The Gieten cyclocross race kicked off the Superprestige series and it brought some spectacular racing.
Wout van Aert seemed to have gotten away with the least amount of pressure from the field. He pulled away from the start and never looked back. Clearly, his recent collarbone injury didnít have a massive effect on him.
The womenís race was interesting, for two reasons. Firstly, according to the UCIís rule book, the womenís races must precede the elite menís race. That clearly wasnít the case here, the Ďdamen’ race started at 2:45pm, the Ďbeloftení at 4:30pm and then the elite men at 5:30pm. Thatís not what the guidebook says and as far as I know, Helen Wyman has already been raising this issue to the UCI Cyclocross Committee.
The racing itself ended up being rather exciting. Sanne Cant had a strong start and it seemed that sheíll win the race easily, but Ellen Van Loy and Sophie de Boer stayed with her for the better part of the race.
Elle Anderson rode her first race as a member of her new team and she rode well but the jet leg prevented her to leave her mark on the race.
Another new-old rider was Sanne van Paassen, who was forced to sit out the whole 2013/2014 season after suffering an injury on her left quads. With no UCI points in her bag, she started from the back of the race but she moved up to fifth pretty quickly. She chased Anderson for a while and managed to pull away and grab fourth place. Clearly, it wasnít the result she had expected because she crossed the line heavily sobbing and it took her some time to calm down.
On the front, Van Loy gave Cant a run for her money and the winner was decided in an all-out sprint between the two, of which Cant emerged victorious. This was her second win, after last weekís in Neerpelt.
After two laps, the elite menís race looked rather straightforward. After the usual early attacks, Lars van der Haar pulled away and it seemed that nobody could respond. Last year, in his first season among the elite men, he lost to Niels Albert after a gripping battle, and he was keen on establishing a lead that allowed him to ride comfortably to the win.
By half way through, van der Haar built up a comfortable lead and it appeared that Kevin Pauwels, Mathieu van der Poel and Sven Nys, who joined the lead group after a forgettable start, were just racing for second.
I have talked about this many times: it is rather difficult to see how the race unfolds when you view it solely from behind a camera. However, today, I was able to follow the dynamic of the race, how van der Haar built up his lead and how it started to dwindle in the last three lap between him and the 19 (!) year old Mathieu van der Poel. Van der Poel overtook van der Haar in the last lap and won the race, his first win among the elite men.
Van der Haar joined the elite men in 2012/2013, technically still an U23 rider. He said he needed challenges and van der Poel is following a similar path – only two years earlier. He wonít be able to compete at the Worlds and at the World Cups among the elite men but elsewhere, we should expect him in the thick of the action. And his hairdo is still the coolest.
If you havenít seen it yet, check out my coffee table album about the 2013/2014 cyclocross season. It is an exclusive chronicle of the 13/14 season on 240 pages.