Three-peat: Van Aert defends Belgian ‘cross title

Wout van Aert (Crelan-Charles) made it a sweep for the world champions in the elite races at the Belgian national cyclocross championships in Koksijde on Sunday. After women’s World Champion Sanne Cant (Corendon-Circus) took home her ninth successive national cyclocross title, van Aert got on course and took home his third straight national cyclocross championship.

Laurens Sweeck (ERA-Circus) battled with van Aert for the majority of the elite men’s race, but was unable to hang onto his wheel in the final laps and settled for the silver medal on the day. Daan Soete (Telenet Fidea) got the better of his teammate, former European Champion Toon Aerts, on the final lap to capture the bronze medal.

Top 10

  • 1. Wout Van Aert, CRELAN – CHARLES, in 01:02:03
  • 2. Laurens Sweeck, ERA-CIRCUS, at 0:00:42
  • 3. Daan Soete, TELENET FIDEA LIONS, at 0:00:58
  • 4. Toon Aerts, TELENET FIDEA LIONS, at 0:01:04
  • 5. Jens Adams, PAUWELS SAUZEN – VASTGOEDSERVICE, at 0:01:30
  • 6. Michael Vanthourenhout, MARLUX – BINGOAL, at 0:01:46
  • 7. Tim Merlier, CRELAN – CHARLES, at 0:01:54
  • 8. Kevin Pauwels, MARLUX – BINGOAL, at 0:02:02
  • 9. Wietse Bosmans, ERA-CIRCUS, at 0:02:09
  • 10. Quinten Hermans, TELENET FIDEA LIONS, at 0:02:17

The elite men’s race at the Belgian national cyclocross championships was sure to be a war. The Belgians are always at the top of the standings at the world championships and in the world cup races, so Sunday’s race was littered with many of the best riders in cyclocross.

Aerts took the holeshot, as van Aert slotted-in calmly behind. The start of the race was clean with no crashes and the riders hit the opening steep sandy run-up as one large group.

After the run-up, Sweeck went to the front and pushed the pace. He was able to lead onto the first long sand section, thus giving himself a clean line. After the section, three riders emerged with a gap over the rest. Sweeck was joined by Aerts and van Aert.

Aerts was briefly gapped when Sweeck and van Aert rode a sandy climb while he got off and ran, but he didn’t panic and steadily rode back up to the leading duo. However, van Aert then put the hammer down and Aerts was out the back again. Sweeck was not able to immediately follow the acceleration and van Aert crossed the finish line alone with a few second lead over Sweeck.

Luckily, Sweeck was able to make contact with van Aert midway through the second lap after the World Champion bobbled multiple times in the sand. He was seen pushing his way through the sand at times with one only one foot unclipped, not fully committing to running.

Aerts was still alone in third after lap two, but many chase groups were forming behind him. Jens Adams (Pauwels Sauzen-Vastgoedservice) and Daan Soete (Telenet Fidea) took up the fourth and fifth spots and then a four-rider group was behind them with Marlux-Bingoal teammates Michael Vanthourenhout and Kevin Pauwels, Tim Merlier (Crelan-Charles), and Wietse Bosmans (ERA-Circus).

Soete left Adams behind on lap three and bridged to Aerts. Simultaneously, Quinten Hermans (Telenet Fidea) was charging toward the front of the race. He would catch Adams by the end of the lap, to put himself in with a chance at a top-five placing in his first national championships competing in the elite race. That effort would cost him though, as a lap later Adams would be alone in fifth.

While the top five remained unchanged for the middle of the race with Sweeck and van Aert battling, the Telenet Fidea duo of Aerts and Soete together, and Adams in no-man’s land, the rest of the top ten was a different story. The groups constantly reshuffled and with three laps to go Vanthourenhout and Merlier were together with Pauwels, Bosmans, and Hermans just behind.

Van Aert stuck the knife in heading toward two laps to go. Sweeck had been attacking van Aert, after forcing him to do most of the leading in the middle of the race, but that tactic would backfire. Van Aert counterattacked one of Sweeck’s moves aggressively and would get all the daylight he would need to take home the championship.

The battle for the final podium spot would come down to the final lap between Soete and Aerts. Aerts had appeared to be the stronger of the two, constantly gapping Soete, but Soete never stopped giving up. He would get away from Aerts in one of the sand sections to secure the bronze medal. Adams, who rode much of the race alone stuck between groups, finished fifth.

There were no sprint finishes for the top-10 placings, as riders trickled in exhausted. The rider’s faces at the finish showed the fatigue of battling sand constantly for 60 minutes.

Full results

  • 1. Wout Van Aert, CRELAN – CHARLES, in 01:02:03
  • 2. Laurens Sweeck, ERA-CIRCUS, at 0:00:42
  • 3. Daan Soete, TELENET FIDEA LIONS, at 0:00:58
  • 4. Toon Aerts, TELENET FIDEA LIONS, at 0:01:04
  • 5. Jens Adams, PAUWELS SAUZEN – VASTGOEDSERVICE, at 0:01:30
  • 6. Michael Vanthourenhout, MARLUX – BINGOAL, at 0:01:46
  • 7. Tim Merlier, CRELAN – CHARLES, at 0:01:54
  • 8. Kevin Pauwels, MARLUX – BINGOAL, at 0:02:02
  • 9. Wietse Bosmans, ERA-CIRCUS, at 0:02:09
  • 10. Quinten Hermans, TELENET FIDEA LIONS, at 0:02:17
  • 11. Gianni Vermeersch, STEYLAERTS – BETFIRST, at 0:03:53
  • 12. Klaas Vantornout, MARLUX – BINGOAL, at 0:04:02
  • 13. Jim Aernouts, TELENET FIDEA LIONS, at 0:04:09
  • 14. Nicolas Cleppe, TELENET FIDEA LIONS, at 0:04:10
  • 15. Diether Sweeck, at 0:04:15
  • 16. Vincent Baestaens, at 0:04:47
  • 17. Braam Merlier, STEYLAERTS – BETFIRST, at 0:04:58
  • 18. Joeri Adams, at 0:05:24
  • 19. Onno Verheyen, at 0:07:00
  • 20. Kenneth Van Compernolle, TARTELETTO – ISOREX, at 0:07:20
  • 21. Jonas Degroote, at 0:07:31
  • 22. Yorben Van Tichelt, ERA-CIRCUS
  • 23. Edwin De Wit
  • 24. Hendrik Sweeck
  • 25. Stijn Huys
  • 26. Daan Hoeyberghs, STEYLAERTS – BETFIRST
  • 27. Kenny Roelandt
  • 28. Ingmar Uytdewilligen, TARTELETTO – ISOREX
  • 29. Dario Tielen
  • 30. Jens Gys
  • 31. Yelle Leaerts
  • 32. Mathieu Willemyns
  • 33. Niels Koyen
  • 34. Wouter Goosen
  • 35. Julien Kaise
  • 36. Pascal Colaert
  • 37. Tim De Schuyter
  • 38. Brecht Vandenheede
  • 39. Pieter Meelberghs
  • 40. Jelle De Bock
  • 41. Vincent Oger

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