The last time rivals Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal) and Tom Pidcock (Trinity Racing) went toe-to-toe on the cyclocross course, Pidcock buried his Belgian rival to win the U23 World Championship in Denmark last February.

Fast forward nine months, and Iserybyt is now the toast of the Elite Men’s cyclocross world, entering Friday’s DVV Trofee Koppenbergcross with six wins thus far this season, while Pidcock is slowly working his way back to form in a season where he has committed to racing the Elites despite still having two years of U23 eligibility remaining.

The Koppenberg is notorious for humbling even the best riders—see Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon – Circus) two of the last three years—and on Friday, a dusting of rain left the descents and off-cambers muddy and slick. Nothing was certain for Iserbyt, and the opportunity was available for a new legend of the famed cobbled climb to take shape.

There was little surprise when Iserbyt led the first charge up the Koppenberg, but then after a slow start, Pidcock came alive and shot forward to join Iserbyt at the front one lap into the race. The two young riders appeared set to renew their rivalry, with the en fuego Iserbyt looking for some Danish revenge.

Iserbyt v. Pidcock?

The Koppenbergcross is known for its iconic start climb up its eponymous hill last seen starring in a bike race this spring during the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Given how he is riding and his climber-like stature, there was little surprise when Iserbyt led the opening charge up the hill on the damp holiday afternoon. Perhaps a little surprising was the rider to join him at the front was Thijs Aerts (Telenet Baloise Lions).

After Aerts took the lead when Iserbyt pitted, Iserbyt put in a big attack that drew Thijs Aerts out while his brother Toon Aerts (Telenet Baloise Lions) headed up the chase. At the time check before Pit 2, the two leaders already had a 10-second advantage.

As the opening lap progressed, visibly moving through the field were the white kit, bright S-Works bike and Red Bull helmet of Pidcock. By the end of the opening 10-minute circuit, Pidcock was the second rider onto the Koppenberg climb, and at the top, he joined rival Iserbyt at the front of the race.

Iserbyt led the way through the field in Lap 2 and opened up a bit of a gap by taking a better line through one of the slick downhill off-cambers. Near the end of the second of seven laps, Pidcock closed to his rival and Aerts appeared to join the two via an impressive run, but when he could not get his muddy cleats clipped in, Iserbyt and Pidcock ground away up the steep cobbled climb.

Two laps in, Iserbyt had a small 2-second advantage on Pidcock, while Aerts chased 11 seconds.

At Bogense Worlds, Pidcock kind of sort of buried Iserbyt with a massive attack, and in the third lap of Friday’s race, Iserbyt made his bid to return the favor. The young Belgian stayed aggressive in the field section and descent and expanded his advantage to 7 seconds by the end of the lap. Behind Pidcock, Aerts had his troubles, slipping back to a 30+ second deficit.

In Lap 4, a Pidcock crash on a downhill off-camber allowed Iserbyt to further extend his lead. His advantage was up to 22 seconds at the end of Lap 4, and he extended it for much of Lap 5.

Seemingly on his way to his latest win, Iserbyt learned the unforgiving nature of the Koppenberg the hard way. Literally at the bottom of the cobbled climb, Iserbyt suffered a mechanical issue with his drivetrain. As he tried to get his gears spinning again, Pidcock erased the young Belgian’s 20-second advantage and joined him for the prepenultimate climb up the hill.

Pidcock powered back to join Iserbyt after the Belgian's mechanical. 2019 Koppenbergcross. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

Pidcock powered back to join Iserbyt after the Belgian’s mechanical. 2019 Koppenbergcross. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

After seemingly being out of it, Pidcock came alive in Lap 6. Throwing caution to the wind, he took over the lead position and slipped and slided his way through the increasingly slick corners. His aggression paid off, and at the bottom of the climb, Pidcock was a little over one lap away from taking home a piece of the cobble.

However, Iserbyt can climb, and despite his earlier troubles, he was dialed and focused spinning up the cobbles. The two riders crossed the line at the top of the hill together. Two riders, one lap to go.

Pidcock’s run at the comeback upset ended early in the bell lap. Leading off the climb, Pidcock hit the pit lane for a bike change. Sensing an opportunity, Iserbyt attacked.

The move was devastating. The better form Iserbyt had shown before his mechanical was back in action and he was gone to his seventh win of the 2019/20 season. Pidcock held on to finish second, 31 seconds behind the winner.

Iserbyt celebrates his latest win. 2019 Koppenbergcross. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

Iserbyt celebrates his latest win. 2019 Koppenbergcross. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

After Aerts kind of blew up in Lap 3, Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal) passed him in Lap 4. Aerts was unable to respond the rest of the way, and Vanthourenhout wrapped up the third podium position.

Elite Men's podium: Eli Iserbyt, Tom Pidcock and Michael Vanthourenhout. 2019 Koppenbergcross. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

Elite Men’s podium: Eli Iserbyt, Tom Pidcock and Michael Vanthourenhout. 2019 Koppenbergcross. © B. Hazen / Cyclocross Magazine

Tyler Cloutier (TCCX) finished 20th, Max Judelson (Voler / Clif/ HRS / Rock Lobster) 23rd and Andrew Juiliano (Voler Pro CX / Cure IBD p/b Shimano) 27th.

Full results are below. For more from the Koppenberg, see our Elite Women’s report.

Elite Men Results: 2019 Koppenbergcross

RankBIBLast NameFirst NameCountryResult
53VAN DER HAARLarsNED1:04:44
75VAN KESSELCorneNED1:05:28
1623VAN DIJKEKoenNED1:10:19
2234AALRUSTHenrik LunderNOR-2 LAPS