Waaslandcross: Van Aert and Brand stand on the top step

Wout van Aert and Lucinda Brand each kicked-off the Kerstperiode of 'cross racing with victories in Sint-Niklaas, Belgium on Saturday.

World champion Wout van Aert (Crelan-Charles), dressed head-to-toe in white, dominated his competitors in Sint-Niklaas, Belgium at the Soudal Classics Wasslandcross on Saturday. Van Aert bided his time and followed wheels, but put the hammer down when he rode a sand section everyone else ran. He powered to a gap of over 20 seconds in the span of a single lap.

Lucinda Brand (Team Sunweb) attacked from the gun in the elite women’s race and soloed to victory. World Champion Sanne Cant (Beobank-Corendon) came on strong late in the race and nearly brought Brand back on the final lap, but simply ran out of pavement on the finishing straight and settled for second.

The course in Sint-Niklaas was a fast one. The elite women completed seven laps, while the elite men contested 11. Along the shores of a lake, the parcours included long sand sections and wet grass that was quickly turned to mud. However, the mud was not thick, but light and sloppy. A rider’s technical ability was key on Saturday.

Mathieu van der Poel (Beobank-Corendon) was a late scratch in the elite men’s race, as he was still suffering from the effects of a cold and wanted to make sure he was in top condition for the World Cup in Zolder, Belgium on Tuesday.

Former European champion Toon Aerts (Telenet Fidea) took the holeshot, as an early crash caused a bit of panic in the group. Wietse Bosmans (ERA-Circus) and Tom Meeusen (Beobank Corendon) tangled with both riders crashing heavily. Meeusen would remount right away, while Bosmans stayed on the group clutching his shoulder. He would eventually remount his bike after the medical team spent considerable time with him.

The opening lap saw few splits early on, but by the end, 11 riders had broken free. The group included all of the heavy hitters and American Gage Hecht (Alpha Bicycle Co.-Groove Subaru) had also made the split.

Quinten Hermans (Telenet Fidea) put down an attack on the second lap, as German national champion Marcel Meisen (Steyplaerts-FirestBet) led the chase group. Van Aert was always near the front of the group but managed to make sure he rarely put his head in the wind — simply biding his time.

Hermans was brought back into the fold, as the high-pace took its toll and lead group shrunk to five with Aerts, David van der Poel (Beobank-Corendon), Tim Merlier (Crelan-Charles), van Aert, and Hermans.

Van Aert’s winning move came at the end of the fifth lap. The course in Sint-Niklaas ended with a sand section that primarily saw the riders running. Through the opening laps, the world champion had been the only one attempting to ride the section. He was able to ride the section cleanly while leading the group to end the fifth lap. The small gap he gained was all he needed to punch the accelerator and ride away.

At the end of the sixth lap, van Aert’s lead was 27 seconds over a three-rider chase group of Aerts, his teammate Merlier, and Hermans. The battle was now for second, first was wrapped-up baring disaster.

Behind the chasing trio, Meisen and van der Poel had linked-up to try to move themselves into podium contention. Over the final laps, van der Poel would slowly chip away at trying to bridge onto the podium. He would drop Meisen with three laps to go and ultimately get by Merlier on the final lap to finish fourth.

Over the final laps, van Aert was nearly flawless with only a single hiccup on a tough muddy off-camber. The off-camber was a U-shaped down and up on the side of the hill, meaning the riders would balance on the descent and then dismount at the apex of the U and run up the hill. Van Aert’s front wheel got stuck in the mud just as he was about to dismount, sending him to the ground. He calmly got up, picked up his glasses, which he then held with his mouth, and ran up the hill.

Aerts was able to apply pressure to the chase in the final laps and break away to capture second. Hermans finished third, putting two Telenet Fidea riders on the podium. Merlier had to settle for fifth after fading and being passed by van der Poel on the final lap.

Elite men top 10

  • 1. Wout Van Aert, (BEL), 58:56
  • 2. Toon Aerts, (BEL), 59:21
  • 3. Quinten Hermans, (BEL), 59:32
  • 4. David Van Der Poel, (NED), 59:43
  • 5. Tim Merlier, (BEL), 59:55
  • 6. Marcel Meisen, (GER), 1:00:06
  • 7. Gianni Vermeersch, (BEL), 1:00:56
  • 8. Rob Peeters, (BEL), 1:01:14
  • 9. Thijs Aerts, (BEL), 1:01:24
  • 10. Dieter Vanthourenhout, (BEL), 1:01:40

Brand holds off Cant

Lucinda Brand was on another level on Saturday, riding away on lap and staying consistent throughout the race. Though she did fatique late in the race, she was able to hold-off Sanne Cant’s late burst of speed to take the win.

