Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) dominated Sunday’s second round of the Superprestige series.
The victor in round one at Gieten, Van Aert did it again in Zonhoven, this time beating teammate Rob Peeters and Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) by more than a minute.
Van Aert said it wasn’t his plan to ride away with the race early on.
“The plan was to wait a little bit until the second half of the race, because it’s a really tough race to get full gas from the beginning,” he said. “But after a few laps I got to the front and, yeah, I just thought I had to run on my own pace and I directly felt that it was faster than the others. So it was my big advantage, my running skill is really good.
“After I got a few times a little gap I thought, ‘Now I don’t have to wait anymore,’ and I just made a good tempo that I could hold on for the rest of the race. After that it was just focus on the difficult parts, and I took my rest on the easy parts. It was perfect for the race like that.”
Van Aert gave it the gas about 15 minutes into the race, opening a gap coming out of the sand pit. Lars van der Haar (Giant-Alpecin) made a race of it early on, but faded, and a battle for second saw Peeters, Pauwels, van der Haar and Sven Nys (Crelan-AA Drink) all in contention as Van Aert extended his lead.
Peeters and Pauwels would be best of the rest, fighting a disputed sprint for second that the Vastgoedservice rider won.
Van der Haar found himself battling for fourth with Nys. That was a fight Nys won, with an assist from a last-lap crash by the young Dutchman. The two crossed nearly 90 seconds down on the winner.
“That last lap in the pit is impossible to describe if you have not been there,” said Van Aert. “Then you realize what you are actually doing. This is a special cross. … It gave me a kick.”
Peeters was elated to be back on the podium after a rough 2014-15 season.
“Yeah, it’s been a long time since I was able to do it,” he said. “I had a very bad year last year, but then you work very hard in the summer to get the goals like this. It felt very good.”
Peeters said Pauwels “made a little mistake” in the end, trying to squeeze through a gap that wasn’t really there, “and I just needed to ride in the right line to the finish to hold him.”
He added that he didn’t “close the door” on Pauwels.
“I could feel he was there, but I don’t need to say, ‘Hey, come on, take my second place.’ I just rode straight, didn’t intend to make him crash, and that was the only concern for me.”
Pauwels said he was content with third on the day.
“That second place was maybe possible,” he said. “When we came into the sprint I thought there was enough space between Rob and the barriers. I tried on that side, but Rob did professionally close the door a little bit. Certainly not enough for me to complain.
“I’ll settle for third place, with Wout today there was nothing more to be done.”
Van Aert now leads the Superprestige series with 30 points. Van der Haar sits second with 25, followed by Nys with 24.
The next round of the series will be November 8 in Ruddervoorde.
Editor’s note: Dan Seaton contributed to this report.