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With another dominant solo performance, Van Aert came out on top in an exciting duel with archrival van der Poel at the Scheldecross; van der Haar completed the podium and Van Aert extended his overall lead in the Bpost series

Photo: photopress.be

CYCLO-CROSS

NEWS

LARS VAN DER HAAR

NEWS

MATHIEU VAN DER POEL

RIDER PROFILE
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NEWS

WOUT VAN AERT

RIDER PROFILE
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NEWS
19.12.2015 @ 16:22 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Wout Van Aert once again proved that he is currently in a class of his own on the international cyclo-cross scene when he took another dominant solo win, this time at the Scheldecross in Antwerp. After an exciting duel with archrival Mathieu van der Poel, he made it five from five in the Bpost Bank Trofee series and comfortably extended his overall lead. Lars van der Haar beat Kevin Pauwels in the sprint for third.

 

During their entire careers, Wout Van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel have been archrivals and have had numerous big battles in every age category. Their rivalry continued in the 2014/2015 season when they both raced at both the elite and U23 circuit and many were looking forward to another great series of duels in 2015/2016 when they would both focus entirely on the elite circuit.

 

However, a bad knee injury has kept van der Poel out of competition for a big part of the season and while he has been watching from the sidelines, Van Aert has firmly established himself as the big cyclo-cross star, winning nearly every race he has entered. Van der Poel has been back in action from a month but until now he has not been able to really challenge his rival.

 

Today we finally got the long-awaited duel between the two young stars when the pair fought it out at the Scheldecross in Antwerp which is part of the Bpost Bank Trofee series. The race came down to a direct battle between the two youngsters but again Van Aert turned out to be in a class of his own.

 

The good weather and a less challenging course made it a rather non-selective affair and it took a long time before anybody was able to make a difference. After David van der Poel had briefly made a solo attack, it required a mistake from a strong Lars van der Haar to allow anyone to get clear.

 

The key moment occurred just after the halfway point when the European champion hit the deck while riding in third position. That allowed van der Poel and Van Aert to get a gap and after the latter had bridged across to the world champion who immediately hit the gas, they quickly established a big advantage, effectively ending the hopes for their rivals.

 

The pair worked well together to build an unsurmountable gap and then the scene was set for the duel. Van der Poel was constantly trying to put his rival under pressure but like so often before it was Van Aert who had the edge. When he finally went full gas, he put van der Poel on his limit, forcing the world champion to make a mistake in a tight corner. A gap of a few seconds occurred and van der Poel never managed to rejoin his rival who quickly increased his advantage before slotting into cruise control mode for the final two laps.

 

Behind the dominant pair, the fight for third was an exciting one. Sven Nys had looked completely unmotivated, riding far back in the group in the first half of the race but slowly he moved up. When he finally hit the front of the big chase group, only van der Haar – who had not suffered any injuries in his crash – and Kevin Pauwels could match him. The trio battled it out for the final spot on the podium but it looked like Nys already had his eyes on tomorrow’s race in Namur. He was dropped near the end of the penultimate lap and when Pauwels didn’t even do the sprint, it was van der Haar who returned to the top 3 after a difficult period.

 

With the win, Van Aert extended his lead in the Bpost Bank Trofee series and he now leads Pauwels by 4.08, with Nys a massive 7.53 behind in third. Three rounds are left in the 8-race series and the action will be resumed on December 29 at the Azencross in Loenhout. Before then, the stars will all be back in action in the exciting World Cup race in Namur tomorrow.

 

How it unfolded:

Tim Merlier was eager right from the start of the race and took control as soon as they left the starting gate. The young Belgian set the pace for the entire first lap, followed by Mathieu van der Poel and Kevin Pauwels. Most of the group stayed together during the first trip around the circuit but Sven Nys was one of the few riders to lose contact, trailing the main group by around 5 seconds at the first passage of the line.

 

Merlier accelerated a bit as they hit the tarmac and started the second lap while his team leader Woute van Aert moved into second position. The overall leader even slowed down a bit to allow his teammate to get a small gap which van der Poel quickly shut down. Meanwhile, Nys had slowly regained contact with the group that was completely single file.

 

Merlier won the intermediate sprint ahead of van der Poel and Michael Vanthourenhout as splits started to slowly occur in the big group. Moments later Vathourenhout took over and he clearly upped the pace a bit more. However, he failed to split the group which was still intact as they ended the second lap.

 

Gianni Vermeersch was the net rider to try to create some selection as he took over the pace-setting and again small splits briefly occurred. However, the group was still together despite his many accelerations while Nys remained in the rear end of the field.

 

A small difference was finally made when Laurens Sweeck hit the front and only Kevin Pauwels managed to follow. The pair had a 3-second advantage over a 8-rider group led by Van Aert as they crossed the line at the end of the third lap. Nys found himself further back, 15 seconds behind the leaders.

