Wout van Aert captured the victory in Namur, Belgium on Sunday at the UCI Cyclocross World Cup with a dominating performance.

Wout van Aert (Crelan-Charles) captured the victory at the UCI Cyclocross World Cup in Namur, Belgium on Sunday with a dominating performance in the cold and mud. Former European champion Toon Aerts (Telenet Fidea) rode to second as Mathieu van der Poel (Beobank-Corendon), who was suffering from a cold, finished third.

Van Aert rode away from the field on the opening lap and stayed consistent throughout the race to win by over a minute.

Top 10

Namur has been on the cyclocross World Cup calendar for many years and one word is synonymous with the parcours — mud. Its steep run-ups and scary descents challenge the riders technically, but always muddy conditions add another element. In Namur, riders are pushed to their limits physically, having to dig incredibly deep to be victorious. There’s a reason that the winner’s list is a who’s who of the sport.

Michael Vanthourenhout (Marlux-Napolean Games) took the holeshot, as a huge crash at the start caused chaos. Former Belgian national champion Klass Vantornhout (Marlux-Napolean Games) was involved in the pile-up. He would get up and walk off the course on his own power but was holding his right arm tightly against his body.

U.S. national cyclocross champion Stephen Hyde (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) had a stellar start and was riding in the top 10. He would fight for a top-10 place throughout the day but eventually finished 11th. The result is impressive considering the Namur course’s difficulty.

Van Aert moved into the lead midway through the first lap and simply rode away from everyone. His archrival van der Poel looked to be a step off his game early in the race. He didn’t go to the front from the start and seemed content to ride among the wheels. He didn’t immediately go with van Aert’s move and instead rode with the chase group behind the world champion. Van der Poel was joined by Aerts, Laurens Sweeck (ERA-Circus), Vanthourenhout, and Daan Soete (Telenet Fidea).

At the end of the first of nine laps, van Aert’s lead was already stretching to 20 seconds over the chase group.

On the second lap, van der Poel finally attacked the chase group and set off in pursuit of van Aert. Aerts was able to follow the Dutchman and the two would battle for the rest of the race for the second position as the riders in the chase group behind would only lose time to the podium contenders.

As van Aert powered on alone to victory and Aerts and van der Poel battled for second, the positions for the rest of the top 10 were constantly changing. Kevin Pauwels (Marlux-Napolean Games) started the race slow, but the Belgian stayed consistent as the rest of the riders tired and he had moved into the top-five by the midpoint in the race. Pauwels won the Namur World Cup in 2014 and finished third in both 2015 and 2016.

While van Aert stood atop the pedals and celebrated his victory, van der Poel’s race finished with a tumble. The World Cup series leader crashed on one of the final descents and lost contact with Aerts. He would chase back onto the Belgian’s wheel right as they hit the pavement, but had nothing left in the sprint and conceded second place.

After finishing second to van der Poel the last two years in Namur, van Aert was finally able to take the victory on Sunday. The podium in 2015 and 2016 had been the same with van der Poel taking the win and van Aert and Pauwels finishing second and third respectively. Pauwels finished fourth on Sunday with Vanthourenhout in fifth.

The UCI Cyclocross World Cup continues on December 16th in Zolder, Belgium.

Full results