After winning twice in September and once in November, Toon Aerts (Telenet Fidea Lions) headed to Vlaamse Druivencross in Overijse looking to add a December win to his 2018/19 palmares.
Druivencross was started in 1960 and in 2018 hosted its 81st edition—including Belgian Nationals and years with multiple races. The race’s list of winners is a who’s who of the sport of cyclocross. Adding his name to the list of winners of the “Mother of All Crosses” would be an even more welcome result for Aerts on Sunday.
As the earlier Elite Women’s race showed, a win in Overijse on Sunday would not come easy. Pre-race rains made the course thick and slick, although some sun peeking through the clouds helped tack up the course a bit by the time the Elite Men’s race got started.
Aerts got off to a fast start, and early on, he found himself off the front with a familiar name. Mathieu was taking the weekend off from racing, but David van der Poel (Corendon – Circus) started hot and joined Aerts at the front.
The lead group swelled to six in Lap 3, but a lap later it was Aerts, Corne van Kessel (Telenet Fidea Lions), Michael Vanthourenhout (Marlux – Bingoal) and Marcel Meisen (Corendon – Circus) who made the lead selection.
After getting caught up on a course stake while in traffic early in the fourth lap, Aerts decided he wanted a clean look at the tough course. By the end of Lap 4, he had an four-second advantage on Van Kessel. A lap later he lead was up to 15 seconds.
The rest of the way, Aerts did his best Mathieu van der Poel impression, riding solo off the front in near flawless fashion. His name now stands next to many of the sport’s all-time greats as a winner of the Mother of All Crosses.
The First Selection
Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon – Circus) won Druivencross in 2015, 2016 and 2017, so his absence—along with that of Wout van Aert (Cibel – Cebon Offroad Team)—meant that Aerts entered as the race favorite.
Early on, Aerts lived up to the role, taking the holeshot and leading the field out onto the course. A Van der Poel out front early on has been a common sight during Mathieu’s run of dominance during the past several years.
On Sunday with his brother taking the weekend off, David van der Poel stepped up and did his part. Van der Poel joined Aerts off the front, and the two had a five-second lead after one lap.
There would be no Aerts-Van der Poel battle, as the chasers reeled them in and a massive group of nine formed in a long line at the front. At the end of the second lap, the lead group was down to seven —Aerts, Van der Poel, Vanthourenhout, Van Kessel, Meisen, Jim Aernouts (Telenet Fidea Lions) and Tim Merlier (Crelan – Charles).
Although there were six in the lead selection, Aerts and Vanthourenhout led the way during Lap 3. The two have had the best results of the six this season and rode like they knew it. At the end of three laps, the selection was down to Aerts, Vanthourenhout, Van Kessel and Meisen.
A Group No More
With the group down to four, Aerts experienced one of the dangers of riding with a group on a tough course like the one in Overijse. He got his front wheel caught on a course stake, but fortunately held up the others behind him. With little time lost, the group stayed at four.
Aerts, however, was not content to let the group stay together. He recovered and went to the front to push the pace once again. His effort broke the lead group up, and at the end of the fourth lap, there was space between each of the riders. Aerts led Van Kessel by four seconds, who in turn led Vanthourenhout by four more.
In the fifth lap, Aerts continued slogging on, while Van Kessel dropped back into a chase with Vanthourenhout and Meisen. In this case, however, six legs were not better than two, and Aerts extended his lead to 15 seconds while the other three quickly found themselves battling for second.
In the latter third of the race, Aerts did his best Mathieu van der Poel impression, extending his lead and leaving the others to battle for second. He rode near-perfect second half of the race to add his name to the impressive list of Druivencross winners.
Vanthourenhout won the chase to take second and Van Kessel rounded out the podium in third.
Australian Garry Millburn (MAAP Enve CX Team) finished 18th.
Full results are below.
Elite Men's Results: 2018 Vlaamse Druivencross
|Rank||BIB||Last Name||First Name||Country||Result|
|6||3||VAN DER HAAR||Lars||NED||1:04:26|
|10||7||VAN DER POEL||David||NED||1:05:31|
|19||28||VAN COMPERNOLLE||Kenneth||BEL||-2 LAPS|
|20||19||DE WIT||Edwin||BEL||-2 LAPS|
|24||33||VAN DIJKE||Koen||NED||-3 LAPS|
|27||26||DE BOCK||Yoni||BEL||-4 LAPS|
|29||25||DE BOCK||Jelle||BEL||-6 LAPS|