Heading into Saturday’s Telenet Superprestige finale at Middelkerke, Sanne Cant (IKO-Beobank) had a one-point lead on Maud Kaptheijns (Crelan-Charles). Cant won the World Cup overall and World Championships, so she was looking to add one more palmares to her impressive season list, while Kaptheijns was hoping to cash in on her early-season success and take home a nice prize to build on for next year.
It may feel like a distant memory now, but Kaptheijns ripped through the first half of the Superprestige calendar, winning four races in the month of October alone. After a long lull in the heart of the season, including a disappointing 25th at the World Championships in Valkenburg-Limburg, Kaptheijns has returned to form and finished second behind Cant at both races last weekend.
With Katie Compton (KFC Racing p/b Trek/Knight Composites) back at home in Colorado, Belgian fans were hoping for one last great battle between Cant and Kaptheijns to cap off the Superprestige calendar. Much to their delight, the two delivered.
Cant and Kaptheijns got to the front of the race early on. In the first few laps, they were joined by Helen™ winner Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Corendon-Circus). Midway through the race, Cant and Kaptheijns were off the front in a two-up battle for the Superprestige title, and Del Carmen Alvarado joined Loes Sels (Crelan-Charles) and Laura Verdonschot (Marlux-Bingoal) in a three-woman battle for the third podium spot.
The sun was shining in Middelkerke and the course was not a mudfest like many races this season, but technical mistakes still played a role in the battle between Cant and Kaptheijns. Early on, Cant had struggles with the long sand pit, while Kaptheijns was able to capitalize as she had during wins at Zonhoven and Koksijde.
Sanne Cant has shown she can ride in any conditions, but if there has been an aspect of races where she has been exemplary this year, it has been her last-lap attacks. With two to go, Kaptheijns took the lead, and Cant showed she was content to let the Dutchwoman do some work ahead of the laatste ronde. The two hit the line together for the bell and pretty much everyone in the venue knew what was coming next.
Early in the bell lap, Cant pulled ahead of Kaptheijns and opened up a few bike lengths of breathing room. Then on one of the few muddy sections, a run-up, Cant got her winning gap. Kaptheijns hesistated on the incline while trying to find her footing. The pause was only a few seconds, but give an opportunity to Sanne Cant in the last lap and she knows what to do with it.
Cant attacked, looked back, and kept attacking. What was once a few bike lengths was now seven seconds. Cant had a slow dismount in the long, deep sand pit, but Kaptheijns struggled more as her legs teetered at the red line, and the last threat to Cant’s victory was defused.
Cant wrapped up the Telenet Superprestige overall title and picked up (unofficially) her 19th win of the 2017/18 season. Kaptheijns took her third-straight second and Verdonschot was the best in the chase during the last lap and took the third podium spot.
— Focus & WTV (@FocusWTV) February 17, 2018
Elle Anderson (Milwaukee – Alpha Motorhomes) finished 13th, Rebecca Fahringer (Stan’s NoTubes p/b Maxxis/gofahr) 17th, Corey Coogan Cisek (The Fix Studio) 28th and Christine Vardaros 31st.
Race results and final Telenet Superprestige standings are below.
Women's Results: 2018 Superprestige Middelkerke
|4||16||DEL CARMEN ALVARADO Ceylin||NED||0h41´13.0"||+50.0"|
|6||18||VAN DE STEENE Kim||BEL||0h41´31.0"||+1´08.0"|
|7||3||VAN LOY Ellen||BEL||0h42´04.0"||+1´41.0"|
|23||34||VAN DE PUTTE Kim||BEL||0h47´18.0"||+6´55.0"|
|26||36||VAN WUNSEL Lise||BEL||0h49´49.0"||+9´26.0"|
|27||23||DE BRUYNE Meg||BEL||1 r|
|28||22||COOGAN CISEK Corey||USA||1 r|
|29||11||FRANCK Alicia||BEL||2 r|
|30||32||ROMBOUTS Tine||BEL||2 r|
|31||43||VARDAROS Christine||USA||2 r|
|32||41||BLANCHAERT Jo||BEL||3 r|
|DNF||8||ARZUFFI Alice Maria||ITA||DNF|
Women's Final Standings: 2017/18 Telenet Superprestige
|5||Ellen Van Loy||64||0||11||12||11||15||1||5||9|
|6||Alice Maria Arzuffi||58||7||10||11||3||12||5||10||0|
|9||Kim Van de Steene||50||0||0||9||9||13||0||9||10|
|10||Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Ned)||44||4||8||0||8||0||0||12||12|