World champion Wout Van Aert (Crelan-Charles) won the sixth round of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup at the citadel of Namur (Belgium), finishing more than a minute ahead of his first rivals. After a first part of the season in which he received multiple beatings from Mathieu van der Poel (Beobank-Corendon), Van Aert seems to be back on track for a good second part of the season.
European champion Van der Poel struggled straight from the start and finished third in the mud of Namur, just behind Toon Aerts (Telenet Fidea Lions). Van der Poel remains overall leader in the World Cup with 455 points, 75 points more than Wout Van Aert. There are three more round left in the series.
Van Aert completed a race-long solo and knocked himself on the chest when crossing the finish line at the citadel in Namur. “That was pretty impressive, wasn’t it,” Van Aert said in the post-race flash interview. "What can I say. I'm delighted of course." When learning that a cold might have affected Van der Poel's performance, Van Aert said, "that it would make sense because the gap today was suddenly really big. It's possible he was bothered by something today. Regarding my own race I can only be happy. Straight from the start it went super well. I found a very good rhythm. I was surprised to see that so soon I could take such a big advantage. It's been a long time since I raced with these sensations," Van Aert said.
A big crash in the first slight corner straight after the start marred the race for many riders, including Gioele Bertolini, Tom Meeusen and veteran Klaas Vantornout (Marlux-Napoleon Games). The latter abandoned the race and supported his arm, as if he had broken his collarbone. If he's broken something it might have been the last-ever race of the former Belgian champion.
In front, his teammate Michael Vanthourenhout led the field on the first slopes of the citadel. Before the first major drop, Van Aert blasted by with Van der Poel following in third place. Van der Poel showed a first sign of weakness when he tried to ride up a steep climb, where all others quickly dismounted their bikes.
Van der Poel nearly rode into Van Aert and fell to the ground. By the time the Dutch rider was back on his bike he found himself in seventh place while Van Aert surged away from Vanthourenhout after the famous long off-camber drop. In contrast to other races, Van der Poel didn’t take the initiative in the chase group and in no time Van Aert collected a lead of 20 second after the opening lap, despite the work from Toon Aerts. The latter bounced back from a poor start.
"By the time I got to the front Van Aert was gone. That wasn’t a bad thing to happen because if I had followed him I'd probably have blown my engine," Aerts said.
During the second and third lap, it seemed as if Van der Poel would come up with a fight. He took over the command from Toon Aerts but despite his efforts the gap kept growing with more than ten seconds in every lap. Aerts got dropped when he missed a fast right-hand corner in the descent after a steep run-up at the back-end of the course.
During the fourth lap Van der Poel crashed a second time. This time, he slipped away at the end of the off-camber sections when he tried to get back in the pedals too soon. It was game over for the victory as the two chasers found themselves a minute behind the flawless leader. From there, Van der Poel focused on second place while father Adrie van der Poel informed tv-broadcasters Telenet Play Sports that his son struggled with a serious cold.
The rest of the field? At long distance. Kevin Pauwels (Marlux-Napoleon Games) battled with teammate Michael Vanthourenhout, Corné van Kessel (Telenet Fidea Lions), German champion Marcel Meisen (Steylaerts-Betfirst) and birthday boy Laurens Sweeck (ERA-Circus) for fourth place.
The situation remained the same in front, while the chaos at the back of the pack was immense. The major crash at the start affected many riders. In normal circumstances many riders would struggle to finish in the same lap time but this time many riders were feeling the breath of Van Aert on their necks. In the end, Francis Mourey (Fortuneo-Oscaro) was the last rider in the lead lap, riding in 25th position.
A rare mistake from Van Aert during the seventh lap indicated that the race was approaching the hour. The world champion was hanging too deep in the same fast corner that Toon Aerts had overshot a few laps earlier. A bruised knee will remind him of the small hiccup. Two flawless laps later, Van Aert was high-fiving with the fans at the steep run-up and at the finish line his knock on the chest indicated that he gained a lot of confidence from his performance.
In the final lap, Toon Aerts was trying to shake off Van der Poel. A third crash from Van der Poel helped Toon Aerts to second place. Unsurprisingly, the crash happened in the same fast corner. Van der Poel was descending on the inside and suddenly slipped away, landing outside the course and nearly hitting a tree.
"Making mistakes that you shouldn't make are an indication of having a bad day. I’ve got a bit of a cold but that wasn’t a problem. It wasn’t good enough today," Van der Poel said.
