Tom Pidcock took a major step in his young career Sunday, beating Mathieu van der Poel in the heavy mud of the Superprestige Gavere circuit. The 21-year-old went toe to toe with van der Poel before distancing the world champion when his Dutch rival faltered, securing his biggest elite victory to date.
Pidcock’s victory back up his third place at the Antwerp race Saturday and confirms his potential having placed second behind van der Poel at the world championships earlier this year.
“I don’t know what to say,” Pidcock said after the win. “I think I came of age today.”
Van der Poel and Pidcock both came out of the gates hot, trading the lead through the opening lap of the race while Toon Aerts chased hard behind.
The leading trio soon gained a gap of around 20 seconds over a chase bunch of Eli Iserbyt, Quinten Hermans, and Michael Vanthourenhout.
Aerts began to fall off the relentless pace set by van der Poel and Iserbyt through the middle of the race and by lap five, it was just the Dutchman and the young Brit at the front. Meanwhile, after a bad start, Iserbyt separated from his group and launched a dogged pursuit of Aerts to try to grab third place.
After Aerts faded away, van der Poel and Pidcock looked inseparable on the boggy, hilly course.
It came down to a slight stumble from the Dutchman on lap six of eight to make the difference. Van der Poel momentarily lost footing on a mucky climb, giving Pidcock a second’s advantage that he went on to exploit to the full. Once Pidcock had the advantage, he rode aggressively all the way to the line, building a substantial gap that van der Poel never looked likely of closing.
The Trinity Racing star went on to win by 25 seconds, banishing the demons from a bad start to the season in Tabor last month, where he finished 17th.
“I’ve been training hard and now it pays off,” Pidcock said. “Each race I’ve been getting stronger. At Tabor, I told myself no one will remember that if I get a result later, so maybe now everyone can forget about that.”
Aerts held off Iserbyt’s chase to take third.
Wout van Aert returns to ‘cross next weekend at the World Cup in Namur in what will be a season-first showdown with longtime rival van der Poel. Based on today’s race, they both have a new challenger to worry about.
In the women’s race, Brand beat Betsema to reverse the result from the X2o Antwerp round Saturday. Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado took third while U.S. national champ Clara Honsinger saw her fierce chase come unrewarded to finish fourth.
The field blew up on the opening lap as the tough course made a selection, with Betsema taking the advantage and Brand and Alvarado chasing close behind. While Brand managed to bridge up to the front of the race through the second lap, Alvarado yo-yo’d in and out of the group as she was distanced on the muddy climbs, and eventually fell to around 10 seconds back.
Brand managed to gain a slight lead over Betsema in lap four, and was able to exploit her advantage when Betsema botched a bike change, dropping her machine and stumbling in the pit lane.
“I tried to follow, but she [Brand] was very strong on the climbs and I couldn’t match her,” Betsema said. “I rode well, but Lucinda was really the strongest and the most technical.”
From there, the lead trio remained separated through the final lap with none able to shut down the gaps, leaving Brand to take her fifth win in six races.
Behind the leaders, Honsinger rode a confident race to hold off challenges from Yara Kastelijn and Sanne Cant to secure her best result of the season so far with fourth place.