In the 2015-2016 Cyclo-cross season, Wout Van Aert was an utterly dominant force, winning the overall Superprestige, Bpost Bank Trophy and World Cup series, and claiming the rainbow jersey at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships, so it is quite fitting that he was voted as the Best Cyclo-cross Racer of the year in our 2016 Cyclingnews Reader Poll.
Van Aert looked as if he would ride through the entire season winning race after race. His victory streak began in the first World Cup in Las Vegas, and continued on through October until the Valkenburg World Cup, where he was second to Lars van der Haar. He picked back up after that, cruising to an astounding 13 victories until Mathieu van der Poel surged to form in mid-December.
Once Van der Poel found his stride, the Dutch champion took over as dominant rider, adding fuel to the fire of their rivalry of the year before just ahead of the World Championships.
The pair clashed in more than a metaphorical sense, getting tangled on an off-camber section in the Zolder course, and both riders were dropped from Van der Haar's lead. But Van Aert found his motivation from the incident, rode across and then out-paced Van der Haar on the final lap, while Van der Poel continued to make mistakes and wound up eighth.
It was a moment of sweet revenge for Van Aert, whose race in the previous years was beset with bad luck and mechanical issues. “Nothing compares to this feeling. Last year’s defeat is forgotten now,” Van Aert said at the time.
Van Aert's vote tally was nearly double that of Van der Poel, with a whopping 38% of the total votes going to the Belgian. Legend of cyclo-cross Sven Nys, who retired after the 2015-2016 season, was third.
2016 Best Cyclo-cross Racer voting
|1||Wout Van Aert||6124||votes|
|2||Mathieu van der Poel||3863|
|5||Lars van der Haar||819|
|9||Thalita de Jong||571|