IOWA CITY, IOWA—One lap into Saturday’s Jingle Cross World Cup, the race had a familiar scene at the front. World Champion Wout van Aert (Unattached) was in the lead duo where many expected him to be, and Toon Aerts (Telenet Fidea Lions) was right there beside him. It was just like last Sunday's World Cup in Waterloo.
Last weekend at the 2018 UCI Cyclocross World Cup in Waterloo, Aerts dropped Van Aert two-thirds of the way into the race to take his first career World Cup win. To get a second, he would have to dispatch Van Aert again, this time after the champ had a week to settle in after a tumultuous week leading up to the U.S. World Cups.
For the first half of Saturday’s race at the Johnson County Fairgrounds, Aerts and Van Aert battled up and down the climbs of Mt. Krumpit.
Aerts did most of the work on the front for the first three laps, but then Van Aert took the lead in Lap 4 and appeared back on his game.
In the sixth lap, a moment of hesitation by Van Aert in the high-low off-camber formerly known as the Holly Jolly Hellhole gave Aerts an opportunity to attack his opponent just like he did last weekend. As Aerts went low to high, Van Aert slowed, dabbed and suddenly was five bike lengths behind.
With a small gap in hand, Aerts charged ahead up the Mt. Krumpit Run-Up and then went all-in on the long climb through the woods on the back half of the course. When he crossed with two to go, his lead on Van Aert was 16 seconds. Van Aert would get no closer.
The win was Aerts' second straight at the 2018 U.S. World Cups. With the win, he heads home with extra confidence and the World Cup leader’s jersey when the series resumes in Bern, Switzerland.
“Two great weeks with the team,” Aerts said about the U.S. trip. “First at the Trek Factory and now in Iowa. It’s great to be here.”
Aerts vs. Van Aert, Part II
During the three years the U.S. has hosted World Cups, conditions have largely been warm and dry, whether it be Vegas, Iowa City or Waterloo. On Saturday, however, the ground was muddy and the afternoon had a much more Belgian vibe.
Feeling at home in the U.S. and knowing that he can go toe-to-toe with Van Aert for a full 60 minutes, Aerts raced to the holeshot and took up lead duties during the preliminaries before the Mt. Krumpit run-up.
With Aerts already threatening to open up a gap at the base of the long climb in the woods, Van Aert powered to the second position and chased the World Cup series leader up the grind of a climb. The two entered the first back-and-forth descent of a Mt. Krumpit that was alternatively slick and tacky sitting one-two.
On one of the last switchbacks, Aerts went wide while Van Aert made a strong inside move. Buoyed by cheers from the crowd gathered on the hill, Van Aert took over the lead after the descent. Aerts recovered, and after one lap, it was Aerts and Van Aert at the front with a group of riders chasing a few seconds behind them.
The second climb through the Frostbite Forest set the tone for the rest of the race. Aerts and Van Aert powered up the long climb, putting in time on the chasers. Michael Vanthourenhout (Marlux-Bingoal) and Quinten Hermans (Telenet Fidea Lions) emerged as the first chase. After the second lap, Aerts and Van Aert had 19 seconds.
Laps 3, 4 and 5 played out in a similar fashion. Aerts and Van Aert expanded their lead, while Vanthourenhout and Hermans stayed together. Nearly two-thirds of the way into the race, it looked like Van Aert was ready to take Aerts deeper into Saturday’s affair than he did the previous weekend.
The Holly Jolly Hellhole Claims a Victim
Part of the fun of Jingle Cross has been how thoroughly race director John Meehan and his team have embraced the Christmas theme, even as the race has taken place in September as a World Cup.
One of the parts of the course that had a #onbrand name was the Holly Jolly Hellhole, a high-low off-camber at the beginning of the lap. With a healthy amount of rain during the week, the feature lived up to its name on Saturday, challenging the Elite riders to decide to ride or run the long feature.
During Lap 6 of 8, Aerts entered the feature first on the low line, while Van Aert took the high road. About a quarter of the way through, Aerts moved from low to high right in front of Van Aert. Van Aert hesitated, and then with the loss of speed, he lost his line and slowed dramatically.
With space between him and Van Aert, Aerts did what he did a week ago: attack. By the time he hit the Mt. Krumpit Run-Up, he had eight seconds on Van Aert. At the Mt. Krumpit descent it was 11 seconds, and at the end of the lap, it was 16.
“Wout made a mistake and that was my chance to do a little effort and take some seconds out front,” Aerts said. “The gap got bigger and bigger. I had to make no mistakes and keep the pace high.”
From that point on, the race belonged to Aerts. He stayed strong and focused on the trips up and down Mt. Krumpit, while Van Aert had no response to offer.
“Wout made a mistake and that was my chance to do a little effort and take some seconds out front.” -Toon Aerts
The win was Aerts second in two races here in the United States. Although the trip has been good to him, he admitted he is looking forward to the return home, mostly because of the post-race obligations. “It will get a little easier for the next seven races for the interviews because my English is not very good,” he said.
Van Aert held onto the second spot. After the race, he said once he bobbled in the Holly Jolly Hellhole, he could not find that top gear again.
“It was the same situation as last week,” Van Aert said. “I felt strong in the beginning and I went away with Toon from the start. I felt strong for half the race, and then I felt like my energy level fell down. It was weird. I don’t have an explanation for it. It’s the second time this week that in the second half of the race I have struggled.”
After a rough race last weekend in Waterloo, Vanthourenhout was determined to salvage his U.S. trip on Saturday in Iowa City. At the end of the fifth lap, he opened up some space on Hermans, but the young Lion quickly closed the gap.
Then in Lap 7, Vanthourenhout dropped Hermans in the first part of the lap before Mt. Krumpit. He did not look back the rest of the race and held his gap over Hermans to take the third podium spot.
The U.S. contingent at Jingle Cross was led by Gage Hecht (Alpha Bicycle – Groove Subaru) in 21st. Kerry Werner (Kona Maxxis Shimano) finished 22nd for the second-straight World Cup and Curtis White (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld) took 27th.
See our photo gallery and full results below. Stay tuned throughout the weekend for full coverage from the 2018 Jingle Cross UCI Cyclocross weekend.
2018 Jingle Cross UCI Cyclocross World Cup Men's Results
|Rank||BIB||Last Name||First Name||Country||Age||Result|
|11||16||VAN DER HAAR||Lars||NED||27||1:05:08|
|28||43||VAN DEN HAM||Michael||CAN||26|