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Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) earned a fourth straight win in the Bpost Bank Trofee series Saturday in Essen. The 21-year-old Belgian held off a dogged pursuit by compatriot Sven Nys (Crelan-AA Drink) to finish the nine-lap outing in a time of one hour, 12 seconds, with Nys seven seconds behind and Michael Vanthourenhout (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) nabbing third, 29 seconds back.
It was a hard-fought win for Van Aert, but the Bpost Bank Trofee series leader benefitted immensely from a moment of heartbreak for reigning world champion Mathieu van der Poel (BKCP-Powerplus) in the 8th lap. With a convincing lead over the field and looking to be well on his way to the race win, van der Poel suffered a mechanical a with the pit nowhere in sight, forcing him to dismount and watch his rivals zoom past as he made a long trek on foot to a bike change. He ultimately finished the race in 8th place.
Corné van Kessel (Fidea) jumped out to an early lead in the first few moments of the race, but Nys and Van Aert were never far behind, with Nys overtaking van Kessel to lead the field through the first lap. By the end of the second lap, van Kessel had lost ground and a selective group of four had taken control at the front of the race. Nys led the quartet over the line with Van Aert, van der Poel, and Gianni Vermeersch (Sunweb-Napoleon Games) close behind.
Van der Poel closed out the third lap in first position driving a hard pace, too hard for Vermeersch, who faded over the course of the fourth trip around the circuit. From there, Van der Poel started to pull away from Van Aert and Nys, gradually amassing a gap that became a convincing lead by the sixth lap. By the seventh, the 20-year-old Dutchman appeared to be on his way a much needed win to finally get his 2015 campaign on track; van der Poel’s 2015 cyclocross season got off to a slow start after an injury sustained on the road in July’s Tour de l’Avenir delayed the beginning of his fall campaign.
Unfortunately for van der Poel, disaster struck on the eighth lap, with a mechanical knocking him out of contention for the victory. A jogging van der Poel could only watch as his advantage over Van Aert and Nys disappeared, with the pair riding past to fight for the win between themselves. Van Aert led Nys into the final lap, and although Nys kept Van Aert close at hand, making one final surge to attempt a pass on a muddy stretch inside the final few hundred meters, the 39-year-old veteran was unable to overtake the younger Van Aert. For the second straight week, Nys settled for runner-up honors as Van Aert took the Bpost Bank Trofee win.
Michael Vanthourenhout was the best of the rest, a distant third at almost half a minute back, with Sunweb-Napoleon Games teammate Kevin Pauwels in tow for fourth.
With his fourth victory out of four total Bpost Bank Trofee series races on the season, Van Aert now leads the battle for the overall title by a whopping 3:19 over Pauwels, with Nys 6:46 back in third.
Antwerp’s Scheldecross, which runs on December 19, is the next race in the series.