“In the second half I planned an attack.” -Wout van Aert to Cyclocross Magazine
The 2015 CrossVegas winner and 2016 Cyclocross World Champion came into Las Vegas with a plan. But even the best laid plans can go awry, they say.
In a moment of inattention, it all almost went awry for Wout van Aert (Crelan Vastgoedservice). “I was on the wheel on the rider in front of me, and for one moment I was not concentrated like I should be,” he recalled. “I hit the stairway with the front of my feet. That’s what’s hurting right now. I hit it hard. I was suddenly with my wrist on the next stair and I got a huge clack in my back.”
The crowd saw the crash on the big screens throughout the venue and gasped. Fans counted the seconds by as van Aert stood doubled over in pain, while trying to untangle his bike from course tape. The lack of urgency was alarming, but in reality, van Aert was slowed by the pain of what he’d call a “stupid crash.”
As the seconds ticked by, the announcers declared van Aert out of contention, saying too much time was lost.
It was music to Michael Vanthourenhout’s ears. The animator of the 2015 CrossVegas race was ready to seize the opportunity to improve on his third place in 2015. With another early CrossVegas attack and 15-second gap, the Marlux – Napoleon Games rider was also was well along his own plan to reenact the 2015 race but with the hope that another year of experience and without Sven Nys ahead of him, he would end up with a different result.
The field strung out in hopes of reconnecting with the young Belgian, but the 16-strong chasing group wasn’t making headway and was disorganized and looking around. They were looking for someone with a plan.
“I try to stay in the wheels, but sometimes I just try at the front. I also want to make the race hard and try to win,” Laurens Sweeck (Era – Murprotec) told Cyclocross Magazine. He gave chase of Vanthourenhout, and it worked. It also drew out van Aert, and the race was on. The two brought back the early break away, and kept the World Cup victory within reach.
The problem was that it brought it back within reach of a third of the field, and with four laps to go, the field was back together again, with an impressive twenty riders within sight of the lead.
Yet the racers who saw the 2016 World Champion on Sunday in Waterloo were just waiting for the inevitable bomb to go off, whether or not they had a contingency plan.
An Explosion in the Sand
With three laps to go, van Aert, recovered from his lap four stumble, was back to the task at hand. Although the plan was delayed by his crash, he needed to attack, and moved into position.
Entering the uphill sandpit in the lead, van Aert surged through the sand. The pressure of the attack had an impact. In his wake lay a stunned Vanthourenhout, who would get sideways with his bike, and Sweeck, who would have to veer far from his fellow chaser.
The two tried to minimize the damage, but it was too late. After a half lap of chasing, the two started to look around. Once again, others reconnected but looked for a leader.
Sweeck gestured for someone to pull through, but van Aert’s effort had broken their resolve. They knew it was coming, but still couldn’t do anything about it.
Van Aert was gone.
North Americans Turn Up the Volume
With 17 Americans and 7 Canadians lining up for the 2016 CrossVegas World Cup, hopes were high that several Americans could break into the top ten on home soil.
Early on, it looked like Stephen Hyde (Cannondale p/b CyclocrossWorld) would be one of those riders, as Hyde sat in the lead group as Jeremy Powers (Aspire) and other Americans gave chase. Powers would slowly recover, passing his Easthampton, Mass. training partner, but could only move up to 18th, top American.
Michael van den Ham (Garneau / Easton) had an impressive ride to finish 17th, top Canadian and North American. Five Americans finished in the top 30. See the full results below.
Stay tuned for a full photo gallery, video interviews and bike profiles. See our ever-growing ClifBar CrossVegas coverage here.
2016 CrossVegas Elite Men's Results
|1||Wout VAN AERT||BEL||22||1:06:53||200|
|10||Thijs VAN AMERONGEN||NED||30||1:08:00||60|
|17||Michael VAN DEN HAM||CAN||24||1:09:13||46|
|48||David VAN DER POEL||NED||24||12|
|55||Jose Alfredo PACHECO ROSES||MEX||31||5|