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The two Alpecin-Fenix world champions won the New Year’s day races as van der Poel took his fourth-straight victory on the course after riding clear of an elite group on lap five of seven. Wout van Aert took second, riding a repainted Bianchi bike as his team’s new partners Cervelo develop their ‘cross bike. Tom Pidcock took third.
Alvarado’s win at the X20 Trofee round came after her late move distanced Lucinda Brand after a close race on the technical Baal circuit.
“It was a tough race, I didn’t have the best legs,” van der Poel said after taking victory. “I had the impression that Wout [Van Aert] was not having his best day either.”
“There were a few stretches on the track that I knew I could take the upper hand, and I tried, and it gave me my fourth win here in a row,” he continued. “This is a circuit that I like – It’s super technical and you can also make speed.”
Van der Poel has now won six times in his nine-race season.
Quinten Hermans and Tom Pidcock were on the front foot through the early laps of the men’s race as they traded leads ahead of a bunch containing all the favorites. By lap three, Hermans had faded and a lead group of van der Poel, Van Aert, Eli Iserbyt, Michael Vanthourenhout and Pidcock came together.
Van Aert and Pidcock were most aggressive through the middle of the race as the group of five stayed as one.
Having sat back in the middle of the pack through the start of the race, van der Poel uncorked a move at the start of lap five to grab a few seconds over the group as Vanthourenhout and Pidcock led the chase.
Van der Poel kept motoring through the fifth circuit as Pidcock’s technical skills kept him in contention while Vanthourenhout struggled.
The world champ had a five-second gap over Pidcock going into the penultimate lap as Van Aert, Vanthourenhout and Iserbyt chased, 10 seconds behind the Brit. Van Aert bridged across to Pidcock midway through the lap as van der Poel continued to grow his lead.
Heading into the final lap, van der Poel’s victory was done-and-dusted as he held a 15-second lead over Van Aert, with Pidcock around five seconds behind him.
Van der Poel held steady from there to take his fourth consecutive win on the course, with Van Aert and Pidcock filling out the podium.
The women’s race came down to a tight three-way fight between Brand, Alvarado and Denise Betsema from as early as the opening minutes. Alvarado took the win with a late attack that distanced Brand and gave the world champion her second-straight victory at the GP Sven Nys.
“It was a very tough, exciting battle,” Alvarado said. “I’m glad I was able to finish it.”
“I knew my form was getting better and better in recent weeks and that I was getting closer and closer to the form of Lucinda [Brand],” she continued. “Today confirmed to me that I am on the right track.”
The trio led the field from as early as the grid start, with each rider suffering slips and struggles and each taking moments to go on the offensive through the race.
By midway through the four-lap test, the lead trio was 25 seconds ahead of a chasing bunch of Fem van Empel, Yara Kastelijn and Sanne Cant. U.S. champion Clara Honsinger was riding solo in ninth.
After Alvarado has been caught out in the greasy off-camber in the second lap, Betsema was next to slide out on the tricky section. Alvarado began piling on the pressure as Betsema struggled, only for Brand to mark her out, and a minute later, Betsema also caught back after a desperate chase.
Going into the final lap the trio was back together and Brand began to squeeze the pressure on the flatter power sections. The Baloise rider’s pace saw Betsema fall off the group, though Alvarado was able to stay on her wheel.
From there, the final circuit made for a constant yo-yoing in who took the lead, with Brand gaining the advantage on flatter more powerful strips and Alvarado profiting on more technical sections. Alvarado surged through the tight wooded segment in the back-half of the circuit and this time made it stick, distancing Brand by around 20 meters.
Alvarado held off Brand’s late chase to win by three seconds, with Besema taking third.
Honsinger gained a few places in the final laps to finish seventh.