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With a dominant solo performance, Van Aert crushed the opposition at the GP Sven Nys; Nys was second in his home race while Aerts completed the podium and Van Aert extended the overall lead in the Bpost series

Photo: Photopress.be

CYCLO-CROSS

NEWS

WOUT VAN AERT

RIDER PROFILE
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NEWS
01.01.2016 @ 16:21 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Wout Van Aert denied Sven Nys the dream farewell at his home race, the GP Sven Nys in Baal, as the youngster turned out to be in a class of his own on the muddy course in Nys’ home city. The youngster got away already in the third lap and delivered a dominant solo performance throughout the rest of the race to take another victory in the Bpost Bank Trofee series. Nys was the best of the rest, with Toon Aerts taking a surprise third place. Van Aert extended his overall lead with just one race left in the 8-race series.

 

Christmas and New Year form one of the busiest and most important part of the cyclo-cross season but this year’s holiday races have been unusual. Wout Van Aert who has been the dominant figure throughout the entire season has suffered on the easy courses which have been more about technical skills and tactics than pure power and has been hampered by illness too. Hence, he has failed to win a single race while his arch-rival Mathieu van der Poel has excelled by claiming three wins in a row.

 

Today Van Aert was back in his preferred conditions when he lined up for the traditional New Year’s race, the GP Sven Nys in Baal. The course is known as one of the hardest on the calendar and muddy conditions only made things even thougher. This turned the race into an event for the real power guys and Van Aert clearly relished the chance to show his strength.

 

Mathieu van der Poel had decided to skip the race this had made Van Aert the big pre-race favourite. However, he faced a confident Sven Nys who has won his home race more than any other race and has targeted it as one of three highlights in the final part of his final season alongside the Belgian and World Championshiphs.

 

Van Aert refused to give any gifts to the home rider though and it soon became apparent that the overall leader in all the major series was in class of his own. After the pair had marked each other closely in the first lap when a four-rider group went clear, Van Aert showed his cards in the second lap, briefly escaping with Lars van der Haar. Already in the next lap, the European champion had to surrender to the pace and from there the outcome was never in doubt. Van Aert increased his advantage every lap until he finally slowed down after the penultimate passage of the line, taking the time to enjoy his final trip around the muddy circuit.

 

Meanwhile, Nys was desperately trying to get the best possible result in his home race. After a slow start, he was clearly the best of the rest as he started to move up through the ranks. He was set back when he crashed in a muddy section and this cost him some momentum but he slowly made it back to the first chase group which had mostly been led by a strong Michael Vanthourenhout who also liked the muddy conditions. When he made the junction, he made repeated attempts to get clear but he failed to get an advantage.

 

It was a six-rider group that started the final lap together but as usual Nys had saved something for the finale. When he made his expected attack, only Vanthourenhout could join him and it looked like the pair would complete the podium. However, Toon Aerts had been riding his own race in the background, slowly moving up through the field before he joined the first chase group at the start of the final lap. He made it back to Nys and Vanthourenhout and when Nys attacked again, the Sunweb rider was the only one able to match the veteran’s speed. However, he was no match in the sprint for second and so Nys got the best possible outcome of a race in which Van Aert was in a class of his own.

 

With the win, Van Aert extended his overall lead in the Bpost Bank Trofee series and now has a massive advantage of 6.53 over Kevin Pauwels who could only manage second while Nys is more than nine minutes adrift in third. There’s only one race left in the 8-race series, the Waaslandcross in Sint-Niklaas on February 2. Some of the riders will be back in action on Sunday at the race in Leuven which is not part of any of the major series before the focus turns to the National Championships which are held next weekend.

 

How it unfolded:

Lars van der Haar took the hole-shot but was quickly passed by Laurens Sweeck as the peloton tackled the first tricky turns. The youngster strung out the group which started to split and it didn’t take long for the Belgian to draw a four-rider group clear as he was joined by Klaas Vantornout, van der Haar and Gianni Vermeersch. Meanwhile, local hero Sven Nys and overall leader Wout van Aert were watching each other closely in the front end of the peloton.

 

As they hit the first climb, van der Haar took over the pace-setting while Michael Vanthourenhout bridged the gap to make it a front quartet. However, both he and Sweeck quicklhy lost contact as van der Haar continued to apply the pressure and at the first passage of the line, van der Haar, Vermeersch and Vantornout formed a front trio. Vanthourenhout and Sweeck were at 4 seconds while Van Aetr and Corne van Kessel were one second further adrift. Nys led the peloton at 12 seconds.

 

Van Aert and van Kessel quickly rejoined the two nearest chasers while Vermeersch clearly suffered at the back of the front trio. When Vantornout made a technical mistake, van der Haar got a small gap and the Belgian champion and Vermeersch both dropped back to the chase group.

