Joris Nieuwenhuis achieved the biggest win of his career by taking Saturday’s mucky fourth round of the Superprestige series, the “Strawberry cross” in Merksplas, Belgium. The Baloise Trek Lion was the strongest on a brutal course, but the engrossing part of the race was the podium fight between other three riders.
Going into Saturday’s race Eli Iserbyt led the series by 14 points over Laurens Sweeck, having won the first three rounds.
Niels Vandeputte, who has improved in every round, seized the hole shot on Lap 1 before Nieuwenhuis took over for good. Iserbyt was in Position 3 in the muddy chaos. Vandeputte and Nieuwenhuis opted out of a bike change, although Nieuwenhuis whipped off his glasses at the pit. Gaps grew between Nieuwenhuis and Vandeputte and Vandeputte and Iserbyt.
Spaniard Filipe Orts continued to pressure Iserbyt at the beginning of Lap 2. Nieuwenhuis carried on 10 seconds ahead of Vandeputte, while Iserbyt started to pull away from Orts. Orts closed it up by the line.
Vandeputte kept up his dogged pursuit on Lap 3 of 7, but he fell on a root. Iserbyt couldn’t shake the Spaniard. Sweeck was slowly making his way through the field.
A mistake on Lap 4 allowed Orts to pass Iserbyt.
On Lap 5 Orts started to yank Vandeputte closer. Of the four main players, only Nieuwenhuis maintained his gap on the penultimate lap. Iserbyt passed Orts and had designs on Vandeputte’s runner-up position.
The podium fight would come down to who would make the fewest mistakes. Iserbyt rounded Vandeputte in the middle of the bell lap and held tough.
The next round is December 2 in Boom.
2023-2024 Superprestige Series, Round 4, Merksplas
1) Joris Nieuwenhuis (The Netherlands/Baloise Trek Lions) 1:03:20
2) Eli Iserbyt (Belgium/Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) +1:36
3) Niels Vandeputte (Belgium/Alpecin-Deceuninck) +1:45