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After an exciting clash of the titans, Van Aert distanced Pauwels, Nys and van der Haar to take a solo win in the Superprestige race in Gavere; Nys beat Pauwels in the sprint for second and Van Aert extended his overall lead

Photo: Feltet.dk

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15.11.2015 @ 16:18 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After two second places last weekend, Wout van Aert (Vastgoedservice) returned to his dominant position at the top of the cyclo-cross hierarchy when he emerged as the strongest in an exciting clash of the titans at the Superprestige race in Gavere. Launching a strong attack in the sixth lap, he rode away from the trio of Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb), Sven Nys (Crelan) and Lars van der Haar (Giant-Alpecin) and constantly increased his advantage to take a dominant solo win and extend his overall lead in the Superprestige series. Nys beat Pauwels in the battle for second.

 

Wout van Aert has been dominating the cyclo-cross scene in 2015 and has been unbeatable in most of the races. Hence, last weekend was a strange one for the Belgian talent as he had to settle for second in both the European championships and the Superprestige race in Ruddervoorde.

 

The defeat in the former race had been a huge disappointment for Van Aert who had been looking like the winner when he made his usual solo move in the finale. However, he had had a rare breakdown and was passed by Lars van der Haar close to the finish and one day later he was up against a superior Kevin Pauwels.

 

The two defeats had given his rivals a small hope that the playing field had been levelled out but after today’s Superprestige race in Gavere, that suggestion has been proved wrong. With another dominant display of strength, Van Aert returned to his winning ways in what was the first really muddy cross of the season.

 

The heavy conditions suited Sven Nys who was finally favoured by the course and it was the veteran who applied the pressure in the first part of the race. He was joined by Lars van der Haar while Van Aert briefly found himself on the back foot.

 

Van Aert quickly got back up to speed and slowly the in-form Pauwels also rejoined the leaders to make it a front quartet at the end of the third lap. From there, the race evolved into an exciting clash of the titans.

 

Nys and van der Haar both briefly managed to ride away and Van Aert even found himself getting distanced around the halfway point. However, the hopes of his rivals were quickly dashed when he hit the front in the sixth lap.

 

Nys and Pauwels managed to respond to his first attack but after van der Haar had rejoined the group, he went again. This time there was no response from his three companions and from there it evolved into another dominant solo performance from the Vastgoedservice captain.

 

The attention quickly turned to the battle for second after Pauwels had hit the front and distanced van der Haar who was clearly the weakest of the quartet. Pauwels put Nys under pressure in the final two laps but the stubborn veteran managed to stay with his rival. Hence, it came down to a sprint for second and here Nys surprised by beating his faster companion.

 

With the win, Van Aert again extended his lead in the Superprestige series. He now has 59 points (of a maximum of 60 points available) while Nys is second with 51 points and Pauwels third with 50 points. The next round takes place on December 13 in Francorchamps. Before then, the riders will turn their attention to Saturday’s GP Hasselt and next Sunday’s World Cup race in Koksijde where world champion Mathieu van der Poel is expected to make his season debut.

 

How it unfolded:

One of the oursiders, Tom Meeusen, got his race off to a disastrous start as he was held up behind a crash as soon as the flag was dropped. The tumble also set Julien Taramarcaz back while David van der Poel sprinted out of the starting gate.

 

Van der Poel was passed by Wout van Aert and Laurens Sweeck who managed to separate themselves in the first difficult section of the circuit. Lars van der Haar bridged the gap while Sven Nys found himself in a chase group a little further. However, the veteran slowly managed to bring things back together.

 

Like in Wednesday’s Jaarmarktcross, Nys planned to ride aggressively from the start so he went straight to the front, slowly opening a gap. Van der Haar managed to join the veteran while Sweeck found himself in lone pursuit. Kevin Pauwels and Wout Van Aert were caught out in the first big group.

 

Van Aert slowly got up to speed and managed to pass Sweeck to rejoin the front duo. Pauwels was riding at his own speed and managed to make the junction as they approached the finish line for the third time. At the end of the third lap, the leading quartet had their advantage over nearest chasers Sweeck and Vanthourenhout to 25 seconds while Klaas Vantornout and Tim Merlier found themselves a little further back.

 

Nys continued to apply the pressure in the fourth lap and slowly managed to distance his rivals. As the veteran rode away, Pauwels took over the pace-setting in the chase group as van der Haar started to fade. The in-form Sunweb leader managed to distance Van Aert and with van der Haar hanging on for dear life, he made it back to Nys as they approached the end of the lap.

 

Van Aert may have had a mechanical as a bike change allowed him to easily return to the front group and he went straight to the front to lead the front group across the line at the start of the fifth lap. There nearest chasers were Sweeck, Vanthourenhout and Tim Merlier who were 36 seconds behind, with Klaas Vantornout following just as few seconds further back.

 

While the Belgian champion joined his three fellow chasers, Van Aert continued to ride on the front but he was not going full gas. Instead, it was van der Haar who launched the next attack and the European champion slowly managed to distance his companions as Van Aert was unable to hold onto his wheel.

 

Van Aert again made a bike change and as soon as he was riding again, he upped the pace. With Nys and Pauwels glued to his wheel, he quickly reeled van der Haar in and the quartet was back together as they reached the finish of the fifth lap, with Van Aert leading his rivals across the line. The four chasers were losing ground and had now been distanced by 48 seconds.

 

Van der Haar set the pace in the first part of the sixth lap during which there was a bit of a ceasefire until shortly after the pit. Here Van Aert made a big attack but Nys was quick to react, refusing to give the Vastgoedservice rider an inch. Van der Haar briefly lost contact but as Van Aert again slowed down, he rejoined the group and moved straight into second position.

 

Van Aert only slowed down briefly and he quickly accelerated again. Unsurprisingly, van der Haar was unable to respond and this time Nys and Pauwels were no match either. Van Aert quickly got a big gap and even had time to make a bike change without losing much of his advantage.

 

In the penultimate lap, Pauwels took over the pace-setting in the chase group and unsurprisingly van der Haar soon fell off the pace. Nys managed to hang onto the Sunweb captain but at the start of the final lap, the pair had been distanced by 23 second and were constantly losing ground. Van der Haar found himself around 17 seconds further adrift.

 

While Van Aert went into cruise control to avoid any stupid mistakes, the final lap was all about the battle for second place. Pauwels was clearly the strongest and constantly tried to put Nys under pressure. However, the veteran was not giving up and always managed to get back whenever he had lost a few metres.

 

While Van Aert had plenty of time to celebrate his win, Nys and Pauwels prepared themselves to sprint for second. Nys’ stubbornness paid off as he managed to pass the Sunweb captain to claim second. Van der Haar rolled across the line in fourth while Vantornout and Sweeck had distanced Vanthourenhout and Merlier in the final lap and it was the latter who won the sprint for fifth.

 

Result:

1. Wout van Aert

2. Sven Nys

3. Kevin Pauwels

4. Lars van der Haar

5. Laurens Sweeck

6. Klaas Vantornout

7. Michael Vanthourenhout

8. Tim Merlier

9. Rob Peeters

10. Michael Boros

 

Overall standings:

1. Wout van Aert 59

2. Sven Nys 51

3. Kevin Pauwels 50

4. Lars van der Haar 47

5. Klaas Vantornout 33

6. Laurens Sweeck 33

7. Rob Peeters 28

8. Tim Merlier 27

9. Tom Meeusen 17

10 Corne van Kessel 15

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