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All eyes were on Sven Nys — it’s his final season, and he was racing his home race, the GP Sven Nys, in his hometown, Baal, Belgium. But Nys wasn’t the winner on New Year’s Day. Instead, the former world champion had to settle for second behind Wout Van Aert, 21, who looks to be the heir apparent.
Lars van der Haar took the holeshot and early lead in the seventh round of the eight-race Bpost Bank Trofee series, but he was soon overhauled by Van Aert.
A group of five chasers formed behind: Nys, Michael Vanthourenhout, Klaas Vantornout, van der Haar, and Gianni Vermeersch. Nys suffered a crash early and rode most of the day with a rip on the lower right side of his skinsuit.
Van Aert, wearing the updated colors of his Crelan-Vastgoedservice team was off the front alone, in another dominant display of skill and power. A little over halfway through the race, the Belgian held a lead of nearly one minute on the muddy track.
During the penultimate lap, the Telenet-Fidea duo of Corne van Kessel and Toon Aerts caught the chasers who were, by this point, resigned to fighting for a silver medal. Van Aert was more than 90 seconds ahead.
Going into the final lap, Nys took control, earning a slight gap and bringing Vanthourenhout along. The two were soon joined by Aerts.
On the last trip through the pit, Nys opted not to take a bike and instead accelerated. His move dropped Vanthournenhout, but Aerts was not so easily dispatched. Nys led out the sprint, but the Telenet-Fidea rider seemed content to let the former champion ride to second in the race named after him. He even saluted Nys as he rolled home in third.
Van Aert soloed to victory, clearly on another plane, riding the mud flawlessly and powering through the course’s tough climbs.
Cant tops women’s field
In the women’s race, earlier on Friday, Sanne Cant won by a healthy margin of 18 seconds over fellow Belgian Ellen Van Loy. Britain’s Helen Wyman rounded out the podium in third.
Van Loy held the lead early, but Cant, the European champion, chased her down with a couple laps to go after working with Wyman in the chase. On the final lap, Van Loy crashed on one of the course’s steep, muddy drops, giving Cant a healthy buffer.