Tom Pidcock produced a late burst of speed and a perfectly-timed shoulder bump to catch and pass Eli Iserbyt and so finish second behind Mathieu van der Poel at the night-time Superprestige Diegem race.
Van der Poel dominated yet again to win his fifth consecutive race of Kerstperiode of cyclocross racing but Pidcock battled to finish second, the best of the rest, convinced that he could get better.
“It was nice that he waited so long,” Pidcock joked about Van der Poel’s tactic of waiting for the fifth lap before making his blistering attack in the sand.
“Everyone knew that Mathieu was going to attack in the sand, but I wasn’t a very good sand rider. I tried everywhere, the left and then the right to find the right line but never found it. Mathieu is a step above everyone this year.”
Pidcock kept his best for the last lap and his final shot at passing Iserbyt.
He was a few lengths behind before the bridge but used a sprint and speed on the descent to close the gap. He then dived down Iserbyt’s left on the final muddy straight.
The two bumped shoulders as they fought for the front but Pidcock had slightly more speed and more bravado and got in front. He ran up the last flight of steps and sprinted to the finish line, 49 seconds after van der Poel.
“I really fought with Eli Iserbyt until the last metres, for second place behind Mathieu van der Poel,” Pidcock said post-race. “I knew that before we turned onto the last straight. I had to be in second position. That’s why I went so fiercely.”
Iserbyt accepted third place, on the podium with van der Poel and Pidcock, knowing it secured him overall victory in the Superprestige series.
“It’s a shame that I didn’t come second, but that third place turned out to be enough to become the overall winner of the Superprestige,” he said. “I actually didn’t expect Pidcock to come back anymore. I had a gap on the bridge but he must have given it his all at the end. We entered the last corner shoulder to shoulder but he had a little more speed.
“The overall classification is slightly more important to me. That’s done now and so, I can already check something off.
Van der Poel will be in action on Friday at the Azencross in Loenhout, while Iserbyt and Pidcock enjoy a day off before Saturday’s Hulst World Cup when van der Poel, Pidcock and Wout Van Aert face off yet again.
Van der Poel appears to be on another planet, but Pidcock refused to accept defeat, especially after a recent illness and a lighter cyclocross calendar after the Ineos Grenadiers December training camp.
“There will be several more races where I’ll battle with Mathieu. Saturday in Hulst and then Koksijde, Zonhoven and Benidorm follow for me. We will still have some interesting races this season,” he concluded.