Belgian Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) won the Superprestige Cyclocross race at Spa-Francorchamps Sunday, ahead of Lars van der Haar (Giant-Shimano) and Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea).
After van der Haar slipped in the woods on the final lap, Pauwels soloed to the finish to win the fifth round of the Superprestige series, which included a new venue at the famous Spa-Francorchamps Formula One car circuit in the Wallonia region of southern Belgium.
The inaugural Spa-Francorchamps event, also called the Grand Prix de la Région Wallonne, replaced the former GP Wallone event held in Dottignies. The new course featured several steep climbs, as well as rutted mud sections that saw some riders choosing to run rather than ride the bumps.
The battle for the win was contested by Pauwels, who finished second to Wout van Aert on Saturday at the Koksijde World Cup, and van der Haar, the Dutch national champion, who sat out the Koksijde World Cup on Saturday due to illness.
Van der Haar and Pauwels led by 30 seconds with three laps remaining. Behind, a chase group came together containing Mathieu Van der Poel (BKCP-Powerplus), Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Napoleon Games), Jens Adams (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace), Meeusen, Corné Van Kessel (Telenet-Fidea), and Sven Nys (Crelan-AA Drink).
However, on the final lap, van der Haar slipped in the woods, opening the door for Pauwels to solo away. Van der Haar was quickly back on his bike, but could not close the gap so late in the race.
Meeusen, who had punctured early and was forced to run his bike to the pits, could only wonder what might have been, finishing third, while Van der Poel rode to fourth.
Adams took fifth, with Vantournout sixth, van Kessel seventh, and Nys a distant eighth.
Pauwels now leads the Superprestige series, with 63 points, tied with van der Haar (but ahead based on participations), with van der Poel third, at 62 points. Three events remain, with the final event held February 14 in Middelkerke.