The Superprestige series kicks off this weekend in Gieten, Netherlands and ends in Middelkerke, Belgium on February 15th, 2020. As usual, the series is made up of eight races. One race is in the Netherlands and the other seven are in Belgium. Last year Mathieu van der Poel won all eight races and the overall. It was his third straight series win. Toon Aerts finished second and Lars van der Haar finished a distant third.
Here are five things you need to know before the Superprestige kicks off this weekend:
The schedule is the same.
The 2019/20 Superprestige series remains the same as it did last season. The only difference is Gavere is before Ruddervoorde.
Gieten kicks off the season on Sunday. The course traverses through the woods and has a pair of extend sand sections. It is one of the few races where the riders literally ride on the shores of a lake. The series then heads back to Belgium for a round in Boom. The course in Boom is very punchy and this year they climb directly up the side of a hill instead of on a cobblestone road. On October 27th the race heads to Gavere, which seems to always be a muddy course. Amazingly this is the 42nd time this race has occurred. Ruddevoorde is the next stop for the series. The traditional Belgian course is punctuated by three large hills that the riders traverse multiple times.
Zonhoven hosts the fifth round of the series in December. Perhaps the second most famous race in the series, Zonhoven features a massive sand bowl that the riders ride up and down two times per lap. Towards the end of December Diegem hosts the sixth race of the series. Arguably the most famous race in the Superpestige, the urban night time race is always a fan favorite. After another long break the series wraps up in February with a round in Hoogstraten and Middelkerke. Often overlooked because they take place after worlds, these two races regularly produce a great amount of excitement and action.
The streak will end.
All signs indicate that Mathieu van der Poel will return to action on November 1st for Koppenberg cross. That means the first Superprestige race he will do is on November 3rd in Ruddervoorde. Van der Poel hasn’t lost a Superprestige race since Wout van Aert won the round in Gavere in 2017. In that race Toon Aerts was second and van der Poel was third. Van der Poel only lost one other round last season and has won the overall in four out of the last five editions.
This means that van der Poel will miss the first three rounds of the series. In addition to ending his streak of 11 straight wins, it will greatly impact his ability to win the overall (more on that later). The last person to win the overall not named van der Poel was Wout van Aert in 2015/16. Van Aert is also out of action leaving the series wide open. Going back to the 2005/06 season no other overall winner still races.
You can’t miss a round and win the overall.
The Superprestige offers very few points. Only the top-15 riders get points and they are only separated by a single point. First place gets 15 points, second 14, third 13 and so on. By comparison the EKZ CrossTour offers points down to 35th place, with everyone after that receiving one point. The points are top heavy with first place getting 100 points, second 80, and third 70. The points do tighten up a bit with fifth place getting 50 points, then it decreases by two down to 35th.
If we do some quick math let’s say one rider (Rider A) wins two races and another rider (Rider B) finishes second in those races. In the Superprestige, Rider A would have 30 points with Rider B only two points behind with 28. The same scenario in the EKZ CrossTour would have Rider A with 200 points and Rider B with 160, a 40 point difference. As you can see, the Superprestige is a lot tighter of a series. We believe it is one of the most competitive and hardest series to win.
Back to our main point about missing a round and winning the overall. With the point totals so tight, it’s virtually impossible to miss a race and still land in the top three, let alone win the overall. Last season Wout van Aert missed three rounds. In the five races he did he finished second three times, and fourth and fifth once. He ended up fourth overall, 20 points behind third place and 54 points behind first. No rider in the top three missed a race and no rider, aside from van Aert and Michael Vanthournhout (sixth overall), missed more than one race.
No one can stop Sanne Cant.
Cant has won six straight Superprestige overall titles. In 2011/12 Cant finished second overall to Nikki Brammeier, who beat her by ten points. During the 2012/13 season Cant beat Pavla Havlikova by a whopping 39 points. Her narrowest margin of victory came in 2017/18 where she beat Maud Kaptheijns by a mere two points.
Unlike Mathieu van der Poel, Cant doesn’t win by sheer domination. In fact she averages about three victories per season in the series. Her best season was in 2012/13 when she won six out of the eight races. That year she finished second in Diegem and skipped the round in Spa-Francorchamps. Her ability to win the overall year in and year out is her ability to finish in the top-three. In fact, in the past seven season Cant has finished outside the top-three on only five occasions in 48 races. That’s a podium percentage of 90%.
Cant raced this past weekend in Meulebeke and Pelt. She finished seventh and fifth respectively. Perhaps not the start she was looking for, but on Sunday in Gieten, odds are she will podium.
There will be surprises all season long.
While this may be the most obvious statement of the year, the Superprestige is already bringing plenty of surprises for the first round in Gieten. A lot of the focus will turn to Mathieu van der Poel when he returns to cross in November (Ruddervorrde). While that’s not a surprise, it’s definitely something everyone will be talking about. And if Wout van Aert returns (we are thinking Diegem at best) that will also be a bit of a surprise to see what kind of form he has.
A we mentioned, Gieten is already delivering plenty of surprises. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that Annemiek van Vleuten will be on the start line in the women’s race. The newly crowned World Champion last raced a cross race at Gieten in 2017. She finished 29th and was the last woman to finish on the lead lap. While we don’t expect her to win, we can’t wait to see what she brings to the table.
Lars Boom isn’t necessarily a surprise. The former World Champion races a few cross races every winter. However, since the 2008/09 season, Boom has shifted his focus to the road.. Since then he races about five cross races in the winter. With his team folding at the end of the season, it appears Boom is kicking his cross racing into high gear. Boom has already raced in Meulebeke and Pelt. He will race on Saturday in Kruibeke before racing in Gieten on Sunday. He’s then scheduled to race Kermiscross in Ardooie and Kiremko Nacht van Woerden. His schedule after that isn’t clear, but he hasn’t race this many races since 08/09. It remains to be seen what the future holds for him, but it’s great to see him racing a full cross program again.