Wout van Aert emerged victorious from another battle of the cyclocross ‘big three’ at the Superprestige Diegem night race in Belgium on Wednesday evening.
It was Van Aert’s second victory in a matter of days over his rivals after winning the Superprestige Heusden-Zolder on Tuesday.
Van Aert capitalised on an error from Tom Pidcock in the final corner of the circuit's decisive staircase to take the victory, with Pidcock in second and Mathieu van der Poel finishing 33 seconds behind in third place.
Spectators were treated to a spectacular race between the three cyclocross galacticos, but with Van der Poel losing momentum in the final lap, the race came down to a two-up duel between Van Aert and reigning world champion Pidcock.
The British rider led Van Aert into the course's final lap as the two were locked head to head, with barely anything appearing to separate them.
In the end it came down to a slight error from Pidcock which gave Van Aert a decisive gap to then push on for the victory.
After coming across the line in first place, Van Aert explained that earlier moves from his rival Mathieu van der Poel had left him thinking the victory was out of reach.
“Today has shown again that it is close together,” Van Aert said. “The sand was my pain point in the beginning and that started playing in my head. I actually gave up and thought Mathieu had gone flying. But after that I still had Mathieu in sight. The race started back and I started to believe in it again.”
Reflecting back on the race, Pidcock admitted that he could only marvel at Van Aert’s speed in the closing stages as the Belgian disappeared up the stairs before sprinting to victory.
"I thought the last time I went over him, I was a bit complacent. I had the lead into the final stairs, and Wout came passed me in that last bit before the final bridge, so at that point, I was never going to beat him. He ran up those stairs and jumped on his bike before I even looked up. It was a shame I couldn't pull it off," Pidcock said.
PUCK PIETERSE DOMINATES TO TAKE VICTORY IN WOMEN’S RACE
Meanwhile in the women’s race, Puck Pieterse of Alpecin-Deceuninck was able to relax a little more than Van Aert as she faced a less challenging battle to take the victory in the women’s race.
Pieterse pushed on in the first lap of the course and never let up to take a resounding win. Shirin van Anrooij of Baloise Trek Lions finished in second, 30 seconds back on Pieterse with Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado in third place.
Afterwards in a post-race interview, Pieterse admitted that at one point she felt Van Anrooij was a little too close for comfort.
"At a certain point, I noticed that Shirin was getting close, and I started to stress...I decided to go full steam ahead," she said. “I decided not to hesitate anymore and to go into the last two laps full gas, I couldn’t ride in the sandbox, and I know Shirin is good in the sand. But then I was able to pull away again.”
"Sometimes, I'm looking forward to it so much, and I start a little too hard, then you just have to keep going,” she added.
Great Britain’s Zoe Bäckstedt came home in seventh place, just under two minutes behind Pieterse.
Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1