Race Report
LOENHOUT, BELGIUM - DECEMBER 27: Mathieu Van Der...

Van der Poel comes back from early crash, Avarado goes long to take wins in Azencross

Lucinda Brand pulled out after a heavy fall in the women's, Wout van Aert placed fifth in first race in five months in the men's.

Mathieu van der Poel and Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado took a one-two for Corendon-Circus at the DVV Trofee Azencross, Friday.

Both men’s and women’s races were shaped by crashes at the exact same point in the opening lap. Lucinda Brand was caught up in the incident in the women’s and was unable to finish. Van der Poel hit the deck in the crash in the men’s race but fought back to take victory.

Wout van Aert made his comeback from the injury he sustained at the Tour de France to race for the first time since July, and placed fifth.

The course in Louenhout make for tough, technical riding, with a course packed with features including steep bridges, deep frozen ruts, and a series of small man-made hills or ‘the washboard’.

Ceylin Del Carmen Alvarado won by nearly two minutes. Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images

Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Corendon Circus) took the women’s race with a dominating performance.

A large crash in the opening minutes took down several pre-race favorites including Eva Lechner (Creafin Fristads), Yara Kastelijn (777), and Lucinda Brand (Telenet Baloise Lions), who won the past two World Cup rounds.

Brand pulled out soon after the crash, nursing a knee injury. Lechner and Kastelijn stayed in the race, but lost significant ground on the front of the action.

Alvarado, Sanne Cant (IKO), Katie Compton (Trek), and Annemarie Worst (777) were among the 15 or so that avoided the crash, and these four came to the front of the race, with Compton and then Alvarado forcing the pace on the front.

Alvarado had built a small gap of around 10 seconds at the end of the first lap, and was never seen by the bunch again.  Behind her, Worst led the chase, with Compton and Worst shortly after.

Alvarado grew her gap with every lap in a faultless display, and went on to win by 1:45 in a dominant physical and technical performance.

Behind Alvarado, Cant and Compton chased Worst, who had around a 10-second advantage in the race for second place. The pair eventually bridged to the lone 777 rider and piled on the pressure, with Worst looking fatigued.

In the final lap, Cant went clear at the front of the trio fighting for podium slots. She crossed the line to take second place, while three seconds later, Worst edged out Compton in a sprint for third.

Women’s Top-3

  1. Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Corendon Circus): 43:52
  2. Sanne Cant (IKO): +01:45
  3. Annemarie Worst (777): +01:48
Wout van Aert placed fifth in his first race since crashing at the Tour de France. Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images

Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) battled back from an opening lap crash and shook off a persistent Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal) to take his second take victory in two days, having also won in Zolder, Thursday.

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) seemed to have lost no acceleration in his long time away from racing, taking the holeshot from the front row of the grid. In a repeat of the women’s race, deep mud at the bottom of the first bridge caused problems, bringing down van der Poel. A group of around 10 formed at the front of the race, with Iserbyt, van Aert, Corne van Kessel (Telenet Baloise Lions) and Tim Merlier (Creafin Fristads) all in contention.

Iserbt and van Kessel were able to seperate themselves from the large group to lead the race going through the opening laps, with van Aert leading the chasers. Van der Poel lost almost one minute in the opening crash, but was storming through the pack toward the front of the race.

By the end of lap 3, the world champion was back in contact at the front of the race and wasted no time in chasing down the lead pair of Iserbyt and van Kessel.

By lap 6, the race came down to van der Poel and Iserbyt, with van Kessel chasing, around 20 seconds back. He raced hard to hold off the large group 30 seconds behind, with van Aert among them.

With Iserbyt and van der Poel being totally opposite size and weight, each rider found different sections of the course to their advantage. Van der Poel constantly put on the pressure through the sections of deep mud. While he was able to use his height and power to ride through the bog, Iserbyt had to dismount and run.

Van der Poel attacked in the mud numerous times in the final two laps, with Iserbyt able to respond every time, though looking to be losing energy with every counter.

Van der Poel finally pulled away from Iserbyt in the final lap and steadily built a gap, taking the win by 9 seconds. Iserbyt placed second, with van Kessel placing third.

Van Aert was narrowly edged out in the sprint for fourth place by Tim Merlier. However, his fifrh place marks an incredible comeback from such a long period off the bike.

Men’s Top 3

  1. Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus): 1:00:26
  2. Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal): +0:00:09
  3. Corne van Kessel (Telenet Baloise Lions): +0:00:52