Cyclocross

Wout van Aert blasts to victory in ‘cross season debut at Superprestige Boom

Van Aert wins by more than 90 seconds despite late crash, Tom Pidcock places seventh after two spills in his first race of season.

Get access to everything we publish when you join VeloNews or Outside+.

Wout van Aert (Jumbo Visma) made an emphatic start to his cyclocross season Saturday, putting in a display of pure power to win the Superprestige in Boom.

The triple world champion escaped early in the race and won by nearly two minutes over Toon Aerts (Trek Baloise Lions). Aerts’ teammate Lars van der Haar filled out the podium.

Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) placed fourth and did enough to retain his series lead. Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers), also making his season debut, finished seventh.

The much-heralded return to the fields of van Aert and Pidcock was a true Belgian “mudder” race. Several days of heavy rain, and the earlier races of the day, left much of the course covered in ankle-deep mud.

Van Aert and Pidcock both played down their chances of victory before the race. Van Aert said that he expected it to take a while for him to find his rhythm, and a cold during the week compromised his training. Pidcock told VeloNews on Friday that he was out of shape and still struggling with a knee injury but was highly motivated to get the season started.

It was a tough way for the two cross-discipline stars to start the season. Not only was the weather cold and wet, the course had long sections of climbing in heavy mud, and both riders were starting from the third row of the grid.

Van Aert got a strong start but Pidcock was held up in traffic and had to thread his way through the first twenty riders to get up to the front. On the first lap a group of seven formed, including van Aert and Pidcock, as the riders tried to assess the course and their competitors.

At the start of second lap van Aert demonstrated his power by riding the first climb of the lap where everyone else had to dismount.

Aerts’ leggy running style enabled him to briefly hold van Aert’s wheel but then he crashed on a deeply rutted descent, sliding on his behind for ten meters and nearly bringing off Pidcock into the bargain. By the time the group had reorganized themselves, with Hermans leading the chase, van Aert had disappeared.

This was the kind of day that van Aert loves. His blend of power, running ability and technique comes to the fore on heavy, hilly courses. As van Aert piloted his new Cervelo R5 through the mud, Aerts and Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) took over the chase.

Pidcock was having a less stellar return to racing than his fellow road star. The 22-year-old Briton crashed on the same descent that claimed Aerts two laps earlier and afterward never looked like he would get back to the front of the chasing group. He eventually finished in seventh place after also suffering a second crash.

Van Aert didn’t have a trouble-free ride to the finish either. A heavy crash on a descent damaged his bike and he had to shoulder it to the pits, which were mercifully close. The mishap must have been a wake-up call for the storied Flandrien. In cyclocross, the smallest error can change a race.

Toon Aerts’ second place may prove to be important in the overall Superprestige rankings. He has now closed the gap to Eli Iserbyt to two points.

With the cancelation of the Scheldecross in Antwerp on Sunday, which was to have been the ninth round of the World Cup, the riders now have an extra day of rest before they travel to Italy for the Val Di Sole World Cup. The ski resort hosted the 2021 World Mountain Bike Championships and the organizers are confident that the race will be on snow and ice. This could be influential in the long-running campaign to bring cyclo-cross into the Winter Olympics.

Superprestige Boom, Top-5

1 Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma): 56.29
2 Toon Aerts Baloise (Trek Baloise Lions): +1.40
3 Lars van der Haar (Trek Baloise Lions): +1.48
4 Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal): +1.52
5 Pim Ronhaar (Trek Baloise Lions): +1.54