Corne van Kessel (Telenet Fidea) overcame a first lap crash to win the Soudal Classics GP Hasselt on Saturday.

Corne van Kessel (Telenet Fidea) overcame a first lap crash to win the Soudal Classics GP Hasselt on Saturday over his teammate Toon Aerts in Hasselt, Belgium. The Dutchman crashed as the field turned off the paved finishing straight and onto the grass. It appeared he would be fighting for a minor placing, as the course was incredibly fast. However, he didn’t give-up and made contact with leaders with four laps to go and ultimately beat Aerts in the sprint.

David van der Poel (Beobank-Corendon) rounded out the podium in third.

Elite men full results

The course in Hasselt was incredibly fast with few features slowing down the elite men. There was a sand section and a set of barriers, but the majority of the top riders easily rode through those without dismounting. However, a tough run-up required the riders to shoulder their bikes along with a straight muddy section forcing them to run. Part of the course even traced the bank of a lake, meaning a slight error and you could be taking a premature bath.

Many of the top riders opted to skip the race with world champion Wout van Aert (Crelan-Charles), European champion Mathieu van der Poel (Beobank-Corendon), Laurens Sweeck (ERA-Circus) and Kevin Pauwels (MArlux-Napolean Games) not present. This created the opportunity for riders usually fighting for a position in the back half of the top-10 to have a chance at victory.

Tom Meeusen (Beobank-Corendon) took the holeshot, as van Kessel crashed directly behind him. Van Kessel was able to remount quickly, but had lost precious time on the fast course.

Throughout the opening laps, there was little separation in the field. It soon became apparent the strongest riders in the race were Aerts, van der Poel, Meeusen, Tim Merlier (Crelan-Charles) and Jim Aernouts (Telenet Fidea).

On the fourth lap, Merlier had taken a flyer with Aerts, Meeusen and van der Poel chasing. Aerts was doing the bulk of the work driving the pace in the chase group, pulling at times for an entire lap. Behind the chasing trio, van Kessel was making an incredible comeback and had moved into the top-five. He had liked up with another one of his teammates Jim Aernouts.

Two laps later, with four laps to go, there were five leaders with Merlier having been brought back into the fold and Kessel finally making the junction to the front of the race. However, the group would be short-lived as Aerts was on a mission. The former European champion was taking powerful pulls on the front in an effort to split the group. His efforts would come to fruition a lap later as there were just three at the front of the race. Van Kessel and van der Poel were the only ones able to follow Aerts pace.

Van der Poel dropped off the lead on the penultimate lap, leaving the Telenet Fidea teammates to battle for the win. Merlier was confidently riding in fourth with Meeusen behind him in fifth. Van der Poel, Merlier, and Meeusen would keep their respective positions for the final two laps of the race.

The battle at the front was to lead on to the paved finishing straight. The straight was short, meaning it would be difficult to pass and win from the second spot.

Van Kessel led onto the straight and thus held off Aerts to take the win. Van der Poel, Merlier and Meeusen finished third thru fifth respectively.

In the elite women’s race, Loes Sels (Crelan-Charles) took the win over Ellen van Loy (Telenet Fidea). The two battled for a few laps before Sels was able to ride away from van Loy.

Elite men full results

Elite women full results