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Van Aert Shows His Mettle

Wout Van Aert attacked on the fourth lap of the Belgian championships in Lille, and stayed clear for a solo victory. Laurens Sweeck came second and Sven Nys rounded out the podium.


After false starts, mechanicals, bad legs and bad luck, Wout Van Aert has taken his first Belgian championships. While at times in the past it seems Van Aert has choked during big "jersey" races, he won his national championships with an assured display, even after a crash into the barriers on the seventh lap.

Even on a circuit that didn't suit him - the course was dry, with few difficult features - Van Aert didn't panic. He stayed in the front three for the first three laps. as Laurens Sweeck took the holeshot and caused the breakaway of eight riders on the first lap. By the second lap this group had doubled in size, and as the pace decreased for the crossing of the finish line, and Van Aert went to the front for the first time. Sensing the inevitable, Marlux played their first card, Gianni Vermeersch attacked on the crossing of the finish line. However, this achieved nothing whatsoever as Van Aert policed the attack, not letting Vermeersch get any leeway whatsoever.

The next to attack was - guess who - Wout Van Aert himself. He rounded a corner, and just turned the power on, leaving the rest of the group standing as cracks began to form. While other were still in sight for a lap or so, that was really the end of the race. Van Aert wasn't losing from there. Meeusen tried to follow him, but a lap later he was gone without a trace as only Meeusen can disappear. He finished ninth.

Van Aert looked to be running away with it, mostly because he was, before crashing seemingly heavily in the race's only muddy section. However, he got up immediately, barely losing any time. He hadn't choked. He was going to win. And so he did. The rest of the race was merely consolidation for him. Elsewhere, Kevin Pauwels came off second best in a nasty altercation with a fence post, and Sven Nys gave Michael Vanthourenhout a sporting chance at third place by crashing. However, he got back up to finish on the Belgian championships podium for the last time in his career. Laurens Sweeck really showed what he was made of as well, taking an excellent second place, staying in the top two for almost the whole race.

Van Aert Hugs Girlfriend De Bie

Van Aert embraced his girlfriend Sarah De Bie after crossing the line. (KRISTOF VAN ACCOM/AFP/Getty Images)

In the women's race, Sanne Cant saw out a predictable victory, leading a group of Ellen Van Loy and Loes Sels, before dropping them one by one, and all in all completing a fairly comprehensive koploppering. She took her seventh title.

Elsewhere, Mathieu van der Poel recovered from a deficit of fifteen seconds to beat Lars van der Haar by greater than that margin in the Dutch championships in Hellendoorn. Van der Poel let his brother David do the chasing, and later left him behind, and Van der Haar too, taking victory. In the women's race, Sabrina Stultiens couldn't hold on to Rabobank's Thalita De Jong, who took her first cyclocross national championship.

Nikki Harris rode her luck (and her bike) past Helen Wyman in the British championships in her first race for Boels-Dolmans. Wyman, who had led for the whole race, suffered a mechanical in the closing minutes of the race, allowing Harris to go past her to win her second British championships. More shockingly, Ian Field didn't win, the first time foor four years. He was beaten by Liam Killeen.

Over in France, Caroline Mani won the women's race as expected, and Francis Mourey won a muddy slog against Clement Venturini. In Germany, Philipp Walsleben took back his jersey, in the Czech Republic, Martina Mikulaskova and Radomir Simunek became champions, Eva Lechner won in Italy, Simon Andreassen won in Denmark, and I'm fairly confident that Partridge won the pear tree classification,

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