Van der Poel’s pedal skating helps van Aert win

Duel Heartbeat at Superprestige Zolder

By Kevin Kemp

Wout van Aert (Jumbo – Visma) celebrated his third win of the season at Zolder. | Photo: Cor Vos

27/12/2022 | (rsn) – After a nerve-wracking final loop, Wout van Aert (Jumbo – Visma) edged out Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin – Deceuninck) for second place in the fifth Superprestige of the season at Zolder. The Dutchman didn’t have a chance in the two-man sprint as he slipped off the pedal just before the finish line. Lars van der Haar (Baloise – Trek Lions) completes the podium and takes the overall lead. Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) finished fourth ahead of Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal).

After Dublin and Mol, it was van Aert’s third victory of the season in five races; in Antwerp and Gavere he finished second. At Zolder, he also took advantage of the early attack of his eternal rival. “Mathieu did the first lap as if it were the last,” said last year’s winner at the finish line. After that, the two top stars toured together as a couple. The course on and on the racecourse suits them both; since 2015, the winner in Zolder has always been van Aert (three times) or van der Poel (five times).

Van der Poel explained his early attack in Ziel’s interview: “I didn’t want to be with such a big group. When you then hear Wout, you know right away that you will both stay ahead for the rest of the race. The 27-year-old also set the tone in the final. “I wanted to get into the technical part. It didn’t work”, he returned to the second half of the last lap. The reason was a technical error which forced the Dutchman to dismount. “It then came down to the sprint. I noticed early on that we were pretty much even. Unfortunately, I slipped off the pedal. It’s a shame that I couldn’t really sprint,” said the pro from Alpecin.

Van der Haar had to fight for every point and therefore every place. He was chased down the stretch by Pidcock but held on ahead of the Briton. “I had to sprint for such a long time, the lactate was gushing out of my ears,” he moaned happily at the finish. He had taken the lead in the general classification, also thanks to a conversation before the competition. “I’m in front now because you explained it to me so well before.” I even thought about it during the race,” he said with a laugh, praising interviewer Sophie de Boer. The sixth edition of the Superprestige is already on the program for Wednesday. “Of course, tomorrow will be difficult, because it is again the same classification. But I’m just trying to get a good result,” van der Haar said.

Pidcock was unhappy with his competition. Unlike the day before in Gavere, he could not follow the two top stars. “Today I was in a completely different race than both,” he said in the finish interview. “I haven’t had a good day. Normally I can close gaps on long straights. It just wasn’t possible today,” he said.

In the standings, van der Haar took over the overall lead from Laurens Sweeck (Crelan – Fristads), seventh of the day and who complained of back problems in the final during the interview at the finish. The Dutchman is now five points ahead of the Belgian. Third is Vanthourenhout, eight points behind. Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal) was still mistreated at the start and lost precious points in eleventh place. He is eleven points behind van der Haar in fourth place.

Here’s how the race went:

After a rather leisurely first half-lap, van der Poel got serious in the second half of the course. Only van Aert was able to keep up with the Dutchman in the technical passages – on the first finish passage, it took 19 seconds for the peloton to pass.

Midway through lap two, van Aert overtook van der Poel for the first time. At the back, Vanthourenhout tore the peloton apart. He broke away from the rest with Quinten Hermans (Tormans CX) and Pidcock. Sweeck, van der Haar and Niels Vandeputte (Alpecin – Deceuninck) also closed in as the two Belgians disagreed with the Briton.

The race situation has not changed for the moment. Midway through the fourth of nine laps, Joris Nieuwenhuis (Baloise – Trek Lions) caught up with the chasing sextet. Due to a driving error by Hermans, however, he, the Belgian himself and van der Haar were held back a little later, so the group broke up. Pidcock acknowledged the situation, increased the pressure and shook off Vandeputte. He also prevented van der Haar and Co. from returning.

At the start of the sixth lap, van der Haar, with Hermans and Vandeputte on the rear wheel, managed to join the chasing trio. Nieuwenhuis, on the other hand, fell by the wayside, shortly after Hermans also burst through the high speed of Pidcock, who now slowly but surely pulled away from his companions. But all this was happening far behind the leading duo, who were spinning alone.

The final had now started, and the pressure was mounting on all fronts, including in the leading group, where the two riders were now attacking each other. At the start of the semi-final, van der Haar and Vanthourenhout caught up with Pidcock, who was in third place. Sweeck, on the other hand, had to pass and was now sixth ahead of Hermans and Nieuwenhuis.

Van der Haar immediately succeeded, which caused Vanthourenhout to lose. The calm before the storm now reigned among the leaders. They entered the final lap together 27 seconds ahead of van der Haar and Pidcock. Van der Poel was the first to tackle the decisive technical part of the course. He attacked immediately. However, he was only able to get away from van Aert by a few meters. When the Dutchman made a mistake on a short climb and had to get off his bike, the Belgian overtook him. However, Van der Poel stayed on his rear wheel, which he was able to hold on to the long straight. Van Aert started sprinting first and when the Alpecin pro did the same, he slipped off the pedal again. The way was clear for van Aert. Van der Haar was better than Pidcock in the final and finished third.

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