddervoorde Results - U23 Men
|6||Maik VAN DER HEIJDEN||NED||20||53:11:00||8|
|13||Gosse VAN DER MEER||NED||22||54:22:00|
|25||Senne De Meyer||BEL||21||55:55:00|
|26||Koen VAN DIJKE||NED||21||55:56:00|
|27||Pieter VAN ROOSBROECK||BEL||21||56:07:00|
|32||Roel VAN DER STEGEN||NED||20||56:30:00|
|34||Perry VAN DEN BOS||NED||20||57:18:00|
|40||Nick VAN DE KERCKHOVE||BEL||21|
2016 Hansgrohe Superprestige Ruddervoorde Results - Junior Men
|9||Arno VAN DEN BROECK||BEL||17||38:23:00|
|15||Koen VAN HELVOIRT||NED||18||38:59:00|
|18||Maxim VAN GILS||BEL||18||39:39:00|
|26||Jurgen VAN DEN AARSSEN||NED||17||40:05:00|
|27||Sander DE VET||BEL||17||40:13:00|
|31||Lars VAN DEN BERGHEN||NED||18||41:07:00|
|32||Carlo VAN DEN BERG||NED||18||41:20:00|