Two races into the 2017 season, the script for Mathieu van der Poel’s (Beobank-Corendon) races has been Hollywood-blockbuster formulaic. Van der Poel attacks early, no one can match his move and he rides away to an easy victory. With Wout van Aert (Crelan-Charles), Laurens Sweeck (ERA-Circus), Kevin Pauwels (Marlux-Napoleon Games) and others taking the hot Wisconsin afternoon off, it was understandable to expect another early Van der Poel attack and easy victory at the Trek CX Cup C2 race in Waterloo.
Toon Aerts (Telenet Fidea Lions), however, had different plans on Friday afternoon in Wisconsin. Aerts had a strong 2016/17 season—he still wears the European champion’s jersey—but it was ended prematurely by a crash at the Fiuggi World Cup. His broken collarbone has healed, but he has still been waiting for a breakout ride this season.
When Mathieu van der Poel made his customary attack during the third lap, Aerts was the one rider to break from a large chase and follow the Dutch wunderkind. A slip by Van der Poel, and Aerts was on his wheel deeper in a race than anyone thus far this season. With the heat as a wild card, maybe Friday would be the day Van der Poel finally has to work for a victory.
California Knows How to Party
Friday’s race in Waterloo, Wisconsin was a C2 event, but it featured more than its share of C1 talent. With temperatures soaring into the 90s, riders had to contend with not only their rivals, but also the threats of dehydration and sunstroke. On a scorchingly-hot afternoon, riders were willing to try anything to stay cool.
The course at Waterloo is fast and open in several parts of the circuit, and the technical features are concentrated near each other. With the open layout, a large group of ten riders formed during the first lap. When the pack headed out for the second lap, the group of ten was massed in an amorphous blob headed toward the flyover.
One rider who was not content to let things lay as they were was Tobin Ortenblad (Santa Cruz / Donkey Label Racing). On the slight incline heading into the flyover, Ortenblad roared to the front and took up position. Ortenblad’s play was a smart one because the group of ten was reduced to six when the pack exited the technical northwest woods for the first time. Two riders, Vincent Baestaens and Tom Merlier (Crelan-Charles) closed the gap back to the lead six, but Ortenblad’s move still helped shed two riders from the group.
The Europeans let Ortenblad sit on the front for the better part of a lap before Van der Poel decided it was his turn to drive the pace at the front. Van der Poel attacked in the third lap after cresting the flyover and opened up a small gap back to the rest of the group after passing the famed stairs. When the move went, Aerts was the only rider able to give chase.
Van der Poel held a lead of four seconds heading into the Trek Factory Hill, but after a small bobble, Aerts closed the gap and the two riders were together at the flyover. Van der Poel’s attack and Aerts’ counter were so effective, the two opened up a 17-second gap back to the chase group within less than one lap’s time. Van der Poel was driving at the front, but Aerts was right on his wheel. Behind the lead duo, the chase group was Ortenblad, Merlier, Baestaens, Corne van Kessel (Telenet Fidea Lions), Eli Iserbyt (Marlux-Napoleon Games) and Gianni Vermeersch (Team Steylaerts).
Van der Poel had already thrown an attack at Aerts and the Belgian countered. Fans sweating out the hot afternoon race knew another effort from Van der Poel was coming, but Aerts had shown he could stay with the Dutch phenom. The question was if he could do it again as the heat Van der Poel’s power and grace took their toll.
Van der Poel Sticks to the Script
Aerts made a valiant effort to stick with Van der Poel, but the Dutch star had too much at the beginning of the fifth lap. The two riders crested the flyover together, but between the red-sided feature and the stairs, a section that included both power and technical sections, Van der Poel opened up a six-second gap on Aerts. Unlike the earlier in the race, there were no mistakes and Van der Poel was gone as he is wont to do.
By the time Van der Poel finished the fifth lap, his lead on Aerts was 15 seconds. Van der Poel stayed on the gas for another lap and extended his lead to over 30 seconds. He eventually eased up to conserve energy for Sunday’s World Cup and coasted to his third victory of the season.
For Van der Poel, the race was a training effort that also netted him some C2 UCI points and money. “The plan was to do a cyclocross training today, but we didn’t know where were could do it, so we decided to do the cyclocross race,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a bad decision because it’s good to have already been in the heat to adapt for Sunday.”
After the race, Van der Poel was presented with a Wisconsin Badgers Hockey jersey on the podium. Needless to say, it fit him swimmingly.
The only real threat to Aerts’ position was if trying to keep up with Van der Poel broke him. Although Aerts could not match the young Dutch star, he had more than enough to open up a massive gap back to third. He finished in a comfortable second and gave his team’s sponsor Trek a creative shout out as he crossed the finish line.
