Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) took his second elite cyclo-cross World Cup victory of the season after beating Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) following a race-long battle in Hulst.
Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) saw his winning streak ended after a first lap chain problem forced him to battle back through the field from 40th position to finish fourth.
At the front, Olympic mountain bike champion Pidcock showed his speed and skill on the technical and sometimes slick course to pull out a slender gap on World Cup leader Iserbyt in the opening half of the race.
However, Iserbyt was relentless in his chase keeping his British rival at around eight seconds.
The pair held onto their narrow gap with neither rider making a mistake and were separated by just seconds heading into the final lap.
Despite losing some time on the final lap because of a mechanical problem, Pidcock held on for his second World Cup victory of the season ahead of Iserbyt who secured the overall World Cup series.
Dutch rider Lars van der Haar (Baloise-Trek) had matched the initial Pidcock attack before being gapped and was the lone chaser in third.
Pidcock said that a last-lap mechanical problem meant he had to be cautious and feared that Iserbyt would catch him.
"I was feeling good at the start so pushed on and got a gap of only a few seconds," said Pidcock.
"All the race Eli (Iserbyt) was keeping me close and keeping the pressure on. In the last few laps, I started making a few mistakes.
"I was thinking if he did a big effort then maybe he could close. In the last lap, I couldn't get into my big ring.
"It was not too much of a problem but I was taking it a bit easier in the descents so it wouldn't come off and was being a bit cautious as Wout's (Van Aert) chain came off at the start and I didn't want that to happen.
"I was pretty strong today and doing a whole race at the front is pretty different to when you're in the wheels. It was a good result."
Van Aert won all seven of his previous cyclo-cross outings but could not battle back from his first lap mechanical.
"I think my lucky part, lucky number seven has finished today and today was bad luck," added Van Aert. "There was really no chance to battle for the win."
How it unfolded
A fast and flowing course with steep banks greeted riders for round 13 of the cyclo-cross World Cup in Hulst.
The Vestingcross course takes place on the city walls of the Dutch town with a moat positioned in the middle of the course which also passed through a windmill.
Coming into the race Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) led the World Cup standings by 85 points and had the chase to seal the overall title.
European champion Lars van der Haar (Baloise Trek Lions) led away on the tarmac into the first technical section which caused problems for those further down the field.
Despite having a good start disaster struck for Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) with his chain coming off dropping down to 40th and 38 seconds down.
Van Aert suffered a broken shoe on his way to victory in Baal the previous day but faced a tougher chase to maintain his unbeaten record due to fast conditions at Hulst.
Van der Haar was faultless during a fast opening lap, closely followed by Iserbyt and a string of the race favourites.
After the opening lap, Van Aert had moved up to 29th but was stuck behind slower riders and lost time at 44 seconds behind Van der Haar.
Using his running speed Iserbyt, who was without a win for over a month, took a second lap lead and quickly increased the pace to put his rivals under pressure.
On home Dutch turf Van der Haar was equal to Iserbyt's effort with Quinten Hermans (Tormans - Circus Cyclo-Cross Team) leading the chase across along with Tom Pidcock (INEOS Grenadiers).
British champion Pidcock was beaten into second the previous day in Baal to Van Aert and took the front on the third of nine laps.
Olympic mountain bike champion Pidcock applied a devastating pace at the front breaking the leading group and only Iserbyt responded with Van der Haar in third.
By the end of the third lap, Van Aert had moved back into 17th and was 44 seconds behind the leaders.
Pidcock sensed a weakness in his Belgium rival and launched an attack through the flat pit section pulling out a gap of three seconds on the World Cup leader with 27 minutes raced with Van der Haar chasing alone in third.
Van Aert was also losing time on the British leader but had moved up to 10th at 56 seconds behind.
The Dutch course suited the strengths of Pidcock who was sprinting out of the corners and using his technical ability on the fast descents.
Despite the pace of Pidcock he was matched by Iserbyt who remained just four seconds behind his rival while Van der Haar was 20 seconds back.
The head-to-head battle between Pidcock and Iserbyt continued with just six seconds separating them with three laps remaining while Van Aert had moved up to seventh but over a minute behind the leading pair.
Pidcock and Iserbyt had been cyclo-cross rivals throughout their years in the under-23 category and continued their battle with the Hulst switchbacks allowing the pair to see the slender gap.
Coming into the penultimate lap Pidcock had slightly extended his gap to nine seconds while Van der Haar was in a comfortable third place at 30 seconds with a gap of 32 seconds back to Toon Aerts (Baloise Trek Lions).
Iserbyt responded and maintained his pressure on Pidcock with little to separate the riders coming into the closing stages.
Belgium champion Van Aert continued his progress through the field and joined Aerts in the battle for fourth place.
Taking the last lap bell Pidcock had an advantage of eight seconds over Iserbyt who could see his rival on the finishing straight while Van der Haar was in a clear third place.
Pidcock suffered a slight slip on the final lap and then had trouble clipping back in but maintained his slender gap and celebrated his victory.
