Mathieu van der Poel's (Beobank-Corendon) winning streak at the 2016 Superprestige cyclocross series came to an end today while Wout van Aert's (Crelan Vastgoedservice) win streak at the run-up filled Spa Francorchamps continued.
The steep run-ups proved critical on the day, as critical slips by impacted the race leadership, and especially tired out the legs of series leader Van der Poel.
While fans may have been hoping for a two-man dual to the finish, the season's top two racers took their turns on the ground, and had to fend off a strong challenge by UEC Continental Champion Toon Aerts (Telenet Fidea Lions).
When Van Aert slipped on a run-up on lap two, Van der Poel quickly opened up a gap that grew to ten seconds, and suddenly it looked to be a race for second.
However, Van Aert's running strength showed, and on lap three, the World Champion ran past Van der Poel.
Tactics came into play, and soon the two were joined by Aerts, another strong runner.
Van der Poel, who has had multiple knee surgeries, does not include running his training, and knew he'd have a challenge today. "I was struggling on the run-up, as I did last year," Van der Poel said after the race. "It'll never be my cup of tea."
Soon, it was the others' turns to slip on the run-ups. First Toon Aerts slid while dismounting before the run, blaming his large toe spikes and a slick, frozen spot for the mishap.
Then, Van der Poel slipped at the top of a steep run, giving Van Aert the daylight he needed.
Once gapped, Van der Poel rode conservatively to save second and maintain his series lead, saying he quickly realized he didn't have the legs to chase back on to the World Champ's wheel.
Van Aert, after a month-long winless stretch, was relieved with the victory. "It's great. I've never lost at Spa-Francorchamps so I love to come here," he said after the race.
American Stephen Hyde (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld) finished in tenth.
Video highlights, full results and photo gallery below.
2016 Superprestige Spa-Francorchamps Men's Race Highlights:
2016 Spa-Francorchamps Superprestige Results - Elite Men
|1||Wout VAN AERT||BEL||23||1:00:43||80|
|2||Mathieu VAN DER POEL||NED||22||1:01:15||60|
|12||David VAN DER POEL||NED||25||1:04:38||6|