In the absence of world champion Mathieu van der Poel, Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal) won the penultimate UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup round on a sunny Sunday afternoon in the French mud of Nommay, near the Swiss border.
Iserbyt was victorious after a thrilling 10-lap duel with World Cup leader Toon Aerts (Telenet Baloise Lions). The latter remains comfortably in the World Cup lead ahead of next week’s finale in Hoogerheide, Netherlands.
It was the fourth World Cup win of the season for Iserbyt, who lost the series lead after a disastrous passage in Namur, Belgium where he had to abandon the race.
"It was the hardest one to win. This was a beautiful course. It’s really slippery. That’s good for me. I’m really happy with this win. One more week of training and from there I have to hope for a super day at the World Championships," Iserbyt told Telenet Play Sports in the post-race flash interview.
"I’m enormously tired now. It was so long and I really didn’t think that I would bridge back up to him."
Aerts and Iserbyt rode away from the field during the second lap of the race. Halfway through the race, Aerts gapped Iserbyt. The slender Belgian rider seemed on his way to a first World Cup victory of the season when Iserbyt trailed him by 15 seconds.
A fighting spirit and tactical decisions allowed Iserbyt to bridge back up to Aerts. He attacked straight away, was caught back and then got dropped again on the final lap. Once again, a sharp Iserbyt bounced back and immediately attacked again just before reaching the finishing straight. This time, Aerts had to bow his head and settle for second place.
Iserbyt needed some time to recover but obviously he was delighted with the win in Nommay.
"Phew. I really had to dig very deep. I knew it would be a very long race. Halfway through the race Toon was going strong while I had to shift back and find my rhythm again," he said.
"We played a bit with the bike switches. Normally you needed to switch each lap but I took the risk to come closer on him. It worked out. On the road I always noticed that I closed in on him. That gave me the confidence that when it would come down to a sprint that I could beat him. My luck was that Toon didn’t ride up to the top of the final climb whereas I did pull that off; otherwise I would have never gotten back to him."
Just like the World Cup round in Namur had been a crucial race for Iserbyt, it turned out to be a pivotal race for Aerts. A last-lap duel with Mathieu van der Poel ended with a rib-breaking crash. It’s clear that he’s now back in top form.
"The ribs-story is over now. I still need to take care of it. I did a good job for the World Cup. Right now the focus is on the remaining races," Aerts said.
"I think it was a nice battle for the victory. Early on we were each other’s match, then I seemed to be going somewhat better but in the end tough Eli came back and won. For me it was exciting too. I think Eli was stronger. If he was able to bridge back up after a few really fast laps halfway through the race shows that his form is super. I was dead-empty. I don’t think that I made mistakes but I started to struggle to make it to the top of the climbs at the end of the race. I was happy that I was able to keep fighting until the end,” Aerts said.
At long distance from the two protagonists, fresh Belgian champion Laurens Sweeck (Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal) easily captured the final podium spot. Sweeck took a smooth start but then lost focus when hitting the second lap. He gave away a lot of positions in the large lead group on the road and a few moments later Aerts and Iserbyt rode away.
Seven riders featured in the chase group that rode together for about five laps. Then, Sweeck joined young Thomas Pidcock (Trinity) when the British rider accelerated. When Sweeck increased the pace even more during lap 7, Pidcock had to shift back. Sweeck became best of the rest.
"Usually that’s the case when Mathieu is racing," Sweeck laughed. "Two riders were better so third was the maximum possible for me. I was struggling to find my rhythm and probably sat too far in the group when the duo accelerated away. Last week I had a super day and that wasn’t the case today. The last few days it was difficult to get into the rhythm again."
Lars van der Haar (Telenet Baloise Lions) won the battle for fourth place from Pidcock. A few seconds later, Circus - Wanty Gobert teammates Corné van Kessel and Quinten Hermans held off Gianni Vermeersch (Creafin-Fristads). Hermans and Vermeersch are battling for the final spot in the Belgian selection for the world championships. Jens Adams and former Nommay winner Tom Meeusen (Group Hens - Maes Containers) rounded out the top 10. Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal) featured in the main chase group until the lap 8 when ran into trouble. He fought back from 17th place to finish eleventh in Nommay, just ahead of Thijs Aerts (Telenet Baloise Lions).
With a lead of 41 points, Toon Aerts seems to have the World Cup win in the pocket. Next week, he should be able to clinch a second successive overall victory in Hoogerheide, Netherlands. One week later, there’s the world championships race in Dübendorf, Switzerland.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Eli Iserbyt (Bel)||1:07:13|
|2||Toon Aerts (Bel)||0:00:08|
|3||Laurens Sweeck (Bel)||0:01:16|
|4||Lars Van der Haar (Ned)||0:01:28|
|5||Thomas Pidcock (GBr)||0:01:46|
|6||Corne Van Kessel (Ned)||0:01:55|
|7||Quinten Hermans (Bel)||0:01:58|
|8||Gianni Vermeersch (Bel)||0:02:02|
|9||Jens Adams (Bel)||0:02:04|
|10||Tom Meeusen (Bel)||0:02:07|
|11||Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel)||0:02:51|
|12||Thijs Aerts (Bel)|
|13||Marcel Meisen (Ger)||0:03:05|
|14||David Van der Poel (Ned)||0:03:13|
|15||Vincent Baestaens (Bel)||0:03:25|
|16||Joris Nieuwenhuis (Ned)||0:03:30|
|17||Timon Rüegg (Swi)||0:03:33|
|18||Felipe Orts Lloret (Spa)||0:03:44|
|19||Nicolas Cleppe (Bel)||0:03:51|
|20||Dieter Vanthourenhout (Bel)||0:03:58|
|21||Jim Aernouts (Bel)||0:04:06|
|22||Stan Godrie (Ned)||0:04:12|
|23||Steve Chainel (Fra)||0:04:59|
|24||Yan Gras (Fra)||0:05:03|
|25||Diether Sweeck (Bel)||0:05:08|
|26||Simon Zahner (Swi)||0:05:09|
|27||Lander Loockx (Bel)||0:05:18|
|28||Valentin Guillaud (Fra)||0:05:24|
|29||Maik Van der Heijden (Ned)||0:05:28|
|30||Kevin Suarez Fernandez (Spa)||0:05:29|
|31||Lukas Flückiger (Swi)|
|32||Braam Merlier (Bel)||0:06:01|
|33||Sascha Weber (Ger)||0:06:33|
|34||Lucas Dubau (Fra)|
|35||Stephen Hyde (USA)|
|36||Joshua Dubau (Fra)|
|37||Aurélien Philibert (Fra)|
|38||Kerry Werner (USA)|
|39||Nicolas Samparisi (Ita)|
|40||Curtis White (USA)|
|41||Nicola Rohrbach (Swi)|
|42||Gosse Van der Meer (Ned)|
|43||Severin Sägesser (Swi)|
|44||Gilles Mottiez (Swi)|
|45||Damien Mougel (Fra)|
|46||Ondrej Glajza (Svk)|
|47||Philipp Heigl (Aut)|
|48||Patrick Collins (USA)|
|DNF||Sieben Wouters (Ned)|
|DNF||Simon Vozar (Svk)|
|DNS||Lukas Winterberg (Swi)|
|DNS||Daan Soete (Bel)|
|DNS||Marvin Schmidt (Ger)|
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