Perhaps fuelled by a decisive mechanical that might have cost him the World Cup victory in Zeven the previous day, Mathieu Van Der Poel (Beobank-Corendon) proved that he is still the man-to-beat in cyclo-cross this year as he rode away with a solo victory at Flandriencross.
The Dutchman made winning look easy, as he has so often done this season, beating Wout Van Aert (Crelan – Charles), who won the World Cup on Saturday, by 33 seconds and Michael Vanthourenhout (Marlux - Napoleon Games) by 47 seconds.
Laurens Sweeck (Era-Circus) led through the first corners of the race followed by Van der Poel and Van Aert, closely marking each other.
The undulating, twisty and muddy terrain included a steep run-up that forced gaps between the riders over the top but a core group stuck together that also included Lars Van Der Haar (Telenet Fidea Lions), Corne Van Kessel (Telenet Fidea Lions), Tom Meeusen (Beobank-Corendon) and Tim Merlier (Crelan – Charles), Kevin Pauwels (Marlux - Napoleon Games), Toon Aerts (Telenet Fidea Lions) and Vanthourenhout.
With a time bonus on the line and after the previous day’s jammed chain, Van der Poel took no chances and took the lead over the stairs halfway through the first lap but Sweeck stuck close to his wheel, as did Van Aert. "I started quickly, because I wanted to immediately win the bonus seconds in the second lap," said Van der Poel, who leads the overall standings.
Van der Poel pushed on until no one could hold the quick pace and opened a small gap. Van Aert shot around Sweeck in an attempt to close it down on his own. His effort came up fruitless, however, as the Dutchman gradually added time to his advantage through each subsequent lap.
Van der Poel continued to put pressure on and built his lead out to roughly 17 seconds by the start of the third lap, a gap he more or less maintained through laps four and five. "I was always able to keep the pace high and at the same time keep a little bit of surplus," Van der Poel said. "When Wout was in the background, it was difficult, because on such a course the chance of error was high."
Van Aert and Vanthourenhout were the two nearest chasers but they made no progress in bringing the leader back. Their best efforts only managed to keep Van der Poel’s gap from widening further.
"I was not completely recovered from yesterday," Van Aert said. "I did not feel well in the first half of the race, I had to settle in a group of pursuers, which was certainly not the intention, but I was able to move away from the rest in that long section along the pond."
It wasn’t long before Van Aert’s furious chase was too much for Vanthourenhout, and the world champion continued on alone in pursuit of Van der Poel bringing the gap down to roughly 12 seconds.
In the closing lap, the Belgian got stuck over a car tire used to build the man-made stairs on course, but even without the slight mishap, it was doubtful that he could stop his Dutch rival from winning.
Van der Poel rounded the final lap extending his lead to just over half a minute and taking the day’s victory, his 15th of the season, while forcing Van Aert to have to settle for second place.
"I did not make a lot of mistakes, but I did not push fast enough, but I still feel better, but if Mathieu is top, you have to be in good order to threaten him," Van Aert said.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Mathieu van Der Poel (Ned) Beobank-Corendon||0:56:08|
|2||Wout Van Aert (Bel) Crelan - Charles||0:00:33|
|3||Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel) Marlux - Napoleon Games||0:00:47|
|4||Corne Van Kessel (Ned) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:00:51|
|5||Tom Meeusen (Bel) Beobank-Corendon||0:00:57|
|6||Kevin Pauwels (Bel) Marlux - Napoleon Games||0:01:05|
|7||Lars van Der Haar (Ned) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:01:15|
|8||Tim Merlier (Bel) Crelan - Charles||0:01:26|
|9||Jens Adams (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen - Vastgoedservice||0:01:31|
|10||Toon Aerts (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:01:57|
|11||Marcel Meisen (Ger) Steylaerts - Betfirst||0:02:18|
|12||Daan Soete (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:02:19|
|13||Klaas Vantornout (Bel) Marlux - Napoleon Games||0:03:04|
|14||Laurens Sweeck (Bel) Era-Circus||0:03:13|
|15||Wietse Bosmans (Bel) Era-Circus||0:03:14|
|16||Jim Aernouts (Bel) Telenet Fidea Lions||0:03:28|
|17||Michael Boroš (Cze) Pauwels Sauzen - Vastgoedservice||0:03:43|
|18||Stephen Hyde (USA)||0:04:38|
|19||Jonas Degroote (Bel) Tarteletto - Isorex||0:04:52|
|20||Daan Hoeyberghs (Bel) Steylaerts - Betfirst||0:05:02|
|21||Florian Trigo (Fra)||0:05:50|
|22||Rob Peeters (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen - Vastgoedservice||0:06:14|
|23||Gosse Van Der Meer (Ned) Tarteletto - Isorex||0:06:58|
|24||Nicolas Pruvost (Fra)||0:07:15|
|25||Dario Tielen (Bel)||0:08:13|
|26||Yelle Leaerts (Bel)||0:08:44|
|27||Edwin De Wit (Bel)||- 1 lap|
|28||Jelle De Bock (Bel)||- 1 lap|
|DNF||Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Steylaerts - Betfirst|
|DNF||Joeri Adams (Bel)|
|DNF||Jens Vandekinderen (Bel)|
Kirsten Frattini is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. She has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level to professional cycling's WorldTour. She has worked in both print and digital publishing, and started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006. Moving into a Production Editor's role in 2014, she produces and publishes international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits news and writes features. Currently the Women's Editor at Cyclingnews, Kirsten coordinates global coverage of races, news, features and podcasts about women's professional cycling.
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