If the first two Superprestige races are any indication of how the rest of the season will play out, cyclocross fans are in for a real treat and Wout van Aert is getting his wish.
For second time in two stops, the Superprestige delivered a mano-y-mano battle for the ages, only this time it was without the dropped chain drama that plagued the Gieten Superprestige race, perhaps due to a hired two-arm Sentinel.
Mathieu van der Poel (Beobank-Corendon) wasted no time in showing that his comeback from knee surgery is real, moving to the front just one minute into the race, drawing out Wout van Aert (Crelan-Vastgoedservice), and leaving everyone else choking in his rooster tail of sand.
Within a lap, it was simply a two man race between the last two World Champions.
Two laps in, the van der Poel-led pair had a massive 26 second gap on the chasers led by Lars Van der Haar (Giant Alpecin), and one lap later it ballooned to 36 seconds.
Lauren Sweeck (ERA-Circus) was still determined to make the front group a party of three, and after van Aert and van der Poel started to look around, Sweeck briefly made contact with one lap to go.
It wouldn’t last. Van Aert and van der Poel didn’t want a third wheel to complicate their bicycle race, and reapplied the pressure to distance Sweeck.
With the two-man duel back in play, Van der Poel put in a massive attack on a climb with a half lap remianing, stretching out a big gap heading into the final sandy run-up. Van Aert, who appeared to be the superior runner throughout the day, quickly closed the gap and hit the front. Van der Poel looked gassed from the run, and suddenly there was daylight between the pair.
Van Aert looked back, studying his rival.
Van der Poel looked down at his drivetrain and prepared for the inevitable sprint.
Van Aert looked back once more, to gauge his gap.
It was one look too many. Van der Poel was already alongside him, out of the saddle in full sprint mode, on his way to his second straight Superprestige win.
American Tobin Ortenblad (Santa Cruz) made the trip from California and finished 23rd.
Stay tuned for photos and more coverage from Zonhoven. Watch the 2016 Superprestige Zonhoven Elite Men’s race video here.
2016 Superprestige Zonhoven Cyclocross Full Results - Elite Men
|1||Mathieu VAN DER POEL||NED||22||1:01:15||80|
|2||Wout VAN AERT||BEL||23||1:01:15||60|
|4||Lars VAN DER HAAR||NED||26||1:02:01||30|
|9||David VAN DER POEL||NED||25||1:03:15||12|
|13||Twan VAN DEN BRAND||NED||28||1:04:28||4|
|17||Javier RUIZ DE LARRINAGA IBANEZ||ESP||38||1:04:50|
|18||Kevin SUAREZ FERNANDEZ||ESP||23||1:05:11|