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Cyclocross

Eli Iserbyt goes solo with dominant World Cup Flamanville win

World Cup champion Iserbyt takes dominant win in northern France as van Aert and Pidcock sit out the race.

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Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal) powered to victory in the penultimate round of the UCI cyclocross World Cup in Flamanville, northern France.

After already securing overall victory in the World Cup in Hulst, Iserbyt had no pressure and looked to be thoroughly enjoying himself on the fast, technical course. He finished 59 seconds ahead of Toon Aerts (Trek Baloise Lions).

Iserbyt’s friend and team-mate Michael Vanthourenhout took the final place on the podium.

Like many of the big-hitters on the Dutch women’s team, new Dutch champion Lars van der Haar (Trek Baloise Lions) chose to skip this round, preferring to focus on his preparations for the World Championships in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Tom Pidcock was also absent, preferring to attend the Ineos Grenadiers training camp as his preparation for the Worlds intensifies.

Conditions were sunny and dry as the riders lined up in front of a sell-out crowd of 5000.

While Aerts led the pack away from the start, it was the Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal squad who dominated the first lap with Iserbyt, Laurens Sweeck, Vanthourenhout and Toon Vandebosch crowding the front. Inspired by racing on home soil, French champion Joshua Dubau (Peltrax) looked comfortable mixing it with the Belgians in the first group.

On the second lap Sweeck, who is rumored to be leaving Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal next season, pushed the pace. Iserbyt quickly jumped onto his wheel but the pair didn’t make the attack stick. Aerts, Corne van Kessel (Tormans Circus) and Vanthourenhout came back to the front.

This was a course that suited Iserbyt, benefiting a rider who can be explosive out of corners. After a few weeks of indifferent results (compared to his stellar start to the season) Iserbyt looked to be back on top form. By the end of the third lap Iserbyt had opened a gap of 11 seconds over Aerts.

Once Iserbyt had a secure gap, Vanthourenhout took off in pursuit of second place. Aerts, however, was not in a mood to give up. He fought his way past Vanthourenhout and dropped him on the penultimate lap.

Of the French riders, Dubau finished in 9th place and Clement Venturini (Ag2r Citroen), winner of the 2020 French Championship on this course in 2020, finished 14th. After a strong 4th place in the Belgian Championship in Middelkerke last week, Jens Adams was again showing good form. He outsprinted Van Kessel for 6th place, just behind Swiss champion Kevin Kuhn (Tormans Circus).

Next weekend sees the completion of the 2021/22 UCI World Cup in the now traditional closing venue of Hoogerheide, Netherlands. It’s a race that always has a double edge – a valuable win to have on the palmarès but also a race to test, and possibly to hide, the form before the World Championships. Many of the riders are currently in a block of heavy training and may be racing with tired legs; reading the form two weeks ahead of Worlds can be misleading.

In Hoogerheide Iserbyt will be crowned the World Cup winner.

The 24-year-old from Kuurne has fully committed himself to the World Cup this year. He has been remarkably consistent every weekend since early October. Will he be able to extend his winning form all the way through to the World Championships in Arkansas?

Top-5, Flamanville:
1 Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal): 1.01.51
2 Toon Aerts (Trek Baloise Lions): +0.59
3 Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal): +1.12
4 Laurens Sweeck (Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal): +1.39
5 Kevin Kuhn (Tormans Circus): +1.44