It was a story of teammates in the eighth and final round of the Superprestige series Saturday in Middelkerke, Belgium on Sunday, as Eli Iserbyt was in position to nick the overall title from Toon Aerts but stronger teammates complicated his attempt. Aerts received more support from teammate Lars van der Haar, who was on better form, and he took the 2020-2021 title. World champion Mathieu Van der Poel, Wout Van Aert and Tom Pidcock did not race, which made for a more open race.
In the previous seven rounds, only European champion Iserbyt was a repeat winner, but he trailed Round 1 conqueror Aerts by five points, with Round 4 titlist Michael Vanthourenhout a further four points back. Since 15 points would be awarded to the winner, 14 to the runner-up and so on, Iserbyt’s only chance was for Aerts to finish five places behind him.
Iserbyt charged into the lead straight away on Lap 1, with two Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal teammates, last year’s overall champ Laurens Sweeck and Vanthourenhout, behind him. The Pauwels-Sauzen trio pulled out a 12-second gap over Aerts by the end of the lap.
Aerts, bronze medalist last week at the worlds, had work to do on Lap 2. But a slip put him even further back both on time and position.
Pauwels Sauzen continued to pour on the sauce on Lap 3 of 7, but it was the riders between Iserbyt and Aerts–like Corne van Kessel, van der Haar and Kevin Kuhn–that would be the determining factor in the 2020-2021 Superprestige series.
Bar Sweeck pushing ahead of his teammates, the situation was in stasis during Lap 4, with Aerts still sixth.
Lap 5 saw Iserbyt begin to suffer and drop away, making his teammates sit up. And yet Iserbyt was 11-seconds behind midway through the circuit. After a Vanthourenhout crash, Sweeck led solo.
Going into the penultimate lap, Aerts was sixth, his teammate van der Haar in front of him. Would van der Haar wait for Aerts? Would Sweeck and Vanthourenhout wait for Iserbyt?
Van der Haar hesitated in the middle of the planks to look for Aerts.
Van der Haar piloted Aerts through the bell lap, but once it was clear that Iserbyt was going to be third, he pulled ahead to take fifth. Sweeck’s celebration was muted and he was emotional in the after-race interview remembering his recently passed father-in-law.
Iserbyt leads Aerts by 2:46 in the X20 series with two rounds to go, Round 7 running on Sunday.
2020-2021 Superprestige series, Round 8, Middelkerke
1) Laurens Sweeck (Belgium/Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal)
2) Michael Vanthourenhout (Belgium/Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) +0:01
3) Eli Iserbyt (Belgium/Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) +0:52