Over the weekend, Sporza aired a fun, made-for-TV “cyclocross triathlon” or stage race called the “Slag om Balenberg” (“Battle of Balenberg” in English).

The event was held without fans at the Sven Nys Cycling Center, in Baal, Belgium and featured two time trials (one just 400m, and another closer to a lap of a cyclocross race), and a sand stage to see how far riders could make it up a sandy hill.

The race featured a number of high-profile cyclocross stars including Mathieu van der Poel, Laurens Sweeck, Annemarie Worst, Toon Aerts, Eli Iserbyt, Shirin van Anrooij and of course, the star who basically grew up on the grounds, Thibau Nys.

In the women’s event, Van Anrooji won the sand competition, while Worst took both time trials and the overall victory, beating Van Anrooji by 4 points, 23 to 19.

In the men’s event, Nys beat Sweck and Van der Poel in both the sand competition and the short time trial, and then bested Van der Poel’s leading time in the longer time trial by two seconds to sweep all three events. Nys bested Van der Poel in the overall by 6 points, 24 to 18.

Van der Poel said he hadn’t been on his cyclocross bike since the World Championships, and had a mishap that cost him a bit of time. “I came out of my pedal at a bad time, I was just about to launch my climb, I left it there for a few seconds,” said Van der Poel [translated].

Nys, the 2020 Junior World Champ, was at a loss for words after his victory against the sport’s top stars. “I don’t really get it myself,” he said after the event. “I just know that I did that last test perfectly. I have no words for it. This is of course my home course, but I had not trained much on this course. Maybe it was an advantage, although especially strength and technique played a major role here.” [translated]

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Balenberg is mine.

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Sporza has a side-by-side video comparison of the two world champions. There weren’t any rowdy fans, beer tents or the smell of frites, but there still was bunnyhopping, running and impressive speeds on display. For those of us missing racing, it was a mouth-watering teaser and reminder that #crossiscoming, eventually.

Slag om Balenberg Cyclocross Triathlon Results: Women

1Annemarie Worst (Ned)23 points
2Shirin van Anrooij (Ned)19
3Denise Betsema (Ned)16
4Laura Verdonschot10
5Ellen Van Loy9
6Sanne Cant7

Slag om Balenberg Cyclocross Triathlon Results: Men

1Thibau News24 points
2Mathieu van der Poel (Ned)18
3Laurens Sweeck16
4Toon Aerts13
5Eli Iserbyt9