Wout Van Aert continued his string of victories when something happens to his rival Mathieu van der Poel, cruising to a last-lap put-away at Loenhout today after the Dutchman crashed catastrophically after cresting a small knoll. It looked bad as van der Poel’s wheel stuck and he slammed to the ground, lying almost motionless for a while before being taken to the hospital on a stretcher. Thankfully the rider and several others have since reported that he’s fine: no apparent concussion or other debilitating injuries. But what it means for his racing program going forward is to be determined.
With van der Poel out, Van Aert simply stayed on the front and gradually powered away from the field before the bell lap, leaping the stream, gliding over the weird humps, and cruising across the line for a two-second win. Here’s the men’s race in its entirety.
If you want to focus on van der Poel’s fall, it happens in the 57th minute, or you can watch the sequence here. Just beforehand he executes a tricky pass on the left of runner-up Tom Meeusen, which may have either distracted van der Poel or put him in a bad line as he executed the quick up-and-down on which he then crashed. Another problem is that his front wheel sticks upon landing (he maybe got slightly airborne?), either because it caught a hole or because it failed in some way. But I can’t detect a taco-effect so I suspect it was a hole that’s to blame.
Kevin Pauwels took third to round out the podium. Zdenek Stybar, former 3x world champ, took 18th in his return to ‘cross. Lars Boom, the other big-name part-timer, wasn’t on hand today.
In the women’s race, Sanne Cant proved that Marianne Vos’ return to the sport does not spell doom for everyone all the time. Cant went solo early on and made it stick, albeit by a mere six seconds as Vos and World Champion Thalita de Jongh worked together to pull the Belgian champion back, to no avail.
Finally, in addition to not living in Belgium, or anywhere close, this is further reasoning as to why I don’t bring my kids to cyclocross races.
Frankly, it’s a pretty shoddy takedown, no technique at all. I hope the smaller kid in the blue got up and executed a bit of uwatenage on his older brother.