Mathieu van der Poel and Blanka Vas both took dominant wins at Gullegem on Saturday.
Van der Poel was able to fend off a challenge from Tom Pidcock to ride away from the young Brit through the second half of the Belgian race and take a resounding victory, his seventh win in 10 outings.
Vas controlled the women’s race from the start, riding away from the pack at the end of the first lap and going on to win by 30 seconds. The result was the 19-year-old Hungarian champ’s second victory in Belgium this season having also won in Bredene on Wednesday.
The low-key ‘cross saw Lucinda Brand, Clara Honsinger, Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado, Wout van Aert, and Eli Iserbyt all sitting out the race ahead of the World Cup round in Hulst on Sunday having also raced GP Sven Nys on Friday.
In the men’s race, Jens Adams and then Diether Sweeck led a group of nine riders through the opening lap that included Pidcock and van der Poel.
World champion van der Poel suffered a slow start to the race after an uncharacteristic slip and tumble left him chasing back through the field. However, by lap two the Dutchman was on the front of the group, marked by Pidcock.
Van der Poel and Pidcock stretched the group and went clear at the front through the middle of the race as Adams and Gianni Vermeersch led the chase. Van der Poel had looked as though he was going to romp clear on the third circuit as he gained around five seconds over Pidcock, only for the Trinity rider to slowly winch him back. The duo shared the lead heading into lap five, with the chasers around 10 seconds back.
Van der Poel surged again on lap six of nine, and this time Pidcock was unable to reply. Van der Poel slowly but surely eased out his advantage over Pidcock, who held a 20-second buffer over Adams and Vermeersch who chased as a pair.
Heading into the final lap, van der Poel had around 40 seconds of a lead and was able to ease out through the final circuit as he took his third consecutive win. Pidcock took second, and Adams edged out Vermeersch to take third.
Vas led the women’s race from the opening seconds of the action. The young Hungarian took the lead with Marion Riberolle out of the start gate, and after dropping the Frenchwoman at the end of the first lap, was never seen again.
Riberolle fell back into a chase group with Sanne Cant, Anna Kay, and Inge van der Heijden before Cant punched out of the bunch midway through the race to chase solo.
One lap later, van der Heijden bridged across to the Belgian champ as Vas continued uncontested with around a 20-second gap. The two chasers remained together until Cant began to squeeze the pressure on the penultimate lap, riding away from her young rival many times, only for van der Heijden to pull back to her after every acceleration.
Cant again took a lead in the race for second when van der Heijden got caught up in race barriers at the start of the final lap only for the tenacious Dutchwoman to again pull her back.
Meanwhile, Vas rode confidently through the course to take a dominant win.
It took a final sprint to separate van der Heijden and Cant. The Belgian veteran led out the final kick, but van der Heijden had the legs to come around her and snatch second-place.