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Van Aert returns it to Van der Poel in an ending to remember

Van Aert returns it to Van der Poel in an ending to remember

The endless story. Again, as if it were a repeat of the day before, as if they never got tired. From the first lap to the last, Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel took the controls, at the head of a squad that, with few exceptions, such as world champion Tom Pidcock, knows his place when the beasts decide to go down into the mud. They have been measured on more than 200 occasions and each one is surprising. No two are the same. Today, at the Heusden-Zolder Superprestigio, everything seemed destined for an unusual resolution, for a sprint that, in the end, did not happen as such. In the last few metres, and after a great effort immediately before taking down his nemesis, Van der Poel lost his foot on the pedal. Van Aert, who had seen him out of the corner of his eye, triumphantly entered the finish line with a little more calm, celebrating his 57th victory over the Alpecin rider. Wow two.

His last lap in Zolder will be remembered. Watts everywhere, two forces of nature capable of dominating by land, sea and air. Van der Poel in front and Van Aert behind, always about three seconds behind. Control, mutual exhaustive examination, as if they didn’t know each other yet. You can always find that specific weakness that, at the moment of truth, decides everything. Wout’s patience, defeated yesterday in the Gavere World Cup, found a reward. Mathieu, wanting to lead in the final stretch of the race, charged hard to finally break the chase. The Dutchman, however, could not. He was halfway through each attack. And, finally, that loophole appeared that, when everything is so even, ends up tipping the scales. On a wet mud climb, Van der Poel’s bike, for the second time in a row, slipped cruelly. Technical failure, of those who kill. Van Aert, who had waited so long, accelerated on his right. game over.

“It was stressful throughout the race. Mathieu opened it up and I think we both felt like we weren’t going to get away from each other today. In the second half, I was only worried about what tactic I would use. I wanted it to be a long sprint, so I thought it was better to be in second position”, analyzed Van Aert at the finish line, before going to celebrate the victory with his people, in the middle of the sunset. Last year, he already won on the circuit; Van der Poel, due to his delivery, did so continuously between 2017 and 2020. In the present Christmas binge, in direct duels, there are two wins for the Belgian (Mol and today) and two for the Dutch (Antwerp and yesterday). Give and take. insatiable.

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Van der Poel, ahead of Van Aert during the race.JASPER JACOBSAFP

Behind them, on a more earthly plane, came Lars van der Haar, now the sole leader of the general classification, and a Pidcock weighed down from the start, unable to respond to the initial attacks of his road companions. Finally, also, unable to repeat the photo of the previous day, the one of the big three on the podium, so common on these dates. He will continue to look for it tomorrow, at the Diegem Superprestige, and on Friday, to close the year, at the Loenhout Exact Cross. Today, on the fourth lap, he was already thirty seconds behind the atomic duo, with no intention of loosening up. In the sixth, already with 40″ for the bicephaly, the podium was in dispute. The rainbow jersey showed strong colors, but not enough to knock out Michael Vanthourenthout and Van der Haar, with one more dot. The third round appears in three days. Unpredictable within the foreseeable, like everything in the mud.

Heusden-Zolder Superprestige Classification

1st Wout van Aert (BEL) – 1:02:30

2nd Mathieu van der Poel (PPBB) – at 6″

3rd Lars van der Haar (PPBB) – 16″

4th Thomas Pidcock (GBR) – 20″

5th Michael Vanthourenhout (BEL) – 1:05′

15th Felipe Orts (ESP) – 2:48′

General

1st Lars van der Haar (PPBB) – 68 points

2nd Laurens Sweeck (BEL) – 63

3rd Michael Vanthourenhout (BEL) – 60

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