Thijs Aerts (Belgium) won the junior world cyclo-cross title in a thrilling race in Hoogerheide on Saturday. The Belgian jumped clear on the final lap and finished clear of Yannick Peeters (Belgium) and Jelle Schuermans (Belgium).
Home favourite Joris Nieuwenhuis put in a dogged performance but had no answer to the Belgian dominance in the final laps and eventually finished fourth.
“Beforehand I would not have believed it. I was stressing to make it into the Belgian selection and was glad that I survived the cut,” the winner said at the finish.
“It’s my first ever world championships race and I just wanted to get a good result. This win comes as quite a surprise. It’s great of course.
On one climb I made the difference as I was able to keep riding until the top whereas the others were running. In the last lap I used that advantage to ride away from Yannick Peeters.
The start of the race was marred by a crash that caused chaos in the opening sectors. Pre-race favourite and World Cup winner, Adam Toupalik (Czech Republic), lost ground and despite briefly regaining contact with the tail end of the lead group he was unable to assert any dominance and quickly began to fall back.
While Toupalik struggled the Belgian contingent came to the fore. However it was Nieuwenhuis who threw the cat amongst the pigeons as the Dutch rider set a furious pace on the first lap. By the end of the lap the leaders were spread thinly over the course with less than a dozen riders still in contention. Yannick Peeters (Belgium), Manuel Todaro (Italy), Johan Jacobs (Switzerland) were present, along with Kobe Goossens (Belgium) and Aerts. America’s Austin Vincent crossed the line after the first lap in 14th place.
As the second lap got underway the Belgians began to assert themselves on the front, sweeping by Nieuwenhuis and forcing him to counter several accelerations.
By now Toupalik was in serious trouble and losing further ground but just as Aerts and his teammates began to look in control Nieuwenhuis moved to the front once more and began to tap out a near unmatchable pace. Aerts (Belgium) and Goossens (Belgium) were the only ones who could briefly follow with Toupalik 24 seconds down after the second lap.
Goossens, Peeters and Schuermans (Belgium) then went clear on the third lap, leading Aerts and Nieuwenhuis.
However a crash on a right hand corner saw Schuermans and Goossens fall, allowing Nieuwenhuis to come back.
The fall saw Peeters able to go clear and the Belgian looked set to pick up the first rainbow jersey of the championships but Nieuwenhuis again fought back, showing his technical ability and making it four leaders with Aerts and Schuermans.
Heading into the final lap Nieuwenhuis changed bikes in the pits and Peeters swiftly moved clear. The move was closed down but no sooner had Nieuwenhuis nullified the move had Aerts laid down his winning attack.
There was now no way back for Nieuwenhuis who struggled to match Peeters with fatigue setting in. He lost his footing several times and when Schuermans caught him with half a lap remaining the sprint for bronze became a formality too.
It is the first time in history the Belgian close out the podium in the junior category. Despite their dominance in the elite ranks, Belgium's last junior world title was in 2007 with Joeri Adams. Since then only one medal was won when Wout van Aert took silver in Koksijde.
"I’m not disappointed," said Peeters. "We’ve got three Belgians on the podium and that’s never happened before so that’s great. We’ve got a very strong generation of riders. That’s good for Belgium. Of course only one spot matters at the world championships but Thijs was stronger so I’m very satisfied with second place. He rode where everybody had to run. I tried to go with him but I was unable to hold it."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Thijs Aerts (Belgium)||0:45:55|
|2||Yannick Peeters (Belgium)||0:00:10|
|3||Jelle Schuermans (Belgium)||0:00:12|
|4||Joris Nieuwenhuis (Netherlands)||0:00:13|
|5||Kobe Goossens (Belgium)||0:00:22|
|6||Johan Jacobs (Switzerland)||0:00:35|
|7||Eli Iserbyt (Belgium)||0:00:42|
|8||Yan Gras (France)||0:00:58|
|9||Sieben Wouters (Netherlands)||0:01:10|
|10||Hugo Pigeon (France)||0:01:19|
|11||Manuel Todaro (Italy)||0:01:38|
|12||Thomas Joseph (Belgium)||0:01:45|
|13||Kelvin Bakx (Netherlands)||0:01:51|
|14||Pascal Eenkhoorn (Netherlands)||0:02:22|
|15||Sébastien Havot (France)||0:02:28|
|16||Simon Andreassen (Denmark)||0:02:43|
|17||Diego Pablo Sevilla (Spain)||0:02:54|
|18||Thomas Craig (Great Britain)|
|19||Moreno Pellizzon (Italy)||0:03:00|
|20||Timon Ruegg (Switzerland)||0:03:15|
|21||Juraj Bellan (Slovakia)||0:03:25|
|22||Kamil Malecki (Poland)||0:03:35|
|23||Kevin Geniets (Luxembourg)||0:03:36|
|24||Lucas Dubau (France)||0:03:37|
|25||Florian Vidal (France)||0:03:52|
|26||Maxx Chance (United States Of America)||0:03:58|
|27||Giulio Franzolin (Italy)||0:03:59|
|28||Willem Boersma (Canada)|
|29||Cooper Willsey (United States Of America)||0:04:06|
|30||Austin Vincent (United States Of America)||0:04:10|
|31||Gotzon Martín (Spain)||0:04:14|
|32||Andrej Petrovski (Macedonia)||0:04:15|
|33||Raúl Fernández (Spain)||0:04:16|
|34||Tadaaki Nakai (Japan)||0:04:17|
|35||Ludwig Cords (Germany)||0:04:29|
|36||Raphael Scrhöder (Germany)||0:04:33|
|37||Matej Ulik (Slovakia)||0:04:43|
|38||Lukas Kunt (Czech Republic)||0:04:58|
|39||Jack Ravenscroft (Great Britain)||0:05:59|
|40||Sean Dunlea (Great Britain)||0:06:16|
|41||Martin Matejcek (Czech Republic)||0:06:25|
|42||Peter Goguen (United States Of America)||0:06:34|
|43||Mason Burtnik (Canada)||0:06:37|
|44||Steven Schreiber (Germany)||0:06:45|
|45||Adrian Sirek (Czech Republic)||0:07:03|
|46||Lauritz Urnauer (Germany)||0:07:29|
|47||Paul Lindenau (Germany)||0:08:20|
|48||Ryo Takeuchi (Japan)||0:08:31|
|49||Sean Germaine (Canada)||0:09:01|
|50||Nicholas Smith (Australia)|
|51||Dusan Rajovic (Serbia)|