Vanthourenhout attacked early, much like he did at the X20 Trofee race Saturday. The 26-year-old went clear of a stellar group of five midway through the race, but unlike Saturday’s ride to fourth-place, the young Belgian made it stick in Tabor.
Vanthourenhout held off a late challenge from Eli Iserbyt to take the opening round of the World Cup and his second win in three races. Wout van Aert claimed his second third-place of the weekend.
“It was hard to come to terms with when Eli came back, but in the end, I felt I had something left,” Vanthourenhout said of his final lap duel with Iserbyt.
Vanthourenhout went off the front in the opening laps of the race as a chase group of Van Aert, Iserbyt, Tom Pidcock, Corne van Kessel and Toon Aerts formed behind. The quintet failed to gain ground on the charging Vanthourenhout as Van Aert and then Aerts led the pursuit.
Iserbyt gave up on the group on the sixth lap, attacking through a technical section of the Czech circuit to chase solo as Vanthorenhout pushed out a lead around 10 seconds. Iserbyt quickly made the bridge to his Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal teammate, leaving Van Aert and Aerts chasing as a pair.
Vanthorenhout piled the pressure on his young rival in the final lap as Iserbyt sat on and tried to recover from his solo chase, and it was an attack over the barriers that proved pivotal in creating the winning gap. Once Iserbyt lost the wheel, there was no coming back, and Vanthourenhout went on to win by five seconds.
Van Aert finished in third, 12 seconds back. Having started his ‘cross season late compared to the rest of the field, the multi-discipline supremo admitted he still has some work to do in order to be at his best.
“I was on my limit the entire race,” Van Aert said. “In the end, persistence was how I got on the podium. But to win, there is still a lot to be done. This was more on character … it was really hard work.”
Lucinda Brand took a hat-trick of victories with a powerhouse ride that saw Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado and Denise Betsema fill out the podium.
The Dutchwoman backed up her victory at Kortrijk on Saturday and top-slot at Marksplas last weekend to make it three from three, and her fifth win in 11 races this season.
“I felt very strong, but it did hurt because yesterday still left me fatigued,” she said after her victory.
Brand and Alvarado came to the front of the race early on after a heavy crash took down much of the field, with Shirin van Anrooij transported to hospital with a broken arm.
Brand was in control throughout the six-lap race, and though Alvarado lurked close behind, the world champ never looked a threat. A small stumble from Alvarado on lap three saw Brand open out a slim advantage, and once she had the gap, it kept on growing. The 31-year-old powered her way around the final laps of the heavy grassy circuit unchallenged to win by 24 seconds.
Alvarado took second, and behind her, Betsema edged out Hungarian youngster Blanka Kata Vas to take third-place and make it an all-Dutch podium.
Brand, who races with Trek-Segafredo Women on the road, revealed that it was time to focus on cyclocross training in the long COVID racing stop that may have given her the edge this season.
“I think that due to the lockdown in the summer I was able to ride the ‘cross bike a bit more, and now it feels more natural,” she said. “That makes a difference. I could train more on technique, and when that gets better then you have energy left for the other parts.”