Ellen van Loy (Telenet Fidea) was first onto the course for the elite women and looked to have the strength to compete for the win early. Although, she would pay dearly for her early efforts and be unable to stay with the front riders. She would finish in 10th.

While van Loy looked strong early and faded late, Cant was quite the opposite. The world champion sat around 10th for the first half of the opening round and slowly picked her way through the riders. She followed wheels and jumped groups at opportune times to conserve energy.

At the end of the opening round, Brand held 10 seconds over a chase group of van Loy, Annemarie Worst (ERA-Circus), Helen Wyman (Kona), Loes Sels (Crelan-Charles), and Alice Arzuffi (Steylaerts-FirstBet). Cant was in the second chase group.

One of the obstacles, the riders had to deal with on course was a cement barrier. While most of the elite women dismounted their bikes to jump over the barrier, Worst bunny hopped the barrier.

British national champion Nikki Brammerier (Boels-Dolmans) started the race slow, like Cant, but came on strong in the second lap, moving to within striking distance of the chase group. Meanwhile Brand was on cruise-control at the front. She had the freedom to pick her lines carefully without worrying another rider would cut her off.

Wyman gave the chase group some gas on the third lap, as van Loy had begun to fade out of the picture. Arzuffi assisted Wyman in pushing the pace, but by the end of the lap, Brand’s lead had grown to 16 seconds.

The fourth lap, midway through the race, was when Cant finally made an effort to move to the front of the group. Waaslandcross marked the beginning of the Kerstperiode in Belgium, which sees races nearly every day in the final days leading up to the New Year. Cant’s presence at the front of the chase set off a roar amongst the Belgian fans who are extremely loyal. Cant tried to attack the chase on a sand section along the waterfront, but Arzuffi and Wyman were able to stick with her.

The chase group grew on the fourth lap with Brammeier entering the mix along with Sophie de Boer (Breepark). Worst was there as well. Brammeier looked to have finally found her rhythm, but she crashed into the side fencing on one of the slick muddy sections, derailing the momentum she had gained by finally moving to the front of the group. She would finish seventh.

Entering the final two laps, the chase was in pieces with Arzuffi and de Boer leading with Cant a few seconds behind them. Brand’s lead was still in the double digits, but it was evident that she was beginning to tire. Her face showed everything, being alone on the fast course was hard.

De Boer moved to the front for the first time on the penultimate lap, as Cant joined Arzuffi and her. De Boer’s somewhat fresher legs brought Brand’s lead down to eight seconds with one lap to go. Cant sensed the catch was possible and immediately went to the front and put down the power. She left Arzuffi and de Boer in her wake.

The roar of the crowd cheering Cant on slowly crept nearer and nearer to Brand. The Dutchwomen’s pedaling grew urgent as she fought to find every bit of strength to hang onto the victory. On the paved finishing straight Cant sprint with all her might only a few bike lengths behind Brand, but she would not be able to reach her.

Brand impressively took the victory riding alone wire-to-wire. De Boer rounded out the podium in third.