 

Van Aert quickly brought the two leaders back, creating a 10-rider front group that also included van der Poel, Lars van der Haar, David van der Poel, Corne van Kessel, Vermeersch, Vanthourenhout and Radomir Simunek. However, Pauwels did not slow down and continued to put his rivals under pressure, with his teammates Vanthourenhout and Vermeersch hanging on for dear life.

 

After a slow start to the race, Van Aert finaly decided to up the pace and he split the group to pieces. Only Pauwels, van der Haar and van der Poel could keep up with him but as they crossed the line again, Sweeck and David van der Poel had made the junction. Van Kessel, Vermeersch, Vanthourenhout and Simunek were at 6 seconds while Nys was now 18 seconds behind and still not in the top 20.

 

As they started the next lap, van der Poel made a big attack and he briefy managed to drop his rivals. However, Van Aert slowly brought him back and as the pace went down, a big group of around 15 riders gathered.

 

David van der Poel used the slower pace to make the next attack and the world champion was happy to let his brother go. He quickly got a relatively big gap and it was van der Haar who finally opted to react, stringing the group out again. As they crossed the line with 6 laps to go, he had an advantage of 4 seconds over the big group that included more than 15 riders, including Nys.

 

Van der Haar slowly brought David van der Poel back and easily passed the oldest of the two Dutch brothers. The European champion continued to set the pace, followed by Mathieu van der Poel, Van Aert and David van der Poel. Meanwhile, the group was again starting to plit as several riders were losing contact.

 

As they approached the end of the lap, Mathieu van der Poel again hit the front but he never made a real attack. That allowed several riders to rejoin the group and it was a 17-rider group that had gathered as they crossed the line with five laps to go.

 

Van der Poel continued to ride on the front when disaster struck for van der Haar. The European champion had looked significantly stronger than he did during last week’s poor campaign but he crashed hard when van der Poel accelerated again. He was quickly back on his bike but found himself behind the main group.

 

Van der Haar had been in third position when he hit the deck and the incident created a gap behind van der Poel and Van Aert. The world champion went full gas and managed to distance his archrival. However, Van Aert slowly closed the gap while the pair increased the advantage over the rest of the field.

 

Vanthourenhout took off in lone pursuit of the two leaders but by now Nys had finally got to the front. The veteran brought the U23 world champion back before they got to the line. At this point, however, they were already 22 seconds behind the two leaders.

 

Van Aert hit the front after the passage of the line but soon it was again van der Poel putting his rival under pressure. Meanwhile, Nys was leading the chase until a resurgent van der Haar made an attack that allowed him to take off in lone pursuit.

 

The two leaders traded pulls evenly during the rest of the lap but at the next passage of the line, their advantage had been reduced to 16 seconds. Nys, Pauwels and David van der Poel had closed the gap to the lone van der Haar while the rest of the big group had blown to pieces.

 

Van der Poel briefly seemed to have Van Aert on the limit but the overall leader quickly shut the gap down and even took over the pace-setting. The high speed apparently put van der Poel into difficulty and when the world champion made a mistake in a tight turn, Van Aert was gone. He quickly got a big gap and it immediately looked like we were in for another solo show as so often before. Meanwhile, van der Haar and Nys had distanced Pauwels and David van der Poel but the former quickly managed to rejoin his two companions.

 

At the start of the penultimate lap, Van Aert already had an advantage of 9 seconds over van der Poel while the three chasers had lost ground and were now trailing by 27 seconds. Further back, a bigger group had gathered but as they were 44 seconds behind, they were out of the battle for the podium spots.

 

Van der Poel refused to give up and he managed to reduce his deficit to 7 seconds but that was as close as he would get. At the start of the final lap, the gap had gone out to 17 seconds and Van Aert could slot into cruise control mode. Meanwhile, Pauwels had taken over the pace-setting in the chase group and managed to drop Nys. However, the gap was now 39 seconds.

 

No one was able to stop Van Aert in the final and he made no mistakes, cruising across the line to take another dominant solo win. Van der Poel still lost a few more seconds but had plenty of time to celebrate a well-deserved second place, 23 seconds behind Van Aert. Pauwels didn’t even try to contest the sprint for third, allowing van der Haar to take the final spot on the podium before Vanthourenhout edged out Vermeersch in a sprint from a bigger group to take sixth.

 

Result:

1. Wout Van Aert 58.29

2. Mathieu van der Poel +0.23

3. Lars van der Haar +0.31

4. Kevin Pauwels +0.34

5. Sven Nys +0.52

6. Michael Vanthourenhout +0.54

7. Gianni Vermeersch

8. David van der Poel

9. Julien Taramarcaz +0.55

10. Laurens Sweeck +0.56

 

Overall standings:

1. Wout Van Aert 4.54.48

2. Kevin Pauwels +4.08

3. Sven Nys +7.53

4. Lars van der Haar +8.51

5. Michael Vanthourenhout +8.57

6. Gianni Vermeersch +10.08

7. Julien Taramarcaz +10.09

8. Laurens Sweeck +10.13

9. Tim Merlier +10.24

10. Tom Meeusen +12.54

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