The race marked the first of two warm-up ‘crosses ahead of the world championships next weekend, along with the World Cup Overijse on Sunday. The weekend of competition offers riders the vital opportunity to put the finishing touches on their form after a three-week break from competition.
Alvarado took victory in the women’s race having pulled away from a lead group when major rivals Denise Betsema and Lucinda Brand separately crashed in the tricky, slimy conditions.
“It wasn’t really the intention to make it a long solo,” Alvarado said. “But after the crashes of Betsema and Brand, I went for it. Fortunately, that worked out well … My legs weren’t great, but still, this is an important victory in view of the world championships. It gives me a lot of courage.”
Van der Poel took his fifth-straight victory on the Hamme circuit after a fierce chase from Wout van Aert, who flew back from the Jumbo-Visma road camp Friday especially to start his ‘cross worlds preparations.
“I was not great, but I was good,” van der Poel said. “I rode with very tired legs and made too many mistakes. I think a lot of riders had that. It was very slippery … But I certainly cannot complain.”
Van Aert’s battle to catch van der Poel made a tense final to the race, which played out over a boggy, narrow track in Hamme, Belgium. Van Aert said that it was a circuit not well-suited to his big-power riding style.
“These are the most difficult courses for me, but I’m also trying to get better at them,” he said. “I kept the pressure high on Mathieu and I also got a little closer. But on this kind of course he’s just better than me. I was close but not close enough to really believe in it and cause him more stress. Still, I’m satisfied: I got the most out of it.”
Van Aert went on a mission in the final three laps as he hunted down van der Poel, who was around 25 seconds ahead after punching clear in the third lap of eight. The Belgian closed the gap to within 10 seconds as he tore into the world champ’s advantage, but was unable to make the final catch. Van der Poel crossed the line seven seconds ahead of his archrival to take his ninth win in 12 races.
Behind them, Tom Pidcock and Laurens Sweeck had been locked in a tight battle for third through the middle of the race, though Sweeck was able to drop the young Brit on the penultimate lap to take the final podium slot, with Pidcock taking fourth not long afterward.
Alvarado rode away from the pack early in the women’s race to win by 19 seconds. The world champ bridged to Betsema after the Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal rider had taken an early lead, with Brand and Sanne Cant also joining at the front.
The wet greasy course caused both Brand and Betsema to fall in the second lap, giving Alvarado a gap that she used as a launchpad to power away from the leading group. Brand fell off the pace as Betsema and Manon Bakker led the chase, with Cant and Marion Norbert Riberolle also in the hunt for podium spots.
Alvarado went into the final lap with nearly 30 seconds of a lead as Bakker and Betsema engaged in a fierce duel for second. Bakker looked to have the early advantage only for Betsema to pull her back at the close of the lap and take second place, leaving the 21-year-old to take third place.
Brand finished 19 seconds behind Bakker to take fourth.