The opening round of the Bpost Bank Trophy in Ronse, Belgium proved to be yet another happy hunting ground for 21-year-old Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace). He managed to burst away from Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games), Lars van der Haar (Giant-Alpecin) and Sven Nys (Crelan-AA Drink) in the final lap to take victory. It was the fifth consecutive win for Van Aert. The young Belgian now leads all the major cyclo-cross series.
"Leading all the rankings after one month of racing is not what I expected ahead of the season. Today I had to dig deep to hold off Kevin. I wasn't enjoying the same sensations of the previous weeks and struggled to follow. A win after an exciting race is very satisfying but hopefully I'll find the sensations back from the previous races," Van Aert told Sporza.
The win from Van Aert was somewhat unexpected as he was a shadow of the man who blew away the opposition in the previous races. Nevertheless he featured up front straight from the start where Lars van der Haar took the initiative together with Pauwels.
The Dutchman picked up 15 bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint in the second lap. Pauwels was second and scored 10 seconds, just ahead of Van Aert who took five. During the third and fourth lap Nys and Michael Vanthourenhout (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) bridged up.
Halfway through the nine-lap long race the pace dropped at the front and many other riders returned to the fold. A crowd-appreciated attack from veteran Nys in the fifth lap turned out to be decisive as four riders gapped the rest of the field. The leaders were Nys, Van der Haar, Pauwels and Van Aert. The latter seemed to struggle but somehow stood tall despite a surprise attack from Van der Haar.
When hitting the final lap Van Aert moved to the front and set his own pace. He increased the pace and dropped Van der Haar and Nys. Pauwels struggled and closed down a small gap. A few moments later Van Aert opened up the gas on an asphalted climb and Pauwels' engine blew up. When crossing the line he raised his right hand, indicating with his fingers how long he has been unbeaten, before feeling the pain of his effort and collapsing on his handlebars.
"In the final lap I played it smart by taking the lead. In third position you suffer just as hard but you always have to close down small gaps. I won by playing it smart. That climb is something I often do on training. I heard the MC say that Pauwels was dropped but when I looked back he still was very close so that was a bummer. I managed to continue my effort until the finish line," Van Aert said.
Runner-up Pauwels was pleased with his performance and explained he was on his limit before reaching the climb.
"He was better on the previous climb so I already had to close down a gap. He had more left in his tank. I was able to fight for the victory until the end so that's good," Pauwels said. Third-placed Van Aert and fourth-placed Nys were both caught by surprise when they were dropped on the final lap. "I don't know when they got the gap. I closed it down but then it was there again. I thought I was the strongest man in the race but apparently that wasn't the case. It's good to see we're coming close to beating him [Van Aert]," Van der Haar said.
Nys claimed he was taking it too easy in the final lap. "With these legs I should've been on the wheels until the line. I should not have positioned myself in fourth place. I thought I was good on the wheel of Lars and I wondered whether he was playing poker or not. It's been too long since I won a race so I'm not enough of a killer right now," Nys said.
Young riders Jens Adams (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace), Tim Merlier (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) and Gianni Vermeersch (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) were best of the rest at nearly a minute down on the winner. Thijs van Amerongen (Telenet-Fidea), a strong riding Michael Boros (BKCP-Powerplus) and Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) completed the top-10. Belgian champion Klaas Vantornout (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) only managed eleventh place.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Wout Van Aert (Bel)||0:59:06|
|2||Kevin Pauwels (Bel)||0:00:04|
|3||Lars Van Der Haar (Ned)||0:00:08|
|4||Sven Nys (Bel)||0:00:11|
|5||Jens Adams (Bel)||0:00:53|
|6||Tim Merlier (Bel)||0:00:56|
|7||Gianni Vermeersch (Bel)||0:00:57|
|8||Thijs Van Amerongen (Ned)|
|9||Michael Boros (Cze)||0:01:00|
|10||Tom Meeusen (Bel)||0:01:05|
|11||Klaas Vantornout (Bel)||0:01:18|
|12||Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel)||0:01:19|
|13||Julien Taramarcaz (Swi)|
|14||Stan Godrie (Ned)||0:01:20|
|15||Rob Peeters (Bel)||0:01:24|
|16||Marcel Meisen (Ger)||0:01:30|
|17||Laurens Sweeck (Bel)||0:01:37|
|18||Toon Aerts (Bel)||0:01:53|
|19||Radomir Simunek (Cze)||0:01:55|
|20||Diether Sweeck (Bel)||0:02:34|
|21||Niels Wubben (Ned)||0:03:22|
|22||Jim Aernouts (Bel)||0:03:47|
|23||Javier Ruiz De Larrinaga Ibanez (Spa)||0:04:06|
|24||Sven Vanthourenhout (Bel)||0:04:09|
|25||Vinnie Braet (Bel)||0:04:14|
|26||David Van Der Poel (Ned)||0:04:39|
|27||Patrick Van Leeuwen (Ned)||0:04:57|
|28||Jan Denuwelaere (Bel)||0:04:59|
|29||Quincy Vens (Bel)|
|30||Kenneth Van Compernolle (Bel)|
|31||Élie Regost (Fra)|