Iserbyt was beaten into second but sealed the overall World Cup series victory with an unassailable lead of 95 points with two rounds remaining.
While Van der Haar completed the podium in third.
The World Cup continued for the penultimate round at Flamanville in France on January 16.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Thomas Pidcock (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers||1:03:49|
|2||Eli Iserbyt (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal||0:00:12|
|3||Lars van der Haar (Ned) Baloise Trek Lions||0:00:33|
|4||Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma||0:01:09|
|5||Toon Aerts (Bel) Baloise Trek Lions||0:01:30|
|6||Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal||0:01:41|
|7||Quinten Hermans (Bel) Tormans Cyclo Cross Team||0:01:48|
|8||Laurens Sweeck (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal||0:01:57|
|9||Vincent Baestaens (Bel) CX Team Deschacht-Group Hens-Containers Maes||0:02:08|
|10||Toon Vandebosch (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal||0:02:11|
|11||Daan Soete (Bel) CX Team Deschacht-Group Hens-Containers Maes||0:02:18|
|12||Kevin Kuhn (Swi) Tormans Cyclo Cross Team||0:02:27|
|13||Tim Merlier (Bel) Alpecin - Fenix||0:02:41|
|14||Emiel Verstrynge (Bel) Tormans Cyclo Cross Team||0:02:46|
|15||Cameron Mason (GBr) Trinity Racing||0:02:49|
|16||Felipe Orts Lloret (Spa)||0:03:14|
|17||Mees Hendrikx (Ned) Iko - Crelan||0:03:27|
|18||Ben Turner (GBr)||0:03:39|
|19||Ryan Kamp (Ned) Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal||0:03:49|
|20||Clement Venturini (Fra)||0:03:52|
|21||Niels Vandeputte (Bel) Alpecin - Fenix||0:04:31|
|22||Michael Boroš (Cze)||0:04:40|
|23||Marcel Meisen (Ger)||0:05:09|
|24||Théo Thomas (Fra) Tormans Cyclo Cross Team||0:05:12|
|25||Stan Godrie (Ned)||0:05:23|
|26||Kevin Suarez Fernandez (Spa) Nesta - MMR CX Team||0:05:28|
|27||Curtis White (USA) Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld||0:05:34|
|28||Tibor Del Grosso (Ned)||0:05:38|
|29||Joran Wyseure (Bel) Tormans Cyclo Cross Team||0:05:40|
|30||Thijs Aerts (Bel) Baloise Trek Lions||0:05:43|
|31||Marek Konwa (Pol)||0:05:49|
|32||Thomas Mein (GBr) Tormans Cyclo Cross Team||0:05:58|
|33||Scott Funston (USA)||0:06:01|
|34||Kerry Werner (USA)||0:06:05|
|35||Tomáš Paprstka (Cze)||0:06:12|
|36||Luke Verburg (Ned)|
|37||Valentin Guillaud (Fra) Team Guevel Immobilier Laval Cyclisme 53|
|38||Rory Mcguire (GBr)|
|39||Matej Ulik (Svk)|
|40||Gosse Van Der Meer (Ned)|
|41||Mario Junquera san Millan (Spa) Unicaja Banco - Gijon|
|42||Bailey Groenendaal (Ned)|
|43||Timothé Gabriel (Fra)|
|44||Andrew Strohmeyer (USA)|
|45||Eddy Fine (Fra)|
|46||Aurélien Philibert (Fra) Ardennes Cross Team Gecibat|
|47||Caleb Swartz (USA)|
|48||Michael Van Den Ham (Can)|
|49||Hugo Kars (Ned)|
|50||Sam Noel (USA)|
|51||Danny Van Lierop (Ned)|
|52||Lukas Herrmann (Ger) Schamel p/b Kloster Kitchen|
|53||Pascal Tömke (Ger) Schamel p/b Kloster Kitchen|
|54||Daniel Mayer (Cze)|
|55||Matt Leliveld (Can)|
|56||Florian Hamm (Ger) Schamel p/b Kloster Kitchen|
|57||Heinrich Haussler (Aus)|
|58||Robert Hula (Cze)|
|59||Patryk Kostecki (Pol)|
|60||Luca Harter (Ger)|
|61||Tommy Servetas (USA)|
|62||Jules Van Kempen (USA)|
|63||Jakub Kučera (Cze)|
|64||Hugo Brisebois (Can)|
|65||Tyler Cloutier (USA)|
|66||Sam Brown (USA)|
|67||Lubomír Petruš (Cze)|
|68||Sean Nolan (Irl)|
|69||Philipp Heigl (Aut)|
|DNF||Corne Van Kessel (Ned) Tormans Cyclo Cross Team|
|DNF||David van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin - Fenix|
|DNS||Corran Carrick-Anderson (GBr)|
|DNS||Arnau Pericas Figueras (Spa)|
|DNS||Šimon Vaníček (Cze)|
|DNS||Jakub Říman (Cze)|
|DNS||Alain Suarez Fernandez (Spa) Nesta - MMR CX Team|
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