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Wout Van Aert and his Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace mates came ready to rock at Sunday’s Kwadro Flandriencross in Hamme, Belgium.
Van Aert was on the front at the end of the first lap, and he was there at the finish, too, overhauling a fading Mathieu Van der Poel (BKCP-Powerplus) at the line to win round three of the Bpost Bank Trofee series.
In between, Van Aert’s teammate Jens Adams took the front with a vengeance, racing up from a chase group and into the lead with five laps remaining, triggering a furious chase from series leader Sven Nys (Crelan-AA Drink).
“The course lends itself well to a tactical game,” Van Aert told the website sport.be. “When Jens went, I was getting a free ride. The energy I saved I could use in the final.”
Adams was brought back, and Philipp Walsleben (BKCP) tried his luck, taking a seven-second advantage into the bell lap.
Van Aert and Van der Poel went after him and began a furious duel for the front that seemed to end as the BKCP rider was first up a slight rise preceding the finishing straight. As Van der Poel slowed at the top, Van Aert had to put a foot down, and both he and Walsleben were briefly slowed. Van der Poel appeared to have clinched the victory, taking an advantage of several bike lengths onto the pavement.
Or so it seemed, until Van Aert uncorked a powerful finishing kick and took the win. Van der Poel hung on for second with Walsleben third.
“I knew Mathieu was going to try something in the last corner,” Van Aert said. “I had to close a gap, and I thought it was lost, but I apparently had the most power left in the legs. Luckily there was enough asphalt to retrieve him.”
Van Aert gets down to business
The end of the first lap saw a big group coalesce with Van Aert on the point, setting a fast pace on the sinuous circuit.
The Golden Palace rider, World Cup leader Kevin Pauwels (Sunweb-Napoleon Games), Van der Poel and Tom Meeusen (Telenet-Fidea) all took turns on the front, but with seven to go that lead group was still quite a mob, until Lars van der Haar (Giant-Shimano) punched it, taking Meeusen and Nys with him.
Pauwels led a chase with teammate Klaas Vantornout and Crelan’s Sven Vanthourenhout. The World Cup leader was first to make it across to the front-runners, followed by Adams, who shot across the gap and into the lead with five laps remaining.
Nys instantly began a pursuit, marked by Van der Haar, Van Aert and Meeusen, only to stumble briefly on the staircase run and help Adams pad his advantage.
With four to go Adams had eight seconds over the Nys group, which included Meeusen, Van der Haar, Van Aert, Van der Poel and Vanthourenhout, with Walsleben just behind.
A lap later the Nys group, now more than a dozen riders strong, had retrieved Adams, and Van der Haar took the front.
Adams goes again
But Adams wasn’t finished yet. He came forward again and pried open another gap. Van Aert was at the head of the group his teammate had just left, and Van der Haar had to slip round him in a corner to get the pursuit rolling again.
With two to go, Adams had just three seconds over the Van der Haar chase. And then, just past the start-finish, Walsleben surged to the front, nearly catching Adams at the staircase. Van der Poel went with him and Meeusen followed, as did the others. Another nine-man group formed up at the front, this time with Walsleben on point.
The German gave it some stick and cracked open a bit of daylight, with teammate Van der Poel parked on the front of the bunch. Meeusen crashed in a corner, briefly disrupting the chase, and going into the bell lap Walsleben was seven seconds ahead of a big, big chase.
As the German slowed for the barriers, Van Aert and Van der Poel caught up to him. Van der Poel carved a path into the lead through a tight U-turn, and in short order the three were well away and the podium set with only the finishing order to be determined.
Van Aert and Van der Poel battled shoulder to shoulder through the final lap, and the BKCP rider seemed to have seized the advantage going into the final stretch, until Van Aert found another gear and hit the line first.
Nys misses podium, but leads series
Nys, who finished fourth on the day at eight seconds back, continues to lead the timed Bpost Bank Trofee series in 3:03:00. Pauwels, fifth on Sunday, sits second at 1:58 with teammate Vantornout third at 2:10.
Earlier, Sanne Cant (Enertherm-BKCP) continued her winning ways, taking the elite women’s race — her 12th victory of the season — ahead of Ellen Van Loy (Telenet-Fidea) and Helen Wyman Kona Factory Team).
“Winning is never easy,” said Cant, who moved up to fifth place in the women’s series, led by Sophie de Boer (Kalas-NNOF).
Van Loy was delighted with second place, saying it confirmed her consistency.
“I was strong today, but Sanne is currently just outstanding,” she added.