Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) stormed away from the rest of the field at the Ethias Cross Robotland in Essen, taking his second win of the season after winning his debut at the Superprestige in Boom last week.
Van Aert was a level above the rest in the C2-ranked race, powering away on the second lap and then splashing his way through the mud to victory over Baloise Trek riders Thijs Aerts and Pim Ronhaar.
"Just because I was the big favorite here, doesn't mean it was easy," Van Aert said.
“Of course I am very satisfied, but it was really heavy. I had to stay focused all the time. Mission accomplished, but it wasn't as easy as it seems. I like to run, but in the deep mud that was something else. The meadow was completely flooded. I hoped beforehand that I could save myself for tomorrow, but during the reconnaissance I realized that that was not possible.”
“It won't be in my favour tomorrow, but at least they can't take this victory away from me. The focus is now fully on Val di Sole."
With most of the European riders either on break or en route to the World Cup in Val di Sole, the lesser-known riders had a chance to shine in Essen behind Van Aert.
Thomas Mein (Tormans CX Team) took the holeshot but Van Aert was a close second heading up the steep ramp on the opening lap. A stack-up midway on the ramp through bunch made the first split in the field, but soon the heavy, muddy course would exact its toll as riders were forced off the bike to run through the muck.
Van Aert came to the front but wasn't able to open a gap until the second lap, when he emerged off the front with Pim Ronhaar (Baloise-Trek).
Van Aert had a slip in a turn, allowing Seppe Rombouts (LVIV) to have a brief spell at the front of the race but by the end of lap two, Van Aert had a narrow lead on Ronhaar, while Rombouts was already nine seconds down after several mistakes.
On the third lap, Van Aert literally ran away from the rest of the field, and Ronhaar was 20 seconds down with Lennert Belmans (Alpecin-Fenix Devo) in third.
Belmans, Ronhaar and Lander Loockx (Deschacht Group Hens) were caught by Thijs Aerts (Baloise Trek) on the next lap, then the brother of Toon Aerts found his rhythm and left the rest behind and set off in pursuit of the Belgian champion.
Van Aert continued to put on a masterclass in the mud as the rest of the field flailed behind, lapping riders with more than two laps to go and holding 1:27 at the bell on Aerts, while Ronhaar left his rivals behind and was chasing at 1:53 in third.
Not much changed on the last lap, with Van Aert waving to the fans before celebrating with a fist-punch at the line.
Soon after the finish, Van Aert dashed to the Charleroi airport south of Brussels for a flight to Bergamo near Milan. He then faced a three-hour drive into the Alps so he can be on the start line of the Val di Sole World Cup snow race in northern Italy on Sunday.
There he faces some stiffer competition from Britain’s Tom Pidcock and World Cup leader Eli Iserbyt.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma||0:57:21|
|2||Thijs Aerts (Bel) Baloise Trek Lions||0:01:47|
|3||Pim Ronhaar (Ned) Baloise Trek Lions||0:02:07|
|4||Lander Loockx (Bel) CX Team Deschacht-group Hens-containers Maes||0:02:19|
|5||Lennert Belmans (Bel) IKO - Crelan||0:02:25|
|6||Thomas Verheyen (Bel)||0:03:52|
|7||Thomas Mein (GBr) Tormans - Circus Cyclo Cross Team||0:04:07|
|8||Seppe Rombouts (Bel)||0:04:13|
|9||Toby Barnes (GBr) Schamel p/b Kloster Kitchen||0:04:25|
|10||Jens Gys (Bel)||0:04:36|
|11||Yorben Lauryssen (Bel)||0:05:15|
|12||Arne Vrachten (Bel)||0:05:31|
|13||Klaas Groenen (Ned)||0:05:49|
|14||Julian Siemons (Bel)||0:05:58|
|15||Siebe Tormans (Bel)||0:06:08|
|16||Joost Brinkman (Ned)||0:06:21|
|17||Arne Baers (Bel)||0:06:54|
|18||Dolf Pemen (Bel) Proximus - Alphamotorhomes - Doltcini CT|
|19||Pascal Tömke (Ger) Schamel p/b Kloster Kitchen||0:07:03|
|20||Danny Van Lierop (Ned)||0:07:04|
|21||Ward Huybs (Bel) Baloise Trek Lions||0:07:31|
|22||Jonas Degroote (Bel)||0:07:47|
|23||Kenneth Van Compernolle (Bel)|
|24||Ingmar Uytdewilligen (Bel)|
|25||Senne De Meyer (Bel)|
|26||Rune Ceusters (Bel)|
|27||Lucas Janssen (Ned)|
|28||Yelle Leaerts (Bel)|
|29||Robin Alderweireld (Bel)|
|30||Cameron Jette (Can)|
|31||Toon Sluydts (Bel)|
|32||Senne D´Hollander (Bel)|
|33||Jordi Van Heijst (Ned)|
|34||Remon Delnoije (Ned)|
|35||Maarten Clauwaert (Bel)|
|36||Senna Van Cutsem (Bel)|
|37||Pieter Pauwels (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal|
|38||Lukas Herrmann (Ger) Schamel p/b Kloster Kitchen|
|39||Dylan Strik (Ned)|
|40||Yarne-Zias Geenen (Bel)|
|41||Gauthier Heymes (Fra)|
|42||Kjell Cooman (Bel)|
|DNF||Gianni Vermeersch (Bel) Alpecin - Fenix|
|DNF||Len Dejonghe (Bel) CX Team Deschacht-group Hens-containers Maes|
|DNF||Victor Van De Putte (Bel)|
|DNF||Mathis Avondts (Bel) IKO - Crelan|
|DNF||Floris Van Tricht (Bel)|
|DNF||Glenn Verbeeck (Bel)|
|DNF||Nick Peers (Bel)|
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