The first round of the 2023-2024 Superprestige series in Overijse, Belgium, was a fine contest between four riders. A crash in the final 500 meters took Thibau Nys out of contention and Eli Iserbyt earned the victory and first series lead.
There were no Van Aert and World champion van der Poel at Overijse, but last season’s Superprestige titlist Lars van der Haar, 2022-2023 X2O Badkamers Trofee winner Iserbyt, reigning World Cup champ Laurens Sweeck and last Sunday’s World Cup opener victor Nys were all in the house.
Nys led up the steps that arrived soon after the start on Lap 1. Winner of two 2022-2023 rounds, Iserbyt grabbed the reins. Sweeck didn’t have a good start. There was a long, continuous string for the first three minutes. Nys returned to the front as the train started to break up. Ten chaps made up the front group. Swiss rider Kevin Kuhn blazed the trail, completing the first 2.77-km lap in 7:28.
The front group grew again at the start of Lap 2 of 8. Nys suffered his first crash when Iserbyt attacked. Kuhn was the closest pursuer, six seconds in arrears at the end of the circuit.
Kuhn received company on Lap 3. Michael Vanthourenhout, Iserbyt’s teammate, was among those who tagged along. It started to rain.
The Kuhn-Vanthourenhout chase group continued to swell during Lap 4, and now contained Nys. Iserbyt pitted. Nys brought new impetus to the chase, and soon he was clear of the others with van der Haar, Kuypers and Vanthourenhout. At the midway point of the race, Iserbyt was at 29:56.
Nys was doing all the pushing in the chase group on Lap 5, threatening to unhitch Kuypers and van der Haar. The gap to Iserbyt started to shrink. Van der Haar was the first to grab Iserbyt.
Van der Haar, Iserbyt, Nys and Vanthourenhout headed into Lap 6 together, with Kuypers trying to bridge. As the sun lit the course, the quartet matched each other’s surges. It was Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal vs Baloise Trek Lions. Vanthourenhout crossed the line first.
Vanthourenhout was the only one in the foursome who didn’t pit on the penultimate lap. This gave him the opportunity to push clear of the others. First Van der Haar and then Nys did the chasing. Nys was two seconds back when he heard the bell. Van der Haar and Iserbyt were seven seconds back.
They reformed early in the bell lap. Iserbyt attacked. Van der Haar began to…