Toon Aerts takes victory at World Cup Zonhoven

Toon Aerts led a one-two for Baloise Trek Lions by running clear of his opponents on the sandy banks of Zonhoven in the fourth round of the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup. 

The 28-year-old Belgian made his winning move out of a leading group of six with just over a lap remaining before soloing away. 

He was followed home 10 seconds later by team-mate Lars Van Der Haar who led the chasers after a frantic final lap while world cup leader Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) had to settle for third, 14 seconds back.

"I didn't expect this after 30 minutes of racing," said Aerts. "I was always in front at the beginning and trying to close the gap on Laurens Sweeck when he was a few seconds away but then I made a mistake and it was difficult to make myself back at the front again of the group. 

"At the end of the race I found two spots where I could make a difference and so shifted to the front of the group. I think that moment when the guys following me had to run and I could make the difference." 

Aerts was followed home by Baloise Trek Lions team-mate Van Der Haar who thrived in the sandy conditions and was always present in the front group. 

"We're really happy as a team that we can do such a good result," added Van Der Haar. 

"This is my favourite race of the year. I'm so happy that there were so many spectators here today and it was such a happy place to be in that pit today." 

Meanwhile Iserbyt said he was happy taking third place at Zonhoven keeping the overall leader's jersey and increasing his on gap on second placed overall Quinten Hermans (Tormans-Circus) who finished fifth. 

How it unfolded 

After winning two of the opening three American rounds Eli Iserbyt returned to Belgium for the fourth round in the world cup leader's jersey. Leading the charge at the head of proceedings after the opening descent of the 'De Kuil' sand dune was Iserbyt despite stating beforehand the sand venue was not his favourite. 

Using their skill to ride up a sandy climb on the opening lap four riders consisting of Iserbyt, Laurens Sweeck (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) and Baloise Trek Lions team-mates Toon Aerts and Lars van der Haar pulled out a five-second gap as their rivals were forced to run. 

Hermans, winner of the second World Cup round in Fayetteville, was not going to let his rivals ride into the distance and pulled the leading group back together. On the same sandy climb as the first lap, Sweeck, who did not travel to America for the opening World Cup rounds, forced the pace and gained a slender advantage from a chasing group of six riders. 

The sand dune of Zonhoven welcomed back the crowds after a year away and Jens Adams was one of those that crashed on the steep sandy descent. With Sweeck maintaining his slender six-second lead Van der Haar was left to chase behind along with team-mate Aerts. 

However, Aerts pushed the limits too far dragging the group back to Sweeck and on a small sandy mound following a tight corner the tall Belgian rider crashed. Aerts, wearing number 13, pulled back to the leading group of seven which had caught Sweeck and was being driven by Iserbyt.

With Iserbyt on the front Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal teammate Michael Vanthourenhout allowed his team-mate an advantage on a running section forcing Van der Haar to chase and using his sand skills to bridge alone. With one rider from each team in the leading duo it was left to Hermans to lead a chasing quartet which had dispatched of Toon Vandebosch (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal). 

Hermans pulled Vanthourenhout, Aerts and Sweeck back to the leading duo after 35 minutes of racing. On the only rideable sandy climb Iserbyt forced his rivals into a mistake and pulled back out a solo advantage of four seconds. 

Hermans showed his power once again chasing Iserbyt over the next lap before drawing level along with Van der Haar with three laps remaining. Aerts along with Vanthourenhout and Sweeck had looked under pressure by the relentless pace but also joined the front group.

With just under two laps remaining Iserbyt attacked again on a grass section but was quickly chased down in the sand by Aerts. Former European champion Aerts, who had spent large sections of the race towards the back of the leading group, then ran clear in the steep sandy ascent of the 'De Kuil'. 

A mistake by Iserbyt on the sandy climb increased Aert's margin to 22 seconds at the bell ahead of the five chasers. Vanthourenhout led the chase behind ahead of Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal teammate Iserbyt and Van der Haar as the race split on the final lap. 

As Iserbyt faltered on the last ascent of the rideable sand climb he was passed by Van der Haar for the descent down to the finish.  Aerts celebrated his victory while Van der Haar held on to second ahead of Iserbyt who kept his overall World Cup leader's jersey ahead of the fifth round at Overijse next Sunday. 

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Full Results
Pos.Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Toon Aerts (Bel) Baloise Trek Lions 0:58:58
2Lars van der Haar (Ned) Baloise Trek Lions 0:00:10
3Eli Iserbyt (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal 0:00:14
4Laurens Sweeck (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal 0:00:19
5Quinten Hermans (Bel) Tormans - Circus Cyclo Cross Team 0:00:26
6Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal 0:00:37
7Daan Soete (Bel) CX Team Deschacht-group Hens-containers Maes 0:01:12
8Corne van Kessel (Ned) Tormans - Circus Cyclo Cross Team 0:01:22
9Toon Vandebosch (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal 0:01:33
10Pim Ronhaar (Ned) Baloise Trek Lions 0:01:52
11Jens Adams (Bel) 0:02:11
12Ryan Kamp (Ned) Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal 0:02:22
13Kevin Kuhn (Swi) Tormans - Circus Cyclo Cross Team 0:02:28
14Michael Boroš (Cze) 0:02:33
15Vincent Baestaens (Bel) CX Team Deschacht-group Hens-containers Maes 0:02:52
16Mees Hendrikx (Ned) IKO - Crelan 0:03:05
17Cameron Mason (GBr) Trinity Racing 0:03:09
18Felipe Orts Lloret (Spa) 0:03:12
19Witse Meeussen (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal 0:03:16
20Anton Ferdinande (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal 0:03:21
21Joris Nieuwenhuis (Ned) 0:03:23
22Thijs Aerts (Bel) Baloise Trek Lions 0:03:27
23Théo Thomas (Fra) Tormans - Circus Cyclo Cross Team 0:03:45
24Marcel Meisen (Ger) Alpecin - Fenix 0:03:53
25Niels Vandeputte (Bel) Alpecin - Fenix 0:04:14
26Kevin Suarez Fernandez (Spa) Nesta - MMR CX Team 0:04:28
27Dario Lillo (Swi) Cx Team Deschacht-Group Hens-Containers Maes 0:04:35
28Stan Godrie (Ned)
29Gioele Bertolini (Ita) Selle Italia - Guerciotti - Elite 0:04:37
30Tibor Del Grosso (Ned) 0:04:44
31David van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin - Fenix
32Matěj Stránský (Cze)
33Nathan Bommenel (Fra) A.S. Bike Crossteam
34Lewis Askey (GBr)
35Aurélien Philibert (Fra) Ardennes Cross Team Gecibat
36Luke Verburg (Ned)
37Daniel Barnes (GBr) Team Spectra Wiggle p/b Vitus
38Pierrick Burnet (Fra) A.S. Bike Crossteam
39Frederik Hähnel (Ger)
40Cameron Jette (Can)
41Sean Nolan (Irl)
42Nicola Parenti (Ita)
43Timothy O Regan (Irl)
DNSBen Chilton (GBr) Team Spectra Wiggle p/b Vitus

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