Elite women full results

  • 1. Lucinda Brand, (NED), 44:38
  • 2. Sanne Cant, (BEL), 44:40
  • 3. Sophie De Boer, (NED), 44:57
  • 4. Alice Maria Arzuffi, (ITA), 45:01
  • 5. Annemarie Worst, (NED), 45:06
  • 6. Helen Wyman, (GBR), 45:07
  • 7. Nikki Brammeier, (GBR), 45:09
  • 8. Loes Sels, (BEL), 45:14
  • 9. Christine Majerus, (LUX), 46:18
  • 10. Ellen Van Loy, (BEL), 46:34
  • 11. Kim Van De Steene, (BEL), 46:40
  • 12. Joyce Vanderbeken, (BEL), 47:15
  • 13. Maghalie Rochette, (CAN), 47:15
  • 14. Elle Anderson, (USA), 47:28
  • 15. Geerte Hoeke, (NED), 47:33
  • 16. Emma White, (USA), 47:33
  • 17. Rebecca Fahringer, (USA), 47:56
  • 18. Bianca Van Den Hoek, (NED), 48:46
  • 19. Lindy Van Anrooij, (NED), 49:03
  • 20. Karen Verhestraeten, (BEL), 49:15
  • 21. Nadja Heigl, (AUT), 49:23
  • 22. Axelle Bellaert, (BEL), 49:28
  • 23. Jinse Peeters, (BEL), 49:32
  • 24. Maaike De Heij, (NED), 49:32
  • 25. Shana Maes, (BEL), 49:41
  • 26. Suzanne Verhoeven, (BEL) ,0:49:54
  • 27. Anna Kay, (GBR) ,0:50:09
  • 28. Lizzy Witlox, (NED), 50:33
  • 29. Veerle Goossens, (NED), 50:38
  • 30. Mascha Mulder, (NED)
  • 31. Jennifer Malik, (USA)
  • 32. Esther Van Der Burg, (NED)
  • 33. Miyoko Karami, (JPN)
  • 34. Irene Trabazo Bragado, (ESP)
  • 35. Jana Dobbelaere, (BEL)
  • 36. Ida Jansson, (SWE)
  • 37. Corey Coogan Cisek, (USA)
  • 38. Laure Michels, (BEL)
  • 39. Lise Van Wunsel, (BEL)
  • 40. Emily Wadsworth, (GBR)
  • 41. Caren Commissaris, (BEL)
  • 42. Kristien Nelen, (BEL)
  • 43. Meg De Bruyne, (BEL)
  • 44. Tessa Zwaenepoel, (BEL)
  • 45. Tess Van Loy, (BEL)
  • 46. Aimée Schoe, (NED)
  • 47. Stacey Riedel, (AUS)
  • 48. Karen De Keulenaer, (BEL)
  • 49. Nele De Vos, (BEL)
  • 50. Sara Beeckmans, (BEL)
  • 51. Natalie Tapias, (USA)

Elite men full results

  • 1. Wout Van Aert, (BEL), 58:56
  • 2. Toon Aerts, (BEL), 59:21
  • 3. Quinten Hermans, (BEL), 59:32
  • 4. David Van Der Poel, (NED), 59:43
  • 5. Tim Merlier, (BEL), 59:55
  • 6. Marcel Meisen, (GER), 1:00:06
  • 7. Gianni Vermeersch, (BEL), 1:00:56
  • 8. Rob Peeters, (BEL), 1:01:14
  • 9. Thijs Aerts, (BEL), 1:01:24
  • 10. Dieter Vanthourenhout, (BEL), 1:01:40
  • 11. Joeri Adams, (BEL), 1:01:53
  • 12. Tom Meeusen, (BEL), 1:02:07
  • 13. Braam Merlier, (BEL), 1:02:10
  • 14. Toon Vandebosch, (BEL), 1:02:48
  • 15. Gert Smets, (BEL), 1:02:54
  • 16. Gage Hecht, (USA), 1:03:13
  • 17. Javier Ruiz De Larrinaga IbaÑez, (ESP), 1:03:19
  • 18. Dario Tielen, (BEL), 1:03:42
  • 19. Johan Jacobs, (SUI)
  • 20. Thijs Van Amerongen, (NED)
  • 21. Victor Vandebosch, (BEL)
  • 22. Patrick Van Leeuwen, (NED)
  • 23. Jarne Driesen, (BEL)
  • 24. Florian Trigo, (FRA)
  • 25. Florian Vermeersch, (BEL)
  • 26. Robin Alderweireld, (BEL)
  • 27. Tijl Pauwels, (BEL)
  • 28. Senne De Meyer, (BEL)
  • 29. Thomas Mein, (GBR)
  • 30. Nick Peers, (BEL)
  • 31. Daniel Tulett, (GBR)
  • 32. Garry Millburn, (AUS)
  • 33. Martin Eriksson, (SWE)
  • 34. Andrew Juiliano, (USA)
  • 35. Mickael Crispin, (FRA)
  • 36. Yoni De Bock, (BEL)
  • 37. Jon Munitxa Arrinda, (ESP)
  • 38. Cooper Willsey, (USA)
  • 39. Dries Pauwels, (BEL)
  • 40. Kohei Maeda, (JPN)
  • 41. Kwinten Stuer, (BEL)
  • 42. Stephen Lee, (GBR)
  • 43. Henrik Jansson, (SWE)
  • 44. Finlay Robertson, (GBR)
  • 45. Maxime Carriou, (FRA)
  • 46. Erik Boer, (NED)
  • 47. Hijiri Oda, (JPN)
  • 48. Declan Prosser, (AUS)
  • 49. Nicholas Smith, (AUS)
  • 50. Francois Chastagner, (FRA)
  • 51. Benjamin Krawczyk, (FRA)