The outright favorite, the defending champion, the world champion, Wout van Aert proved so far ahead of the competition Wednesday night at Cross Vegas that even a crash couldn’t keep him from winning. And it wasn’t a simple slip-up on the grassy course in Las Vegas. The Crelan – Vastgoedservice rider landed heavily on his chest and hips on a stair-step run-up midway through the race. But he battled back from about 20th place to solo to victory.

“The crash was pretty painful, and afterwards I got a kind of boost of the adrenaline,” van Aert said. “I made it very quick back in front. At that point, I was not sure at all that I could do the final move.” Michael Vanthourenhout beat Laurens Sweeck to second place in the final lap of racing in the first race of this season’s cyclocross World Cup.

Top-10 results

  • 1. Wout VAN AERT, (BEL), 1:06:53
  • 2. Michael VANTHOURENHOUT, (BEL), 1:07:16
  • 3. Laurens SWEECK, (BEL), 1:07:19
  • 4. Toon AERTS, (BEL), 1:07:25
  • 5. Rob PEETERS, (BEL), 1:07:32
  • 6. Quinten HERMANS, (BEL), 1:07:38
  • 7. Dieter VANTHOURENHOUT, (BEL), 1:07:43
  • 8. Philipp WALSLEBEN, (GER), 1:07:52
  • 9. Tim MERLIER, (BEL), 1:07:54
  • 10. Thijs VAN AMERONGEN, (NED), 1:08:00

Cannondale – CyclocrossWorld.com’s Stephen Hyde took holeshot on a chaotic start that saw a large crash take out many riders in the back of the field.

After running around Hyde in the sand pit, Vanthourenhout (Marlux – Napoleon Games) got a slight gap with van Aert chasing alone. A group of 10 coalesced at the front after the first lap, although several other small chase groups stayed in sight and yo-yoed on and off with the leaders.

The sand pit, which was deep, soft, and slightly uphill, proved a decisive feature of the course. Vanthourenhout, van Aert, and Quinten Hermans went away on the second passage of the sand. But it was too early for a move to go, and Sweeck, Hermans’s Telenet – Fidea teammate, brought back the trio.

Van Aert tripped and fell flat on his face on a set of stairs during the fourth lap, and soon was out of the front group, clutching his hip in pain.

Vanthourenhout again took advantage of the sand pit, and rode off the front alone, as the world champion fought to regain his rhythm after the crash. But in the course of about one lap, van Aert recovered, and rode back to second place, from at least 20 riders back, nearly 30 seconds in arrears. He set a furious pace, chasing the lone leader, with only Sweeck and Hermans able to follow.

Van Aert made the catch and quickly passed Vanthourenhout on the race’s sixth lap, forming a group of four, which soon became five with the addition of another one of Hermans’s teammates, Toon Aerts.

Sweeck and Vanthourenhout again escaped for a moment after the sand pit, but the tireless van Aert brought back the gap. A lap later, the same scenario repeated itself. They came into the final three laps of racing with a group of 14, riding a bit slower, a bit cagey.

The large front group didn’t last long, however, as van Aert attacked the course’s steepest hill. Vanthourenhout could follow, and Sweeck could keep them close.

Van Aert buried the knife on the sand pit, riding it with pace while Vanthourenhout came unglued. Sweeck managed to ride the obstacle, but was far slower, and the world champ was soon out of sight. “In the pre-ride I already felt that it was a critical point, the sand pit was very tough to make it in somebody’s wheel. It was something that was on my mind before the race,” van Aert said.

With two laps to go, van Aert was 19 seconds ahead; with one to go, the lead was out to an impossible 34 seconds.

The battle for podium placings came down to Vanthourenhout and Sweeck, and appropriately, it was decided in the sand pit, where the former got enough of a gap to hold onto second.

