Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) took his second consecutive victory in the Belgian mud on Tuesday, coming back from an early rear puncture to win alone in Gullegem.
The Briton duelled with Quinten Hermans (Tormans) for much of the race but went on to win by 16 seconds. Hermans faded badly in the final two laps after also suffering a puncture and was passed by young teammate Joran Wyseure and so finished third at 20 seconds.
He beat Spanish national champion Felipe Orts for the final spot on the podium, while veteran Tom Meeusen was fourth at 47 seconds and Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Fenix) was fifth.
Pidcock was tired after the race but the knowledge that he now faces just one more hour of racing before an Ineos Grenadiers training camp in Mallorca seemed to lift his spirits.
“In those conditions, it’s always hard. No matter how hard you go, you feel as if you’re not going anywhere,” he said of the muddy conditions.
“After a lap I had a puncture. At first I didn’t think it was a puncture because I was running low pressure anyway, so I rode quite a while. Luckily I could then get back to Quinten and then get a gap and control the race. It was tricky. I also changed tyres. I was running on narrow tyres and then went onto thick tyres. Nothing feels good. It was a hard day.
“I’ve got one more good day of racing and then I’m away to a training camp, so just one more hour of suffering.”
Gullegem is the only January cyclo-cross race that is not part of the new World Cup, Superprestige and X²O trophy series. Wout van Aert, Eli Iserbyt and Toon Aerts opted to rest up before Wednesday's X²O Herentals race, while world champion Mathieu van der Poel is still out of action due to back problems and is unlikely to race for a while according to his father.
Pidcock tried to lead from the front. He was passed by several riders before the first corner but soon took over to take the best lines through the mud and along the edge of the grass.
Hermans and Pidcock quickly distanced the rest of the field and they swapped turns on the front and tried alternative lines, with Hermans only opening a gap after Pidcock’s puncture and bike change. He almost fell after the bike went away from him in the pits but kept his composure and fought on.
Pidcock’s change to wider tyres helped him close to the gap and he suddenly caught and passed Hermans who was suddenly having his own problems after four laps.
Pidcock then pushed on alone to win his third race of the season, while Hermans tried and failed to hold off his younger teammate Wyseure.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Thomas Pidcock (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers||0:58:29|
|2||Joran Wyseure (Bel) Tormans Cyclo Cross Team||0:00:16|
|3||Quinten Hermans (Bel) Tormans Cyclo Cross Team||0:00:20|
|4||Felipe Orts Lloret (Spa)||0:00:30|
|5||Tom Meussen (Bel) CX Team Deschacht-Group Hens-Containers Maes||0:00:47|
|6||Tim Merlier (Bel) Alpecin - Fenix||0:01:25|
|7||Niels Vandeputte (Bel) Alpecin - Fenix||0:01:36|
|8||Lander Loockx (Bel) CX Team Deschacht-Group Hens-Containers Maes||0:02:04|
|9||Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix||0:02:40|
|10||David van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin - Fenix||0:02:50|
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