Aerts said he was happy finishing second behind Van der Poel. “At the beginning of the race it was quite easy riding, but then Mathieu made an acceleration and I was the only one who could follow it,” He got a gap on me, but he made a mistake and that was the reason why I could come back. A few minutes later Mathieu did the same again and he was gone from me. He was stronger than me, but I can be the second guy in the race.”
Another Exciting Battle for Third
With the first two spots decided, the hot action was in the battle for third. Tobin made his presence felt earlier in the race, and when Van der Pole and Aerts went off the front, the now chase group did a lot of looking around. Trying to chase down Van der Poel this season has proven to be a fool’s errand, and the remaining riders were sizing up the battle for third, or second if Aerts dropped back far enough.
It took until the fifth lap for riders in the chase to make a move. Heading under the flyover out toward Little Zolder, Baestaens and Iserbyt broke off the group and embarked upon a battle for third. Early on the move was not decisive, and at best, they extended their lead on Van Kessel to ten seconds. As the race entered its latter stages, the two faced the classic bike racing dilemma of working hard enough to maintain a gap but not so hard that you lay all your cards on the table too early.
At one point it looked like Van Kessel and Vermeersch were going to make the chase four again, but the two were never able to make the final push to connect with Baestaens and Iserbyt.
The two Belgians headed out for the last lap together, and as the lap progressed, time was running out for one to make the decisive attack. Baestaens finally made his move in the latter half of the bell lap in one of the more technical sections to get a small gap on Iserbyt. He would not let go of the advantage during his last traverse of Trek Factory Hill to grab the third spot on the podium.
Iserbyt finished fourth and Van Kessel sixth. Ortenblad finished in seventh after his early confident move to the front.
Men's Results - 2017 Trek CX Cup C2
|1||2||Mathieu VAN DER POEL||Beobank-Corendon||1:01:26|
|2||34||Toon AERTS||Telenet Fidea Lions||1:01:48|
|5||36||Corne VAN KESSEL||Telenet Fidea Lions||1:02:28|
|6||7||Tim MERLIER||Crelan - Charles||1:02:38|
|8||11||Ian FIELD||Hargroves Cycles||1:03:15|
|9||35||Thijs AERTS||Telenet Fidea Lions||1:03:28|
|11||14||Matthieu BOULO||Team Pays De Dinan||1:03:51|
|12||18||Spencer PETROV||Aspire Racing||1:04:25|
|14||38||Michael BOROS||Pauwels Sauzen - Vastgoedservic||1:04:43|
|15||21||Andrew DILLMAN||Think Green||1:04:59|
|16||22||Garry MILLBURN||Speedvagen Maap||1:05:22|
|17||20||Gage HECHT||Uci Ct: Aevolo Cycling Inc.||1:05:41|
|19||16||Travis LIVERMON||Maxxis-Shimano Pro Cyclocross||1:06:55|
|21||24||Mark MCCONNELL||Hot Sauce Cycling||1:07:24|
|25||89||Caleb Martin Long SWARTZ||Trek Cyclocross Collective||@2Lap|
|26||74||Jason WIEBE||Prairie Fire Racing||@2Lap|
|27||60||Kyle RUSS||Brazen Dropouts Cycling Team||@2Lap|
|28||71||Brendon SHARRATT||Challenge Tires Nz||@2Lap|
|29||25||Derrick ST JOHN||Van Dessel P/B Hyperthreads||@2Lap|
|31||66||Michael James LARSON||@3Lap|
|32||31||Dylan POSTIER||Garneau-Easton P/B Transitions||@3Lap|
|33||29||Masaru NAKAZATO||Speedvagen Family Racing||@3Lap|
|34||81||Andrew Clayburne GINIAT||@3Lap|
|35||77||Scott Allen ALBAUGH||@3Lap|
|37||82||Alexander Peter James MORGAN||@3Lap|
|38||56||Jason Isaac SIEGLE||Sdg Muscle Monster||@3Lap|
|40||30||Christian RICCI||Lakeside Storage Cyclocross Tea||@3Lap|
|41||83||David A REYES||@3Lap|
|42||78||David Gerald SHEEK||Sdg-Muscle Monster||@4Lap|
|43||85||Jacob Timothy HUIZENGA||@4Lap|
|46||79||Christopher Joel FINKELDEI||Neff Cycle Service||@4Lap|
|47||70||Hayden James MCLAUGHLIN||@4Lap|
|48||69||Tyler STEIN||Wisconsin Cycling Association||@5Lap|
|49||75||Christian Isaac SUNDQUIST||@5Lap|