Van Aert wins Koppenbergcross

Pauwels second and van der Haar third

With a fierce acceleration halfway through the race, the famous Koppenbergcross, near Oudenaarde, Belgium was decided in favour of in-form Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace). The 21-year-old Belgian rider strengthens his lead in the time-based classification of the Bpost bank trophy series over Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) up to 55 seconds.

Last year Van Aert won after a much-discussed sprint against Sven Nys in which a team-mate disturbed the build-up. “Today I won by a big margin. It was good to have more time to enjoy the win. It’s fun to tackle tough courses like this one when your form is great because you know gaps will automatically be created,” Van Aert told Sporza.

Once again Pauwels was runner-up to Van Aert, just like during the first Bpo-round in Ronse. Dutch rider Lars van der Haar (Giant-Alpecin) captured the final podium spot. Ninefold-winner Sven Nys (Crelan-AA Drink) waved adieu to his Koppenbergcross in the final lap where he was forced to abandon the race with chain problems while battling for fourth place with Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea).

Before the acceleration from Van Aert the big guns kept quiet on the Koppenberg. After each acceleration the pace dropped again and, as a result, a group of more than 20 riders was still more or less together. Van Aert showed his strength a first time at the intermediate sprint during the second lap. He took 15 bonus seconds.

Van der Haar received 10 seconds for his second place and Thijs van Amerongen (Telenet-Fidea) took five seconds. The pace dropped again after the sprint and Van Amerongen took advantage and jumped away with Diether Sweeck (Era-Murprotec). The duo collected a lead of nearly half a minute. During the fourth lap the chase group was so crowded that several big names were suddenly slipping away to the back. Van der Haar didn’t hesitate and upped the pace with three more riders on his wheel.

“I was feeling very bad while Wout was so good,” Van der Haar told Sporza. “It was a very weird race, which is no surprise because the course is very hard so everybody is afraid. There was a bit of chaos and suddenly I rode in front. I figured I should keep going because that pushing isn’t fun either.”

A Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace train brought Van Aert back by the end of the fourth lap but Nys and Pauwels were further back. Van Aert didn’t wait and when climbing the Koppenberg on the fifth lap he opened up the gas. In no time he dropped his rivals and passed the two leaders before coming over the top of the Koppenberg. “There was not much space in the group. You know that there will be gaps if someone accelerates. I kept going and immediately had a good gap,” Van Aert said.

After completing the fifth lap Van Aert had a small gap over Sweeck and Van Amerongen while Van der Haar and Meeusen trailed him by 16 seconds. Nys and Pauwels were seven more seconds down on the eventual winner.

“I was sitting far back when he rode away. I didn’t even see where he attacked. He kept riding away from us so he must’ve been stronger. I don’t think there’s ever been someone riding faster than Wout Van Aert nowadays. It’s hard to compare but he’s very fast,” Pauwels told Sporza.

In the final laps Van Aert extended his lead mainly in the uphill sections. Van der Haar moved into second place but was joined by Pauwels. “Unsurprisingly he didn’t co-operate but I kept riding. The victory was gone so I didn’t care whether I finished second or third,” Van der Haar said. Meeusen and Nys battled for fourth place. In the final lap Pauwels powered away from Van der Haar on the final uphill metres of the course. Meeusen easily captured fourth place when Nys was forced to abandon his final Koppenbergcross with a chain problem. Van Amerongen finished fifth at 1:30 from Van Aert, well ahead of Diether Sweeck who managed to claim a strong top-10 result after his brave early-race attack with Van Amerongen.

In the time-based classification of the Bpo-trophy Van Aert now leads by 55 seconds over Pauwels. Van der Haar is third at one minute. Van Amerongen is best of the rest at 3:12 ahead of Meeusen who’s at 3:21. Nys received a five-minutes time penalty for not finishing the race and he’s out of contention for the overall victory after only two rounds. Also Belgian champion Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) is out of contention. Vantornout crashed hard on his shoulder last week in Zonhoven and didn’t start the Koppenbergcross.

Full Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Wout Van Aert (Bel) Vastgoedservice - Golden Palace Cycling Team1:00:35 
2Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Sunweb - Napoleon Games Cycling Team0:00:31 
3Lars Van Der Haar (Ned) Team Giant - Alpecin0:00:37 
4Tom Meeusen (Bel) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team0:01:26 
5Thijs Van Amerongen (Ned) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team0:01:30 
6Diether Sweeck (Bel) Era - Murprotec0:01:42 
7Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel) Sunweb - Napoleon Games Cycling Team0:01:44 
8Julien Taramarcaz (Sui) Era - Murprotec0:01:46 
9Corne Van Kessel (Ned) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team0:01:50 
10Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Sunweb - Napoleon Games Cycling Team0:01:56 
11Toon Aerts (Bel) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team0:02:00 
12Tim Merlier (Bel) Vastgoedservice - Golden Palace Cycling Team0:02:02 
13Radomir Simunek (Czech) Era - Murprotec0:02:29 
14Ian Field (GBr) Hardgroves Cycles0:02:33 
15Laurens Sweeck (Bel) Era - Murprotec0:02:38 
16Jens Vandekinderen (Bel) Kalas-NNOF Cycling Team0:02:40 
17Jim Aernouts (Bel) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team  
18Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel) Crelan - AA Drink Team  
19Niels Wubben (Ned) Telenet Fidea Cycling Team0:03:09 
20Joeri Adams (Bel) Vastgoedservice - Golden Palace Cycling Team0:03:50 
21Michael Boros (Czech) BKCP - Corendon0:04:15 
22Yu Takenouchi (Jpn) Veranclassic -Ekoi Continental Cycling Team0:05:34 
23Jack Clarkson (GBr)0:07:23 
24Kevin Cant (Bel) Era - Murprotec  
25Niels Koyen (Bel )CCN - Metalac Cycling team  
26Edwin De Wit (Bel) Rupelspurters Boom  
27Angus Edmond (Aus)  
28Kristafs Kipurs  

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