On Saturday afternoon, Joris Nieuwenhuis impressively won the Superprestige in Merksplas. He quickly gained a lead and stayed on track for the victory throughout the race. As a result, the Dutchman won his first ever major cyclocross race. 27-year-old Nieuwenhuis was obviously very pleased with this. "It's my first televised cross race win with the pros, so of course I am tremendously satisfied," he told IDLProCycling.com.
In the first few rounds, Niels Vandeputte (Alpecin-Deceuninck) was able to offer impressive resistance to Nieuwenhuis, especially in the technical sections in the woods where the Belgian was able to make up some time. "Fortunately, as the race progressed, I also became more confident," Nieuwenhuis explained. "I had built up such a lead that I could comfortably find my own lines there. The guys behind me, on the other hand, felt the pressure from others who were in pursuit, making it easier for them to make a mistake."
Nieuwenhuis navigated the mud beautifully during the last few laps and made virtually no mistakes. From a technical perspective, he rode perfectly and made hardly any errors. Yet, his confidence in the victory only came quite late into the race. "I think it was in the last two rounds, when I didn’t see anyone as I looked back. That's when I knew it was good and realized I was going to win. I was even able to ride a bit more relaxed then because I was also thinking about tomorrow," he referred to the World Cup race in Troyes.
Now free from lower back pain, Nieuwenhuis wants to compete with Van Aert and Van der Poel
The Baloise-Trek Lions rider performed admirably on the tough course. "There were very tough sections, but also technical sections. I actually quite enjoy that combination." Nieuwenhuis said he had not been feeling completely fresh in recent weeks, suffering a lot from back pain. That pain was not there today. "There was a huge difference compared to the other races of the last few weeks. The pain really impacted me a lot. Not today, and to then win gives a lot of confidence for the future."
What does the victory around Merksplas mean for Nieuwenhuis' status? When asked whether he can measure up to the absolute cyclocross elite in his current form, the Dutchman mainly spoke about whether the back pain would flare up again. "I don’t know exactly when those other guys will all be there. We will see how things go again tomorrow," Nieuwenhuis said, looking ahead to Sunday afternoon.
Nieuwenhuis firm on UCI statements: "Then Van der Poel and Van Aert would never be allowed to ride a World Cup again"
The winner also responded to the statements of David Lappartient and the UCI press release about the World Cup. "It's a tough issue. I understand why they say it, but it's just not feasible for us to race so many cyclocross events. I really don’t think that decision will happen because then Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert would never be allowed to ride a World Championship again. We, as cyclocross riders, really need to look together at how we can solve this problem, for instance, by coming up with a calendar proposal that works for all parties. That way, the sport remains possible for guys like us who start here, wanting to ride everything."