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Van Aert wins first tricolore at Belgian Cyclo-cross National Championships

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Wout Van Aert wins the 2016 Belgian championships

Wout Van Aert wins the 2016 Belgian championships
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Jan Denuwelaere

Jan Denuwelaere
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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 Dieter Vanthourenhout

Dieter Vanthourenhout
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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 Klaas Vantornout

Klaas Vantornout
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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 Kevin Pauwels

Kevin Pauwels
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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 Michael Vanthourenhout

Michael Vanthourenhout
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout van Aert waits to make his move.

Wout van Aert waits to make his move.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Gianni Vermeersch leads the bunch

Gianni Vermeersch leads the bunch
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Fans line the course for the Belgian championship

Fans line the course for the Belgian championship
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Fans line the course for the Belgian championship

Fans line the course for the Belgian championship
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Riders ascend the flyover.

Riders ascend the flyover.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Rob Peeters

Rob Peeters
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Sven Nys

Sven Nys
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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 Tim Merlier

Tim Merlier
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout Van Aert celebrates his 2016 Belgian cyclo-cross title.

Wout Van Aert celebrates his 2016 Belgian cyclo-cross title.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout Van Aert celebrates his 2016 Belgian cyclo-cross title.

Wout Van Aert celebrates his 2016 Belgian cyclo-cross title.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout Van Aert celebrates his 2016 Belgian cyclo-cross title.

Wout Van Aert celebrates his 2016 Belgian cyclo-cross title.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout Van Aert celebrates his 2016 Belgian cyclo-cross title.

Wout Van Aert celebrates his 2016 Belgian cyclo-cross title.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Kevin Pauwels on course during the 2016 Belgian championships

Kevin Pauwels on course during the 2016 Belgian championships
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Tim Merlier

Tim Merlier
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Sven Nys finished third at the 2016 Belgian championships

Sven Nys finished third at the 2016 Belgian championships
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Pauwels goes over the flyover followed by Nys

Pauwels goes over the flyover followed by Nys
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Laurens Sweeck finished second

Laurens Sweeck finished second
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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 Jan Denuwelaere

Jan Denuwelaere
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Riders take off at the start fo the 2016 Belgian championship.

Riders take off at the start fo the 2016 Belgian championship.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The 2016 Belgian elite men's podium with Sweeck, Van Aert and Nys.

The 2016 Belgian elite men's podium with Sweeck, Van Aert and Nys.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout Van Aert on his way to the 2016 Belgian elite men's championship

Wout Van Aert on his way to the 2016 Belgian elite men's championship
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout Van Aert

Wout Van Aert
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout Van Aert

Wout Van Aert
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout Van Aert

Wout Van Aert
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout van Aert

Wout van Aert
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Laurens Sweeck

Laurens Sweeck
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Michael Vanthourenhout

Michael Vanthourenhout
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Sven Nys

Sven Nys
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The 2016 Belgian elite men's podium with Sweeck, Van Aert and Nys.

The 2016 Belgian elite men's podium with Sweeck, Van Aert and Nys.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The 2016 Belgian elite men's podium with Sweeck, Van Aert and Nys.

The 2016 Belgian elite men's podium with Sweeck, Van Aert and Nys.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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A taste of gold for Wout van Aert.

A taste of gold for Wout van Aert.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout van Aert celebrates his title as he crosses the finish.

Wout van Aert celebrates his title as he crosses the finish.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Van Aert in his first Belgian elite men's champion's jersey.

Van Aert in his first Belgian elite men's champion's jersey.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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The 2016 Belgian elite men's podium with Sweeck, Van Aert and Nys.

The 2016 Belgian elite men's podium with Sweeck, Van Aert and Nys.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout Van Aert celebrates winning the 2016 Belgian championships

Wout Van Aert celebrates winning the 2016 Belgian championships
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout Van Aert celebrates winning the 2016 Belgian championships

Wout Van Aert celebrates winning the 2016 Belgian championships
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout Van Aert celebrates winning the 2016 Belgian championships

Wout Van Aert celebrates winning the 2016 Belgian championships
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Laurens Sweeck, Wout Van Aert and Sven Nys on the 2016 Belgian championship podium.

Laurens Sweeck, Wout Van Aert and Sven Nys on the 2016 Belgian championship podium.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout Van Aert celebrates his 2016 Belgian championship.

Wout Van Aert celebrates his 2016 Belgian championship.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout Van Aert celebrates his 2016 Belgian championship.

Wout Van Aert celebrates his 2016 Belgian championship.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout Van Aert crosses the line to win the 2016 Belgian championship.

Wout Van Aert crosses the line to win the 2016 Belgian championship.
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)
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Wout Van Aert gets a hug after the Belgian championships

Wout Van Aert gets a hug after the Belgian championships
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Wout Van Aert reacts to his first Begian elite championship

Wout Van Aert reacts to his first Begian elite championship
(Image credit: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)

Pre-race favourite Wout Van Aert (Crelan-Vastgoedservice) lived up to expectations and won his first Belgian title in the Elite Men category. Despite a mid-race crash the 21-year-old won on a nearly dry and fast course in his hometown Lille, with a long solo move. He finished well ahead of surprising runner-up Laurens Sweeck (Era Real Estate - Murprotec) and veteran Sven Nys (Crelan-AA Drink).

