Two weeks removed from his fourth straight Bpost Bank Trofee series win, Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) made it an incredible five for five Saturday in Antwerp.
With around two laps to go at Scheldecross, the 21-year-old from the nearby town of Herentals followed Mathieu van der Poel (BKCP-Powerplus) off the front of a strong lead group and then left him behind in the sand. The pair took first and second between them, with Lars van der Haar (Giant-Alpecin) in third.
Although Van Aert crossed the finish line as the clear winner, the first several laps were tightly contested. Tim Merlier (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) led one long line of riders through the first two laps but could never open up much of an advantage, with Van Aert, van der Poel, Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Revor), and Laurens Sweeck (ERA Real Estate-Murprotec) close behind and vying for control of the race over the next few laps.
Mathieu van der Poel’s brother and BKCP-Powerplus teammate David van der Poel briefly broke out of the bunch with a strong attack on a muddy climb, but he could not hold the advantage, and before long, things were tight at the front of the race once again.
Things finally started to unravel with a little over four laps to go. Van der Haar went down in the mud working his way up a short climb just as Mathieu van der Poel was making a move. Wout Van Aert was the only rider capable of following the world champion, and the Belgian duo quickly opened up a significant advantage over their rivals.
Van der Poel tried to leave Van Aert behind with another uphill charge, but Van Aert closed down the attempt and then powered clear of van der Poel in a stretch of sand. Van Aert didn’t look back from there, widing the gap significantly over the penultimate lap and only padding his lead further on the final trip around the course. He ultimately finished 23 seconds ahead of van der Poel, with Van der Haar in third, 31 seconds back.
With the first five Bpost Bank Trofee races of the season under his belt, Van Aert leads the series by four minutes and eight seconds over Kevin Pauwels, with Sven Nys sitting in third, 7:53 behind.