World Champion Wout Van Aert overcame an early crash to take the first World Cup of the new season Wednesday at CrossVegas. Van Aert powered away from a large lead group with two-and-a-half laps remaining and never saw the rest of the field again. Michael Vanthourenhout led the chase across the line 22 seconds later for second, followed by Laurens Sweek, another three seconds back.
"The crash was very painful," Van Aert admitted after the race. "But afterwards I got a boost of adrenalin, so I made it very quick back to the front. Afterwards I felt my effort and I was not sure at all that I could do the final move, but in the beginning sometimes it's a disadvantage if you're the main favourite because everyone is looking at you. But once you have a gap it seems like nobody was reacting and they were happy with second place, I guess, so that made it more easy for me in the final."
How it unfolded
The men’s race started inauspiciously with a large early crash that slung about 20 riders into the barriers on the left-hand side of the course, while the riders ahead of the crash surged into the opening lap on the heavy grass.
Nine riders created a separation on the second lap, and that group was quickly whittled down to three as Van Aert, Vanthourenhout and Laurens Sweek slipped off the front.
The lead group grew to about 10 riders as they started the third lap, with another group of three dangling behind and a large gap to the rest of the field. With no one willing to take control at the front, the lead group continued to swell throughout the first half of the third lap.
Sweek then went to the front and applied pressure that pared the lead group down to six before Quinten Hermans attacked and rode slightly off the front of the group.
As Kevin Pauwels led the first chase group back into contention. Van Aert tripped on a set of stairs and was held up as he untangled his bike from the course ribbon. Van Aert quickly regrouped but was outside of the top 20 as he started to fight his way back.
Vanthourenhout seized the opportunity and jumped away from the lead group, establishing a workable gap as he made his way toward the start of lap 5. Van Aert quickly made his way back into the first chase group, which had sat up for the most part and allowed the world champion to regain contact.
Van Aert went to the front of the now-large chase group with hopes of cutting into Vanthourenhout's 15-second lead. Van Aert’s effort quickly paid dividends, with all but two of his fellow chasers falling off the pace as he closed within a couple of seconds to Vanthourenhout. Only Sweek and Hermans could stick with the world champion as he continued to plow through the grass course.
The gap was just four seconds from the three chasers to Vanthourenhout as they started the sixth lap, with Pauwels chasing a few seconds farther back.
The head of the race shuffled again, as Pauwels, Hermans and Toon Aerts, joined Van Aert and Sweeks off the front. That soon changed as well, as the first chase linked up to form a new group of eight, followed by seven more riders within 15 seconds of each other.
Not content to watch the lead group’s ranks swell, Vanthourenhout and Sweeks surged away again, stringing out the group behind. The move was short-lived, however, as they started the eighth lap with a group of 14 at the front.
Van Aert then separated from the group for good on the eighth lap, attacking before the sand pit and then riding through it as Vanthourenhout bobbled slightly and slowed the rest of the group behind him.
"In the pre-ride I already felt that it was a critical point, the sand pit; it was very tough to make it on somebody's wheel, so it was definitely something that was on my mind before the race," Van Aert said.
Sweek picked up the chase, but it was clear the wind had been knocked out of the other riders’ sails as Van Aert continued to ride away. With two laps to go, Van Aert had 20 seconds, and the deflated chase made it evident the others were racing for second.
Sweek and Vanthourenhout continued to show themselves as they separated from the rest of the chasers, building a gap on a group of four.
Van Aert started the last lap with a 35-second gap on the pair chasing behind, and from there he sailed over the grass toward the finish and the first World Cup win of the 2016-17 season.
Sweek and Vanthourenhout battled for the final podium spots, with Vanthourenhout pulling away for second and Sweek settling in for third.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Wout Van Aert (Bel)||1:06:53|
|2||Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel)||0:00:23|
|3||Laurens Sweeck (Bel)||0:00:26|
|4||Toon Aerts (Bel)||0:00:32|
|5||Rob Peeters (Bel)||0:00:39|
|6||Quinten Hermans (Bel)||0:00:45|
|7||Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel)||0:00:50|
|8||Philipp Walsleben (Ger)||0:00:59|
|9||Tim Merlier (Bel)||0:01:01|
|10||Thijs Van Amerongen (Ned)||0:01:07|
|11||Tom Meeusen (Bel)||0:01:27|
|12||Kevin Pauwels (Bel)||0:01:48|
|13||Gianni Vermeersch (Bel)||0:01:51|
|14||Julien Taramarcaz (Swi)||0:01:56|
|15||Matthieu Boulo (Fra)||0:02:00|
|16||Jim Aernouts (Bel)||0:02:17|
|17||Michael Van Den Ham (Can)||0:02:20|
|18||Jeremy Powers (USA)||0:02:51|
|19||Steve Chainel (Fra)||0:02:58|
|20||Marcel Wildhaber (Swi)|
|21||Daan Soete (Bel)|
|22||Geoff Kabush (Can)||0:03:02|
|23||Jeremy Martin (Can)||0:03:04|
|24||Ian Field (GBr)||0:03:08|
|24||Simon Zahner (Swi)|
|26||Travis Livermon (USA)||0:03:42|
|27||Tobin Ortenblad (USA)||0:03:51|
|28||Jeremy Durrin (USA)||0:03:58|
|29||James Driscoll (USA)|
|30||Daan Hoeyberghs (Bel)||0:04:06|
|31||Stephen Hyde (USA)||0:04:49|
|32||Diether Sweeck (Bel)||0:04:52|
|33||Daniel Summerhill (USA)||0:04:53|
|34||Craig Richey (Can)||0:04:54|
|35||Hector Riveros (Col)||0:05:02|
|36||Troy Wells (USA)||0:05:18|
|37||Jonathan Page (USA)|
|38||Anthony Clark (USA)||0:05:31|
|39||Justin Lindine (USA)||0:05:48|
|40||Mark Mcconnell (Can)||0:06:07|
|41||Allen Krughoff (USA)|
|42||Kerry Werner (USA)|
|43||Dan Timmerman (USA)|
|44||Benjamin Sonntag (Ger)|
|45||Jens Vandekinderen (Bel)|
|46||Derek Zandstra (Can)|
|47||Aaron Schooler (Can)|
|48||David Van Der Poel (Ned)|
|49||Curtis White (USA)|
|50||Yoann Corbihan (Fra)|
|51||Scott Smith (USA)|
|52||Vincent Baestaens (Bel)|
|53||Christian Helmig (Lux)|
|54||Louis Wolf (Ger)|
|55||Jose Alfredo Pacheco Roses (Mex)|
|56||Christhian Ravelo-Avila (Col)|
|57||Volodymyr Starychenko (Ukr)|
|58||Jarno Trey (Est)|
Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake before studying English and journalism at the University of Oregon. He has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon.
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