Second place, rarely something for a rider other than Van Aert or Van der Poel was in the pocket for Toon Aerts. "I felt as strong as Mathieu today. I had to save something for the final lap. I didn’t know he crashed but I saw that I had a gap," Aerts said. Nevertheless, Van der Poel fought back and suddenly he was back on the Belgian’s wheel. "I was perfectly set-up but then I failed to clip into the pedals. It’s a pity but second or third isn’t that important. This is the toughest course on the 'cross circuit. Especially today, when it’s drying up, it's so hard and the race seems endless,” Van der Poel said.
Pauwels was best of the rest ahead of Vanthourenhout, Van Kessel, Meisen and Sweeck. Young Telenet Fidea Lions Daan Soete and Quinten Hermans closed out the top-10 at more than three minutes from winner Wout Van Aert.
Van Aert just came off a big training camp in Calpe, training together with Pan-American and US-champion Stephen Hyde (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld.com). Both riders seemed to have benefited because Hyde performed well, finishing just outside the top 10, his best World Cup result of the season.
The next round in the World Cup will be contested in Heusden-Zolder (Belgium) on Boxing Day.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Wout Van Aert (Bel) Crelan - Charles||1:07:47|
|2||Toon Aerts (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:01:04|
|3||Mathieu Van Der Poel (Ned) Beobank-Corendon||0:01:06|
|4||Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Marlux - Napoleon Games||0:01:58|
|5||Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel) Marlux - Napoleon Games||0:02:08|
|6||Corne Van Kessel (Ned) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:02:24|
|7||Marcel Meisen (Ger) Steylaerts - Betfirst||0:02:37|
|8||Laurens Sweeck (Bel) Era-Circus||0:02:59|
|9||Daan Soete (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:03:12|
|10||Quinten Hermans (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:03:21|
|11||Stephen Hyde (USA)||0:03:35|
|12||Tim Merlier (Bel)||0:03:45|
|13||Jens Adams (Bel)||0:04:01|
|14||Lars Forster (Swi)||0:04:11|
|15||Steve Chainel (Fra)||0:04:24|
|16||Diether Sweeck (Bel)||0:04:32|
|17||Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel)||0:04:34|
|18||Marcel Wildhaber (Swi)||0:04:40|
|19||Lars Van Der Haar (Ned)||0:05:05|
|20||David Van Der Poel (Ned)||0:05:15|
|21||Fabien Canal (Fra)||0:05:18|
|22||Nicolas Cleppe (Bel)||0:05:34|
|23||Tom Meeusen (Bel)||0:05:52|
|24||Gianni Vermeersch (Bel)||0:05:55|
|25||Francis Mourey (Fra)|
|26||Matthieu Boulo (Fra)|
|27||Nicola Rohrbach (Swi)|
|28||Michael Boroš (Cze)|
|29||Jim Aernouts (Bel)|
|30||Simon Zahner (Swi)|
|31||Marco Aurelio Fontana (Ita)|
|32||Vincent Baestaens (Bel)|
|33||Severin Sägesser (Swi)|
|34||Gioele Bertolini (Ita)|
|35||Sascha Weber (Ger)|
|36||Gosse Van Der Meer (Ned)|
|37||Twan Van Den Brand (Ned)|
|38||Lorenzo Samparisi (Ita)|
|39||Javier Ruiz De Larrinaga Ibañez (Spa)|
|40||Nicolas Samparisi (Ita)|
|41||Tony Periou (Fra)|
|42||Alois Falenta (Fra)|
|43||Nicolas Pruvot (Fra)|
|44||Stan Godrie (Ned)|
|45||Grant Ferguson (GBr)|
|46||Patrick Van Leeuwen (Ned)|
|47||Marvin Schmidt (Ger)|
|48||Wolfram Kurschat (Ger)|
|49||Martin Eriksson (Swe)|
|50||Henrik Jansson (Swe)|
|51||Jeremy Durrin (USA)|
|52||Andrew Juiliano (USA)|
|53||Till Drobisch (Nam)|
|54||Garry Millburn (Aus)|
|55||Marcel Lehrian (Ger)|
|56||Yannick Mayer (Ger)|
|57||Tim Rieckmann (Ger)|
|DNF||David Menut (Fra)|
|DNF||Ismael Esteban Aguero (Spa)|
|DNF||Martin Haring (Svk)|
|DNF||Klaas Vantornout (Bel)|