 

It was time for Van Aert to show his cards and the overall leader now took control of the chasers. He slowly brought the European champion back and a 7-rider front group had gathered as they reached the pit. Meanwhile, Nys still led the chase in a group that also included Tom Meeusen and Kevin Pauwels.

 

Van der Haar continued to set the pace and led Van Aert and Vermeersch across the line in the intermediate sprint. While Nys regained contact with the chasers, Van Aert and van der Haar slowly got away. At the passage of the line, the pair led Vantornout, Vanthourenhout and Vermeersch by 6 seconds while Nys, Sweeck, Pauwels, Toon Aerts and van Kessel were a few seconds further back.

 

Nys was riding full gas as he tried to make it back to the leaders and that was costly as he slid out in a muddy section. Luckily he was quickly back on his bike and managed to stay in his group.

 

Van der Haar was unable to keep up with Van Aert who used his impressive strength to power away and the European champion dropped back to Vanthourenhout, Vantornout and Vermeersch. Vanthourenhout did most of the work but the quartet constantly lost ground to the unstoppable Van Aert. At the end of the third lap, he was already 17 seconds ahead of his four chasers while Sweeck, Nys, van Kessel, Pauwels and Aerts were at 29 seconds.

 

Van der Haar started to suffer and was slowly dropped from the chase group in which Vanthourenhout proved his skills as a mud specialist. Meanwhile, Nys had again found his good legs and together with van Kessel, he rejoined the European champion. The trio quickly caught Vantornout and Vermeersch who had been dropped by Vanthourenhout.

 

Nys went straight to the front of the chase group and slowly started to pull Vanthourenhout back. Meanwhile, Van Aert continued his impressive showing and as he reached the halfway point, he led his young chaser by 36 seconds. Nys, Vantornout, Vermeersch and van der Haar were just 3 seconds further back while van Kessel was at 49 seconds. Aerts had been distanced by 54 seconds and Sweeck and Pauwels by 59 seconds.

 

The Nys group caught Vanthourenhout in the first part of the fifth lap and the veteran now took a few moments to recover from his effort. As he slipped to the back of the group, Vantourenhout didn’t look back and again managed to distance his companions. Meanwhile, Aerts had caught his teammate van Kessel.

 

At the passage of the line, Vanthourenhout was the nearest chaser but he was only a few seconds ahead of the Nys group and had lost more ground to Van Aert. Again Nys brought him back and the veteran immediately tried to distance his companions. His mission failed though and as they approached the end of the sixth lap, Vanthourenhout was back on the front. However, it was clearly a battle for second place as they were 1.18 behind Van Aert at the start of the pentultimate lap, with van Kessel and Aerts following at 1.39. Sweeck was at 1.39 and Pauwels at 1.46.

 

As they started the lap, Nys again tried to get clear but again he was unable to shake off his companions. As he slowed down again and allowed Vermeersch to take over, Aerts and an Kessel even made the junction and it was a 6-rider chase group that started the final lap 1.34 behind Van Aert.

 

Van Kessel used the slower pace on the finishing straight to make a surprise attack but Nys was attentive and quickly brought him back. Instead, the veteran launched his own acceleration. Unsurprisingly, Vanthourenhout was the only rider able to match his speed and the pair who had clearly been the strongest in the chase group slowly pulled away.

 

Aerts had been getting stronger and stronger throughout the race and he managed to rejoin the two chasers. He continued at his own pace and went straight to the front, clearly targeting a surprise podium spot. Meanwhile, van der Haar was getting dropped from the next group.

 

Nys was the only rider in the chase group not to change bikes in the pit and he tried to gain an advantage. However, Aerts was quick to react and managed to keep up with the veteran while Vanthourenhout got dropped. Moments later, Nys made a big attack but the impressive Aerts stayed glued to his wheel as they passed through the final difficult part of the course. However, Nys was first to hit the finishing straight and Aerts had no response as the veteran launched his sprint to claim second. Vanthourenhout beat Vantornout, Vermeersch and van der Haar in the sprint for fourth while van Kessel, Sweeck and Pauwels completed the top 10.

 

Result:

1. Wout van Aert 1.00.40

2. Sven Nys +1.12

3. Toon Aerts +1.14

4. Michael Vanthourenhout +1.17

5. Klaas Vantornout +1.18

6. Gianni Vermeersch +1.20

7. Lars van der Haar

8. Corne van Kessel +1.35

9. Laurens Sweeck +2.00

10. Kevin Pauwels +2.09

 

Overall standings:

1. Wout Van Aert 6.51.09

2. Kevin Pauwels +6.53

3. Sven Nys +9.24

4. Lars van der Haar +10.33

5. Michael Vanthourenhout +10.49

6. Gianni Vermeersch +11.54

7. Laurens Sweeck +12.28

8. Julien Taramarcaz +13.14

9. Tim Merlier +14.29

10. Tom Meeusen +15.17

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