“I can’t believe it. The whole race I was so focused. The last lap was fantastic. It’s the most beautiful day of my life. The last lap I was completely dead. I’m so happy,” an emotional Van Aert said in the post-race interview with Sporza. “The last lap I had to hold back not to celebrate. When passing the pit I saw my father. It’s been a few rough weeks. It’s a win for my father.”

On the blistering fast course Van Aert always rode attentively inside the top-three. Outsider Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) continuously marked his wheel. Laurens Sweeck led the opening lap, Michael Vanthourenhout (Marlux-Napoleon Games) the second and Gianni Vermeersch (Marlux-Napoleon Games) the third lap.

During the fourth of ten laps Laurens’ twin brother Diether Sweeck (ERA Real Estate - Murprotec) moved into the lead with Van Aert, Vermeersch, Meeusen, Vanthourenhout, Vincent Baestaens (BKCP-Corendon), Laurens Sweeck and seven other riders including Nys, Kevin Pauwels (Marlux-Napoleon Games) and defending champion Klaas Vantornout (Marlux-Napoleon Games).

Suddenly Van Aert moved into the. Meeusen was glued on his wheel and Vermeersch also passed Diether Sweeck. These three riders gapped the rest of the field and the look on Meeusen’s face showed that he was digging deep.

“I’m not racing for second place at the championships. Before his move I thought he wasn’t good, making small mistakes. Then he accelerated. It was impossible to keep up. He created a small gap and on the road it’s impossible to close that down on him. I briefly profited from Vermeersch and then tried to bridge back up in the forest. Then I blew up,” Meeusen told Sporza.

Halfway through the race seemed decided with an impressive Van Aert destroying the opposition on the course around the lake where he played as a kid. Laurens Sweeck, Meeusen and Vermeersch were the first chasers at twenty seconds. By that time defending champion Vantornout was riding outside the top-10. He would not finish the race.

Meeusen and Vermeersch were unable to keep up with Laurens Sweeck. The latter found a course that suited him perfectly though he was still losing ground on leader Van Aert during the sixth lap.

Pauwels was getting into his rhythm and bridging up towards Sweeck, with Marlux-teammates Vanthourenhout and Vermeersch riding in fourth and fifth place. After the sixth lap Nys was in a group that rode for sixth place at 40 seconds from Van Aert and 15 seconds from Sweeck.

In the balance

On one of the few true muddy sections Van Aert lost his balance in the hidden ruts and he went over the handlebars, and into the barriers. He quickly got back on his feet, ran back to pick up his bike and was lucky enough to find the pit area around the next corner.

Suddenly Laurens Sweeck was back to 15 seconds from the leader with Pauwels right on his tail.

“It was a dangerous section. It went perfectly nine times but one time I landed on my face. I thought it was over,” Van Aert said. During the following lap Sweeck didn’t get any closer and Van Aert got back into his rhythm, increasing his lead back over 20 seconds.

Four riders were battling for the remaining podium spots with Laurens Sweeck leading the way ahead of Pauwels, with Nys and Michael Vanthourenhout closing in fast. Vermeersch lost contact and crashed hard shortly afterwards, possibly fracturing his collarbone. Teammate Pauwels was also confronted with the treacherous course, bumping hard into the corner of a barrier with his hip. Pauwels sat up and needed half a lap to recover. It left three riders battling for second and third place. Just as Nys and Vanthourenhout were about to bridge up with Laurens Sweeck 39-year-old Nys slipped away.

Van Aert ran into a late scare when a fan wanted him to take on a Belgian tricolor flag.

“I didn’t know what he was doing there. I was lucky not to crash when I rode into the flag. I clearly lack experience with this,” Van Aert said.

Before crossing the line he made a bow to his home crowd and threw a fist in the air before landing in the arms of his girlfriend Sarah De Bie. Also Laurens Sweeck was clinching a fist in the air when finishing as runner-up. Nys raised a finger in the air when he was able to shake off Michael Vanthourenhout before reaching the finishing straight. The latter, the U23 world champion, smashed his handlebars in anger.

Results

#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Wout Van Aert1:02:18
2Laurens Sweeck0:00:24
3Sven Nys0:00:33
4Michael Vanthourenhout0:00:39
5Toon Aerts0:00:53
6Vincent Baestaens0:01:05
7Kevin Pauwels0:01:17
8Tim Merlier0:01:26
9Tom Meeusen0:01:30
10Jim Aernouts0:01:39
11Dieter Vanthourenhout0:01:50
12Diether Sweeck0:02:09
13Joeri Adams0:02:17
14Sven Vanthourenhout0:02:37
15Rob Peeters0:02:46
16Jan Denuwelaere0:02:48
17Kevin Cant
18Jens Vandekinderen0:02:53
19Kenneth Van Compernolle0:04:11
20Angelo De Clercq0:04:16
21Ingmar Uytdewilligen0:04:18
22Stijn Huys0:04:26
23Bart Hofman0:04:28
24Vinnie Braet0:04:30
25Dave De Cleyn0:04:40
26Niels Koyen0:04:46
27Steven De Decker0:05:18
28Quincy Vens0:05:28
29Jens Gys
30Mathieu Willemyns
31Kenny Roelandt
32Edwin De Wit
33Dries Pauwels
34Lorenzo Pepermans
35Bert De Wispelaere
36Tim De Schuyter
37Pascal Colaert
38Tom Van Den Bosch
39Dennis Baeyens
40Kevin Reynaert
41Jochem Danckaers

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