With many Americans entering day three of their post-Thanksgiving turkey hangover, the best cyclocross riders in the world showed why they are among the best endurance athletes in the world by following up Saturday’s World Cup in Zeven with another 60-minute tilt at Flandriencross. The race, located in Hamme, Belgium, was the third race of the 2016-2017 DVV Verzekingen Trofee series.
Flandriencross was formerly known as Bollekecross, but organizers changed the name in 2014 to honor hometown hero Greg Van Avermaet, who has won the Flandrien of the Year award, which is a rider’s choice award for the best Belgian rider, four years in a row. Given the Belgian vibe adopted by many things American cyclocross, we are looking at you Trek CXC Cup to change your name to MattKellyCross in honor of the only American Cyclocross World Champion who hails from Waterloo, Wisconsin.
The Flandriencross circuit was a fast track that traded Zeven’s grass and bumps for a smooth, well-worn dirt surface. The course’s trickiest section was a series of irregular ups and downs located immediately after the start straight. The dipsy-do section would prove to be a thorn in riders’ sides throughout the afternoon and led to two riders engaging in some extra curricular competitiveness (more on that later). After a series of straights, riders then dropped into the woods for a rip n’ ride section that everybody watching at home was jealous they did not get to ride and a flat section along a pond that then worked its way back to the start/finish straight.
Van der Poel Sustains Early Gap
The Elite Men’s edition of Flandriencross would play out much differently than the Elite Women’s race won by Sanne Cant. After charging back from an early mechanical on Saturday, Mathieu van der Poel (Beobank-Corendon) appeared to decide early on Sunday that there would be no group riding and sizing up of the competitors at the front of the Flandriencross race. Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea Lions) was able to keep pace with Van der Poel’s strong lap two attack, but a mistake by the Lion would leave Van der Poel alone at the front with a 10-12 second lead that he would maintain throughout the remainder of the race.
Another one is in the bag for @mathieuvanderpoel #cyclocross #flandriencross https://t.co/EuBuutvHrb pic.twitter.com/0QRzJlpaxX
— cyclephotos (@cyclephotos) November 27, 2016
Flandriencross’s early animator was the broad-shouldered Belgian Laurens Sweeck (ERA Circus). Sweeck pulled to the front entering the technical section off the starting straight and continued to push the pace at the front after clearing the series of ups and downs. Although a group of nine riders were within seven seconds of one another after the first lap, it only a matter of time before riders would be looking to push the pace and add some early-race action to the affair.
After a lap and a half of Sweeck at the front, Van der Poel decided it was his turn. The Dutch 2015 World Champion took the lead on the tarmac that led into the wooded section and unleashed an attack that broke the lead congregation up. As he did on Saturday, Meeusen showed some early-race pep and followed Van der Poel, while Wout Van Aert (Crelan-Vastgoedservice) and Sweeck formed the first chase duo four seconds back and Gianni Vermeersch (Team Steylaerts) hung a few seconds behind the first chase.
Meeusen’s time with Van der Poel would be short. The Telenet-Fidea Lion fell victim to the dipsy-do monster and was forced to dismount while Van der Poel rode the section cleanly. The error would drop Meeusen back into the chase group of eight and allow Van der Poel to open up a nine second gap entering the woods. At the end of the third lap, Van der Poel extended the lead over the chase to 11 seconds. Folks watching the race on the Trek live stream could see that despite the attack, Van der Poel looked calm and collected understandably concluded that he seemed destined to sweep the weekend’s contests.
Van der Poel’s early attack was not a mistake. “That seemed like a good time. I had something in mind and did not want to wait for the whole race,” sport.be reported. “It was mentally quite difficult to defend the narrow lead for 50 minutes, but thinking of the victory did help.”
As the race entered its middle stanza, Van der Poel would hold his lead at 11 to 13 seconds while riders exited the chase group one by one. Meeusen was the first to go on lap 4 when he crashed into a barrier and fell several seconds off the chase. Vermeersch was the next to go on lap 5 when he fell victim to one of the steep, challenging climbs. The remaining riders left in their game of Flandriencross Survivor were Wout Van Aert, Sweeck, Corne van Kessel (Telenet-Fidea Lions), Michael Vanthourenhout (Marlux-Napoleon Games), and Kevin Pauwels (Marlux-Napoleon Games).
Van der Poel would not be threatened by the chase group for the remainder of the race, and came across the finish line with a small but comfortable margin to sweep the weekend’s two races and deny Van Aert the Flandriencross three-peat. Van der Poel’s win was only the third time in the race’s 15-year history (Zdenek Stybar won in 2009 and 2011) that a Belgian did not take the top step of the podium, and it was the first victory for a male Dutch rider.
