Pauwels eased up on the finish line as his teammate took third, but fourth was far more than he needed to secure the overall World Cup win. © Thomas van Bracht / Cyclocross Magazine

Pauwels, the World Cup overall winner, won at Middelkerke, but it was not enough for the overall Superprestige win. © Thomas van Bracht / Cyclocross Magazine

MIDDELKERKE, Belgium – Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb – Napoleon Games Cycling Team) took the win at the eighth round of the 2014-2015 Superprestige series in Middelkerke, but it was Mathieu Van der Poel (BKCP – Powerplus Cycling Team) who claimed the series win in  a race that was characterized by numerous technical sections, and a constant jockeying for position.

With the top three general classification leaders, Van der Poel, Pauwels and Lars van der Haar (Team Giant – Alpecin) separated by a mere five points going into the final race, everything was on the line.

Despite the win by Pauwels, Van der Poel’s fight to take second place, after crashing on a tricky drop-off while in the lead, was enough to claim the series title, just one point ahead of Pauwels, for a total of 106.

Wout van Aert (Vastgoedservice – Golden Palace Cycling Team), who was not in contention for a top series placing, having not raced in the Elite classification in the series until last week, took third for the day ahead of van der Haar. But with a total of  99 points, Van der Haar’s finish was enough to secure third place in the series overall standings.

The Title Up For Grabs:

Tom Meeusen (Telenet Fidea Cycling Team) took the early lead with everything to gain, starting the race nine points behind the series leader.

Also emerging from the field, van der Haar, Van der Poel, van Aert and Pauwels formed the selection, battling to stay in front of each other so as not to get caught out if someone in front made a mistake.

Meeusen tried to maintain his positioning at or near the front, but the fast start took its toll after a move by Van der Poel in lap six strung out the group. Unable to maintain the pace, Meeusen nonetheless held on to finish fifth, 59 seconds down on the leader.

With Van der Poel putting in a characteristic attempt to open a lead, Van Aert took up the job of reeling him in. But Van Aert’s Achilles heel, his repeated decision to run barriers versus attempting to ride them, gave Van der Poel the second or two he needed.

Van der Haar and then Pauwels took their turns at the front of the chase until a crash over the handlebars by Van der Poel on a small drop-off erased his lead. Van der Poel, now at the back of the lead group, had to recompose before hopscotching his way back towards the front a lap later.

Van der Haar rode excellently through the sand, making up ground or passing more that once, but in the penultimate lap, a slower moving Pauwles forced him to dismount. The bobble sent Van der Haar to the back of the group and gave Van Aert an advantage.

Having saved his energy much of the race, Pauwels was able to accelerate, dropping Van der Poel while bridging to Van Aert. As predicted, Van Aert’s dismount at the barriers sealed his fate. Pauwels stayed on the bike and quickly picked up several seconds. It was now Pauwels’ race to loose.

With a lap to go, Pauwels must have been able to taste the series win, but it wasn’t to be. Van der Poel caught, then outmaneuvered Van Aert through the sand the next time around to gain the position he needed. Pauwels made some 11th hour mistakes, putting a foot down on an steep uphill and dismounting on the drop that sent Van der Poel flying, but in the end, Pauwels turned onto the finishing straight first, the day’s win secure.

See our coverage of the Juniors, and Elite Women’s races.

2015 Superprestige #8, Middelkerke — Elite Men’s Results:

1Kevin PAUWELSBEL311:05:17
2Mathieu VAN DER POELNED201:05:26
3Wout VAN AERTBEL211:05:34
4Lars VAN DER HAARNED241:05:47
5Tom MEEUSENBEL271:06:16
6Jens ADAMSBEL231:06:58
7Sven NYSBEL391:07:08
8Klaas VANTORNOUTBEL331:07:16
9Vincent BAESTAENSBEL261:07:28
10Tim MERLIERBEL231:07:36
11Bart WELLENSBEL371:07:57
12Philipp WALSLEBENGER281:08:11
13Gianni VERMEERSCHBEL231:08:38
14Jim AERNOUTSBEL261:08:43
17Corne VAN KESSELNED241:09:31
18Marcel MEISENGER261:09:41
19Thijs VAN AMERONGENNED291:09:46
20David VAN DER POELNED231:10:01
21Gert-Jan BOSMANNED231:10:01
22Twan VAN DEN BRANDNED261:10:01
23Kenneth VAN COMPERNOLLEBEL271:10:13
24Patrick GAUDYBEL381:10:24
25Michael BOROSCZE231:10:41
26Rob PEETERSBEL301:10:57
27Niels WUBBENNED271:10:58
28Bart AERNOUTSBEL331:11:04
29Bart HOFMANBEL301:11:07
30Martin BINACZE321:11:16
31Patrick VAN LEEUWENNED301:11:27
32Dave DE CLEYNBEL271:11:34
35Jonathan PAGEUSA39
37Niels KOYENBEL24
38Vinnie BRAETBEL24
42Nicolas LEBESQFRA34
43Luke GRAYGBR23