Toon Aerts (Telenet Fidea Lions) triumphed on the legendary climb of the Koppenberg, winning the first round of the 2018-19 DVV Trofee in Oudenaarde. Michael Vanthourenhout (Marlux-Bingoal) took second place, 11 seconds back, while world champion Wout van Aert (Cibel-Cebon) finished 14 seconds down in third.
It's Aerts' third major victory of the cyclo-cross season, having also won the opening rounds of the UCI World Cup at Waterloo, Wisconsin and Iowa City, Iowa. The Belgian was part of the elite lead group all race, pushing away from his two companions on the final climb of the Koppenberg to take the win.
The race was also notable for a surprisingly off-performance from Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus), who started slow before crashing out of the lead group. He ultimately finished in 21st place, 4:12 behind Aerts.
How it happened
All the focus early on was on Van der Poel, who didn't get off to the best start. Still, he maintained contact with the lead group in the opening laps, albeit riding at the rear. With everybody riding hard to try and put him into trouble, disaster struck on the second lap as the Dutchman went down on an off-camber corner. His race wasn't over but it was an indication of what was to come.
By the time the riders tackled the Koppenberg for the second time, a clear elite leader's group had emerged. Up front it was Van Aert and Aerts, with Vanthourenhout close behind. Daan Soete (Pawels Sauzen-Vastgoedservice), Quinten Hermans (Telenet Fidea Lions) and Eli Iserbyt (Marlux-Bingoal) lead the chase ahead of Van der Poel, 16 seconds back.
That would be the closest Van der Poel got to the leaders though. The European champion was clearly not on his best form just two days ahead of the European Championships in his home country of the Netherlands.
Up front, the lead trio swapped places as each surged on various parts of the course, but there was no separating them as they approached the midway point. Vanthourenhout did look a touch slower up the 12 per cent cobbles of the Koppenberg, though.
Just over 30 seconds back, Van der Poel became detached from the chasers, dropping back as Lars van der Haar (Telenet Fidea Lions), Iserbyt and Hermans pushed on. Van Aert was pushing the pace at the head of the race, keen to keep his group away for good.
Heading into the final lap, it was Aerts who looked the strongest, leading up the Koppenberg and over the line, with Van Aert close behind and Vanthourenhout six seconds back.
The trio regrouped on the last lap though, with Vanthourenhout even putting in an attack that dropped Van Aert at one point. In the end it all came down to the Koppenberg, with Aerts powering away to take the victory. Van Aert charged up the climb too, but couldn't make it back to Vanthourenhout for second place.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Toon Aerts (Ned) Telenet Fidea Lions||1:02:26|
|2||Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel) Marlux - Bingoal Cycling Team||0:00:11|
|3||Wout Van Aert (Bel) Cibel-Cebon||0:00:14|
|4||Lars van der Haar (Ned) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:00:58|
|5||Quinten Hermans (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:01:18|
|6||Laurens Sweeck (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen-Vastgoedservice||0:01:25|
|7||Eli Iserbyt (Bel) Marlux - Bingoal Cycling Team||0:01:38|
|8||Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Marlux - Bingoal Cycling Team||0:01:52|
|9||Jens Adams (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen-Vastgoedservice||0:02:00|
|10||Daan Soete (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen-Vastgoedservice||0:02:32|