The Race for Van der Poel’s Thanksgiving Seconds
Beginning with lap six of nine, the battle for second place began to heat up. Van Aert and Sweeck emerged from the chase group and opened up a small five second gap on Vanthourenhout, van Kessel, and Pauwels. It appeared that the World Champion may have been sitting in and letting Sweeck do the work, but Van Aert was unable to open up a gap when he pulled ahead entering the woods with a lap and a half to go.
Van Aert entered the bell lap ahead of Sweeck, but Sweeck wisely pulled ahead shortly before the dipsy-do section to get a clean look at the technical trickeration. Van Aert slipped out on a corner shortly after the rollers, and Sweeck was able to open up a small two second lead thanks to the Van Aert bobble. Sweeck’s gap would not be enough, as Van Aert worked his way back onto Sweeck’s wheel and took the lead on the power section along the pond.
The entrance onto the finish straight was a punchy uphill into a right turn, so there was a decided advantage to being the first rider up onto the tarmac. Van Aert was able to sustain his move and entered the finish straight ahead of Sweeck. The move proved wise, and he sprinted to second, six seconds behind Van der Poel. Kevin Pauwels emerged from the remaining cast to finish fourth (20”) and van Kessel (28”) and Vanthourenhout (29”) rounded out the group finishing within a 1’15” of the winner.
Americans Stephen Hyde (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld) and Jeremy Powers (Aspire) competed, with Hyde finishing in 15th and Powers in 24th.
Too Much Rubbin’
Jens Adams and Vincent Baestaens were not listed in the results as both racers were disqualified after some pushing and shoving in two separate corners. Baestaens was originally the only one removed from the race, but Adams was eventually disqualified after this finish.
Baestaens vs J.Adams cross fighter! #Flandriencross #DVVtrofee pic.twitter.com/xeLsqgNhmF
— RondevanBet (@RondevanBet) November 27, 2016
Hermans and Pidcock Take U23, Junior Men
Quinten Hermans (Telenet Fidea Lions) took his fourth victory of the season winning the U23 race at Flandriencross, while Thomas Pidcock led a British one-two punch with a win in the Junior Men’s race. Full results below.
2016 Flandriencross Hamme Results - Elite Men - DVV Verzekeringen Trofee
|1||Mathieu Van der Poel||Beobank-Corendon||57:50:00|
|2||Wout Van Aert||Crelan-Vastgoedservice||+0:00:06|
|4||Kevin Pauwels||Marlux-Napoleon Games||+0:00:20|
|5||Corne Van Kessel||Telenet Fidea Lions||+0:00:28|
|6||Michael Vanthourenhout||Marlux-Napoleon Games||+0:00:29|
|8||Gianni Vermeersch||Team Steylaerts||+0:01:18|
|9||Toon Aerts||Telenet Fidea Lions||+0:01:29|
|10||Jim Aernouts||Telenet Fidea Lions||+0:01:53|
|11||Dieter Vanthourenhout||Marlux-Napoleon Games||+0:01:55|
|13||David Van der Poel||Beobank-Corendon||+0:02:07|
|14||Tom Meeusen||Telenet Fidea Lions||+0:02:11|
|17||Klaas Vantornout||Marlux-Napoleon Games||+0:03:01|
|23||Kevin Suarez Fernandez||+0:05:45|
2016 Flandriencross Hamme Results - U23 Men - DVV Verzekeringen Trofee
|1||Quinten Hermans||Telenet Fidea Lions||72:00:00|
|2||Eli Iserbyt||Marlux-Napoleon Games||+0:00:11|
|4||Nicolas Cleppe||Telenet Fidea Lions||+0:00:29|
|10||Thomas Van De Velde||+0:01:23|
|13||Pieter Van Roosbroeck||+0:01:34|
|21||Jarno Liessens||IKO Enertherm-Beobank||+0:02:12|
|26||Gosse Van Der Meer||+0:03:00|
|32||Nick Van de Kerkhove||+0:04:38|
2016 Flandriencross Hamme Results - Junior Men - DVV Verzekeringen Trofee
|3||Niels Vandeputte||IKO Enertherm-Beobank|
|4||Loris Rouiller||IKO Enertherm-Beobank|
|7||Arno Van Den Broeck|
|13||Arne Vrachten||Telenet Fidea Lions|
|15||Wannes Vanden Bussche|
|17||Sander De Vet|
|19||Jarne De Meyer|
|25||Vince Van Den Eynde|
|27||Jason Van Compernolle|