A Changing of the Sand Dune Guard Arrives Early in the Men’s Race
From the beginning of his first Elite Men’s World Cup race, U23 star Wout Van Aert had a game plan, which included him taking the holeshot and maintaining a brutal pace over the next hour.
Van Aert came to the race prepared, after practicing riding in the sand all week:
— Wout van Aert (@WoutvanAert) November 19, 2014
Sven Nys appeared as if he was approaching the race with different tactics in mind. Despite his front row call up, he was instantly swarmed once the whistle blew, and sacrificed his typical sixth to eighth place start and instead had to work through worse traffic. American rider Jeremy Durrin had even worse luck. In the first corner among heavy traffic, his front wheel came out from underneath him, causing a major pileup early in the race.
On the more fortunate side of things, Jeremy Powers had an astonishing start, and although he wasn’t able to catch on to the lead group, he sat in eleventh place early on, ready to pounce from striking distance.
Within two laps, the race split into two parts: Van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel, and everyone else. The two young riders were elbow to elbow until Van Aert created a little separation. The closest Van der Poel would come to Van Aert’s wheel came part way through the third lap, when he was able to impressively ride the entirety of an early sand section that forced Van der Poel to bobble and run.
Behind, just beyond sight of the two leaders, rode an impressive collection of eight chasers, including Tom Mueesen, Kevin Pauwels, Klass Vantornout and Sven Nys. Powers was caught in the chasing group right behind, and he put in most of the effort trying to catch up to the larger pack.
With five laps to go, Van Aert had a nine second gap and Sven Nys moved to the front of the chasing group after tracking down a small counter-attack by Vantornout and Walsleben. By the next lap, Van Aert’s lead had doubled, Van der Poel began looking tired, and the other riders stopped working together, content with a podium spot over winning the race.
Of the chasing group, Kevin Pauwels attacked on the pavement with two laps to go, creating a small gap in what would be the decisive move of the day. Meanwhile, Van Aert was over 30 seconds ahead.
Despite a rough bobble in the sand that caused him to smash into the fence, Pauwels was able to make those last two laps count, and overtook Van der Poel to take second place.
Pauwels didn’t even realize van der Poel was still between him and the lead, but passed the young racer and become the in-race World Cup series leader.
Van Aert was able to take the win with a 40 second separation over Pauwels, a tremendous victory for the young rider who might have felt that he needed to prove himself after taking his last win in controversial style by the finish.
Jeremy Powers finished 17th, over two minutes behind the leaders and only 20 seconds behind Nys, who finished 15th.
Jonathan Page finished 38th, being the last rider who was able to fend off being pulled, while Jeremy Durrin finished 54th.
Pauwels was satisfied with his second place as it vaulted him into the lead of the World Cup, saying, “I was focusing mainly on the rankings and that is that I have succeeded in the hands of the leadership of the World.”