Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) pulled his foot out of his pedal in the final two-up for the line at the Superprestige Heusden-Zolder handing victory to arch rival Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).
The pair of cyclo-cross Galácticos eased clear from a group of frontrunners on the very first lap of the nine-lap race. They then proceeded to duke it out for the remaining eight laps, one accelerating on one section before the other hit back later in the lap.
Van der Poel had tried a final last ditch attempt to distance the Belgian champion in a fast but rutted section in the second half of the course but van Aert clung to within a few bike lengths. When the Dutchman slipped out on a corner and had to dismount it appeared his chances were scuppered but he remounted dug deep and the pair came into the tarmacked finishing straight together.
The drama was not over though as they sprinted van der Poel’s foot came out of his pedal to and van Aert cruised to victory.
Behind them World Champion Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) came home in fourth place.
He had been shuffled back in the pack at the start and had eventually mounted an effort to bridge to the leading pair but at the start of the eighth lap Pidcock had been cough by chasers Lars van der Haar (Baloise Trek Lions), the Dutch champion, and Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal).
Pidcock and van der Haar distanced their rival Belgian and van der Haar beat Pidcock in the final sprint. It was enough for Dutchman van der Haar to take the top spot of the Superprestige series standings as his nearest challenger Laurens Sweeck (Crelan-Fristads) finished down in eighth.
Ceylin del Carmen Alvardo puts herself in Superprestige contetion
In the women’s race it was Ceylin Del Carmen Alvardo (Alpecin-Deceuninck) who accelerated away from Inge van der Heijden and Lucinda Brand on the fast but technical terrain.
The Dutchwoman moved clear of her countrywomen when she used her punchy acceleration on a uphill section.
After the race Alvardo had said shed struggled to get to the head of the field in the first couple of laps before hitting her stride.
She added: “I think I was the strongest rider in the race, I had more power on the climbs and I could use that to get rid of Van der Heijden. And on the second try, it worked.”
In winning she moved herself within three points of Superprestige series leader Denise Betsema, who came in fifth on the day.