The cyclocross World Cup continues Saturday with a new addition to the calendar, Jingle Cross in Iowa City. “I enjoy my time here and I’m very grateful for the American people that come out to the races. They’re very enthusiastic,” van Aert added.

Results

  • 1. Wout VAN AERT, (BEL), 1:06:53
  • 2. Michael VANTHOURENHOUT, (BEL), 1:07:16
  • 3. Laurens SWEECK, (BEL), 1:07:19
  • 4. Toon AERTS, (BEL), 1:07:25
  • 5. Rob PEETERS, (BEL), 1:07:32
  • 6. Quinten HERMANS, (BEL), 1:07:38
  • 7. Dieter VANTHOURENHOUT, (BEL), 1:07:43
  • 8. Philipp WALSLEBEN, (GER), 1:07:52
  • 9. Tim MERLIER, (BEL), 1:07:54
  • 10. Thijs VAN AMERONGEN, (NED), 1:08:00
  • 11. Tom MEEUSEN, (BEL), 1:08:20
  • 12. Kevin PAUWELS, (BEL), 1:08:41
  • 13. Gianni VERMEERSCH, (BEL), 1:08:44
  • 14. Julien TARAMARCAZ, (SUI), 1:08:49
  • 15. Matthieu BOULO, (FRA), 1:08:53
  • 16. Jim AERNOUTS, (BEL), 1:09:10
  • 17. Michael VAN DEN HAM, (CAN), 1:09:13
  • 18. Jeremy POWERS, (USA), 1:09:44
  • 19. Steve CHAINEL, (FRA), 1:09:51
  • 20. Marcel WILDHABER, (SUI), 1:09:51
  • 21. Daan SOETE, (BEL), 1:09:51
  • 22. Geoff KABUSH, (CAN), 1:09:55
  • 23. Jeremy MARTIN, (CAN), 1:09:57
  • 24. Ian FIELD, (GBR), 1:10:01
  • 24. Simon ZAHNER, (SUI), 1:10:01
  • 26. Travis LIVERMON, (USA), 1:10:35
  • 27. Tobin ORTENBLAD, (USA), 1:10:44
  • 28. Jeremy DURRIN, (USA), 1:10:51
  • 29. James DRISCOLL, (USA), 1:10:51
  • 30. Daan HOEYBERGHS, (BEL), 1:10:59
  • 31. Stephen HYDE, (USA), 1:11:42
  • 32. Diether SWEECK, (BEL), 1:11:45
  • 33. Daniel SUMMERHILL, (USA), 1:11:46
  • 34. Craig RICHEY, (CAN), 1:11:47
  • 35. Hector RIVEROS, (COL), 1:11:55
  • 36. Troy WELLS, (USA), 1:12:11
  • 37. Jonathan PAGE, (USA), 1:12:11
  • 38. Anthony CLARK, (USA), 1:12:24
  • 39. Justin LINDINE, (USA), 1:12:41
  • 40. Mark MCCONNELL, (CAN), 1:13:00
  • 41. Allen KRUGHOFF, (USA)
  • 42. Kerry WERNER, (USA)
  • 43. Dan TIMMERMAN, (USA)
  • 44. Benjamin SONNTAG, (GER)
  • 45. Jens VANDEKINDEREN, (BEL)
  • 46. Derek ZANDSTRA, (CAN)
  • 47. Aaron SCHOOLER, (CAN)
  • 48. David VAN DER POEL, (NED)
  • 49. Curtis WHITE, (USA)
  • 50. Yoann CORBIHAN, (FRA)
  • 51. Scott SMITH, (USA)
  • 52. Vincent BAESTAENS, (BEL)
  • 53. Christian HELMIG, (LUX)
  • 54. Louis WOLF, (GER)
  • 55. Jose Alfredo PACHECO ROSES, (MEX)
  • 56. Christhian RAVELO-AVILA, (COL)
  • 57. Volodymyr STARYCHENKO, (UKR)
  • 58. Jarno TREY, (EST)