Mathieu van der Poel has won on sandy courses, muddy courses and fast courses this season, and on Thursday the world champion triumphed in the Superprestige Diegem’s unique race under lights, carrying his 2023 win streak to eight. He took the Diegem race six times in a row in the latter half of last decade. With third place, Eli Iserbyt wrapped up his second Superprestige title with a race to spare. Ian Ackert was the top Canadian in 35th.
Earlier in the day, Jayden McMullen was the top Canadian in the Junior men’s race at 49th.
The Situation Before Thursday
Wout van Aert claimed his second triumph of the season in Wednesday’s sixth Superprestige round in Heusden-Zolder; Cody Scott was top Canadian in 51st. With two rounds to go, Wednesday’s runner-up Eli Iserbyt led third-place Joris Nieuwenhuis by 25 points at the top of the table. Van Aert, last year’s Diegem champ, was not racing under the lights on Wednesday. Ian Ackert, Maxime St. Onge and Fabian Merino made up the Canadian contingent.
Kevin Kuhn likes to lead races early, so he claimed the hole shot on Lap 1. Pidcock, who started in the third row, had to move up from 15th. The selection came early in the first circuit, as van der Poel, Pidcock, Iserbyt, Thibau Nys and Michael Vanthourenhout formed the lead group.
The artificially-illuminated Pidcock tried to shake van der Poel and company on Lap 2 but to no avail. The quartet was not far ahead of a chase trio containing Nieuwenhuis.
A few lesser-known riders reinforced the front group on Lap 3. After Lap 4‘s sandpit, van der Poel made his move. Vanthourenhout and Pidcock were the closest chasers. By the midway point of the race, Pidcock, Vanthourenhout and Iserbyt were eight seconds behind.
Vanthourenhout was unhitched on Lap 5. This time van der Poel didn’t have to shove riders to lap them. Pidcock tried to lose Iserbyt. Nys abandoned the race after crashing with two others.
On the penultimate lap Eli and Tom fought a spirited battle for second place 38 seconds behind the man in the rainbow jersey. Iserbyt’s acceleration at the start of the bell lap dislodged the 2022 world champion, who toiled to catch up. Pidcock and Iserbyt were reunited, and the Brit won the contest for the second step.
The final round isn’t until February 10 in Middelkerke.
2023-2024 Superprestige Series, Round 7, Diegem
1) Mathieu van der…