BAAL, Belgium—At the GP Sven Nys, traditionally the first cyclocross race of the calendar year, racers typically debut new jerseys, new teams, new sponsors and new equipment.
Of course, racers unveiling program changes are eager to start the year off with a victory to prove their new contracts were a smart bet.
Sven Nys famously won his first race on his Trek Boone at his namesake race in 2014. Could Mathieu van der Poel, who just added Circus as a team sponsor and Canyon as a bike sponsor, replicate such a performance in 2017?
Fortunately for Van der Poel of the newly-named Correndon Circus squad, 2018 didn’t bring complete change, as he started the new year just as he ended 2017, with dominant second half of a race to take today’s GP Sven Nys in Baal.
An Early Fast Four
The early animator on the first lap was Laurens Sweeck (Era Circus), who was eager to follow teammate Annemarie Worst’s example of starting fast to find clean lines to a podium step.
Sweeck set off to take an early lead, but quick to follow was Wout van Aert (Crelan Charles), Toon Aerts (Telenet Fidea) and Van der Poel.
The two biggest stars initially looked content to follow wheels and ride in their companions’ spray. Van der Poel in particular took a conservative approach around the course, often dismounting well before others to run instead of ride.
2018’s First Beautiful Duel
Fans can either savor the dominance of Van der Poel, or long for last season’s closer battles. The 2018 GP Sven Nys attempted to please both types of fans.
Van Aert moved to the front at the end of the second lap, drawing out Mathieu van der Poel and forcing Aerts and Sweeck to chase. While the four would briefly reconnect on the third lap, the damage was done. Sweeck was paying for his early efforts, and Van Aert and Van der Poel were eager to resume their rivalry without distractions.
Would it go down to the wire?
New Year, Same Story
Unlike at his last race two days ago at Superprestige Diegem, Van der Poel didn’t have to chase back from a first-lap endo. With Van Aert always in his sights, he knew he could be patient. With Aerts and then Sweeck out of the picture, Van der Poel was content to follow Van Aert before moving to the front for good with half the race done.
Without an aggressive attack, Van der Poel started to pull away, and even underneath the layer of mud, Van Aert’s expression revealed a resignation to race for second.
Behind, Sweeck continued to fade, while Corne van Kessel and Toon Aerts had a two-teammate time trial in hopes of reeling in Van Aert, but the top two were set should they remain upright.
Bad Bobbles at the Barriers
Michael Vanthourenhout (Marlux Bingoal), like many of the top racers, was hopping the barriers each lap, but late in the race got sideways and landed on top of the second barrier. The Belgian lay on the ground for a minute before rising and exiting the course.
— Cyclocross Magazine (@cyclocross) January 1, 2018
The team has initially reported that Vanthourenhout did not suffer any bone fractures, although will undergo more testing.
That would not be the only major contender to crash at this spot. On the last lap, Van Aert tumbled at the barriers. The World Champ was slow to get up, and after remounting his bike, rode with his left arm hanging, unable to hold the bars. Fans feared the star had broken his collarbone or injured his shoulder.
At the finish, Van Aert seemed to downplay the severity of the crash and test revealed the Crelan Charles rider was bruised but not broken:
Puh, that was a rough start of 2018. So cold and tricky. Luckily nothing wrong with my shoulder. Got the same at Worlds in Tabor ‘15 and still finished 2nd. No worries! Thanks for your anxiety everyone. We keep on fighting 👊🏼
— Wout van Aert (@WoutvanAert) January 1, 2018
Van Aert still had enough time to take second, a minute behind Van der Poel, who had time to clear off the logos on his bike, handlebar and jersey before crossing the line to start a 2018 winning streak.
With a gap of 7 minutes and 34 seconds, Van der Poel, like Katie Compton, has secured the DVV Verzekeringen Trophy with one race remaining.
Van Kessel would finish third, outsprinting teammate Aerts.
See the full results below. Stay tuned for a full photo gallery.
2018 GP Sven Nys Baal Results: Elite Men - DVV Verzekeringen Trofee
|Rank||BIB||Last Name||First Name||Country||Team||Age||Result|
|1||2||VAN DER POEL||Mathieu||NED||CORENDON - CIRCUS||23||0:58:59|
|2||1||VAN AERT||Wout||BEL||CRELAN - CHARLES||24||0:59:57|
|3||4||VAN KESSEL||Corne||NED||TELENET FIDEA LIONS||27||1:00:35|
|4||7||AERTS||Toon||BEL||TELENET FIDEA LIONS||25||1:00:36|
|6||5||PAUWELS||Kevin||BEL||MARLUX - BINGOAL||34||1:01:58|
|7||10||MEEUSEN||Tom||BEL||CORENDON - CIRCUS||30||1:02:03|
|8||17||ADAMS||Jens||BEL||PAUWELS SAUZEN - VASTGOEDSERVICE||26||1:02:21|
|9||12||VERMEERSCH||Gianni||BEL||STEYLAERTS - BETFIRST||26||1:03:30|
|12||25||PEETERS||Rob||BEL||PAUWELS SAUZEN - VASTGOEDSERVICE||33||1:05:26|
|13||18||AERNOUTS||Jim||BEL||TELENET FIDEA LIONS||29||1:05:34|
|14||31||GODRIE||Stan||NED||CRELAN - CHARLES||25||1:06:00|
|15||14||BOROŠ||Michael||CZE||PAUWELS SAUZEN - VASTGOEDSERVICE||26||1:07:08|
|8||VANTHOURENHOUT||Michael||BEL||MARLUX - BINGOAL||25||DNF|
|9||MERLIER||Tim||BEL||CRELAN - CHARLES||26||DNF|
|15||ORTS LLORET||Felipe||ESP||GINESTAR - DELIKIA||23||DNF|
|22||VANTHOURENHOUT||Dieter||BEL||MARLUX - BINGOAL||33||DNF|
|23||ESTEBAN AGUERO||Ismael||ESP||GINESTAR - DELIKIA||35||DNF|