Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) put in a commanding display on a fast Flamanville course to take his 13th cyclo-cross win of the season on Sunday.
Iserbyt had failed to finish the Belgian national championships last weekend after losing a host of time but was back with vengeance in France, attacking on the third lap and extending his advantage throughout.
In similar conditions, the 24-year-old was narrowly beaten in the previous World Cup round at Hulst by Tom Pidock two weeks earlier. However, the British rider was absent on this occasion in preparation for the World Championships in two weeks’ time and Iserbyt took his sixth World Cup win of the season.
Toon Aerts (Baloise Trek Lions) was forced to chase while Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) allowed his teammate's lead to grow.
Aerts' relentless chase in second eventually cracked Vanthourenhout on the penultimate lap, with the Baloise Trek Lions rider taking the runner-up position 58 seconds behind.
"I think I was in the right rhythm from the beginning of the race, which was good for my head and then I could go full gas," said Iserbyt.
"I knew after the hurdles you just had to keep calm and stay in the ruts and maybe go a little bit slower and keep at the right pace. When you make a mistake you lose three, four or five seconds maybe and I just wanted to have a clean race.
"On the straight parts I felt really strong and I could push a really high power. I hope I am on the right way to the World Championships. Next weekend we have another two hard races and then maybe we can get some rest in America as it’s a big travel day on Monday. I hope I don’t get sick and we can ride a good World Championship."
The cyclo-cross World Cup series concludes next Sunday in Hoogerheide ahead of the Worlds in the USA in two weeks. While Iserbyt has already won the World Cup series going into the final round, second place is up for grabs, with Vanthourenhout sitting just eight points ahead of Aerts.
How it unfolded
After dominating the Christmas period of races, Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) finished his cyclo-cross season at last weekend’s Belgium national championships and was absent in Normandy. Also missing in Flamanville was previous World Cup round Tom Pidcock, who was training ahead of the World Championships in two weeks’ time.
Flamanville hosted its first ever cyclo-cross World Cup round and an easing of coronavirus restrictions meant 5,000 supporters attended in the grounds of the Chateau de Flamanville. Despite rain the previous day the ground remained firm in Normandy for a course which included short rideable banks and fast corners.
Iserbyt had already been confirmed as World Cup winner with two rounds remaining and went into the race looking for a 13th win of the season. Charging over the paved start, he and Aerts went side by side, with Aerts leading into the first corner.
Toon Vandebosch was an unfamiliar face who took the opening lap lead and led a train of four Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal riders. French national champion Joshua Dubau delighted the home fans by making the front group of seven riders on the opening lap.
A fast opening lap was led by Laurens Sweeck (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) fresh from finishing second at last weekend’s Belgium national championships. Full of confidence, Sweeck forced a second-lap gap and Corné Van Kessel (Tormans) started to chase before Iserbyt closed down his teammate.
Aerts had to fight his way through the leading group before pulling back the Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal duo in the lead. The pace had forced five riders clear, with Dubau and Vandebosch distanced while Vanthourenhout was also formed part of the leading group.
Thriving on the fast course with punchy corners, Iserbyt attacked his rivals on the third lap and forced a slender gap over chasers Aerts and Vanthourenhout. The fast pace by Iserbyt had Aerts struggling and Vanthourenhout played the perfect teammate, allowing the Baloise Trek Lions to do all the chasing 11 seconds behind after three laps.
World Cup leader Iserbyt looked in firm control sprinting up the small banks, with his gap growing over Aerts to over 20 seconds. Sensing a weakness in the chase, Vanthourenhout passed his Belgian rival and went in pursuit of his teammate and race leader.
Suffering in the fast conditions, Aerts started falling back to the chasers with Sweeck and Van Kessel a further 10 seconds back at the halfway distance. However, after changing tyres, Aerts pulled back the challenge of Vanthourenhout, with the pair battling for second 30 seconds behind leader Iserbyt.
Sweeck pulled himself back into medal contention, bridging across to Vanthourenhout and Aerts with three laps of the eight-lap race remaining. However, not wanting to fend off two Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal riders for the podium placings, Aerts attacked, distancing Sweeck again.
Coming into the penultimate lap, Iserbyt held a commanding lead of 58 seconds over Aerts along with Vanthourenhout, while Sweeck was a further seven seconds back. Continuing his resurgent chase, Aerts started to put Vanthourenhout under pressure on the penultimate lap, forcing a small gap.
Iserbyt was consistent in his lap times and, taking the bell, the Belgian sat 56 seconds ahead of Aerts, who had eight seconds over Vanthourenhout, while Sweeck was distanced from the podium battle.
Extending his overall margin in the World Cup, Iserbyt had time to celebrate in front of the crowd, while Aerts finished second and Vanthourenhout third.
|Rider Name (Country) Team
|Eli Iserbyt (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal
|Toon Aerts (Bel) Baloise Trek Lions
|Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal
|Laurens Sweeck (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal
|Kevin Kuhn (Swi) Tormans Cyclo Cross Team
|Jens Adams (Bel)
|Corne van Kessel (Ned) Tormans Cyclo Cross Team
|Toon Vandebosch (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal
|Joshua Dubau (Fra)
|Timon Rüegg (Swi) Cross Team Legendre
|Daan Soete (Bel) CX Team Deschacht-Group Hens-Containers Maes
|Tom Meeusen (Bel) CX Team Deschacht-Group Hens-Containers Maes
|Vincent Baestaens (Bel) CX Team Deschacht-Group Hens-Containers Maes
|Clement Venturini (Fra)
|Thijs Aerts (Bel) Baloise Trek Lions
|Marcel Meisen (Ger)
|Kevin Suarez Fernandez (Spa) Nesta - MMR CX Team
|Valentin Guillaud (Fra) Team Guevel Immobilier Laval Cyclisme 53
|Felipe Orts Lloret (Spa)
|Tony Periou (Fra) Team S1Neo Loudeac
|Yan Gras (Fra) Team Podiocom CC
|Gilles Mottiez (Swi) Cross Team Legendre
|Gosse Van Der Meer (Ned)
|Arthur Tropardy (Fra)
|Valentin Remondet (Fra) Team Podiocom CC
|Antony Chamerat Dumont (Fra)
|Quentin Navarro (Fra) Team Motrio Safir Ganova
|Stan Godrie (Ned)
|Lucas Deloison (Fra)
|Matej Ulik (Svk)
|Iñigo Gomez Elorriaga (Spa)
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