British champion Tom Pidcock (Team Ineos) assaulted the Hulst ramparts to take a stunning second victory of the season in round 13 of the World Cup series. With the World Championships coming ever closer, the win is a big statement from the 22-year-old.
“For sure I was pretty strong today, when you do the whole race in the front it’s completely different from when you’re racing in the wheels, so it was a good result,” Pidcock said afterwards.
The tricky course looked tailor-made for Pidcock’s talents, and he was able to extend an advantage over similarly-built riders Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal) and Lars van der Haar (Baloise Trek Lions) to take only the second British elite men’s World Cup win.
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“I was feeling good at the start, and I pushed on and got a gap but only a few seconds, the Ineos rider said at the finish. “All race Eli was keeping me close and putting the pressure on. In the last few laps, I started making a few mistakes and I was thinking, ‘if he makes a big effort he could close’.”
The result means that Iserbyt has secured overall World Cup victory with two rounds still to race.
“It is very important,” the Belgian said afterwards. “I’ve been aiming for this for three years already. I’m happy to win with a lot of races and I think that shows a lot of consistency.”
Wout van Aert (Team Jumbo Visma) lost heaps of time on the opening lap due to a mechanical, that brought his winning streak to an end. The 27-year-old was still able to make an incredible comeback and go from 40th to fourth on the Dutch course.
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This is the Dutch venue’s first inclusion in the World Cup, having previously made star appearances in other series. The course makes use of Hulst’s seventeenth century star fort and is peppered with short, sharp banks and off-camber sections, particularly ideal for lightweight, nimble racers, as the podium showed.
Having won on Saturday at the GP Sven Nys, van Aert’s bid for nine wins from nine races was over before it had even begun when, on the opening lap, his chain slipped off his double front chainring.
A disadvantage of that setup, the Belgian champion took a long time to wrestle his chain back onto the bike, losing more than 30 places in the process.
Back at the front, in the second World Cup round on Dutch soil, European champion and home favourite Lars van der Haar (Baloise Trek Lions) was electric off the start line and keen to lead the race, albeit in front of no fans due to Covid regulations.
Keen to take advantage of van Aert’s misfortune, series leader Iserbyt pushed the pace with van der Haar and was joined by Pidcock, Quinten Hermans (Tormans-Circus Cyclo Cross Team), Toon Aerts (Baloise Trek Lions), Toon Vandebosch (Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal) and Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal).
The dry conditions meant that technical ability and not course conditions would create gaps. With van Aert gradually making his way through the pack behind, Pidcock charged away on lap three and was joined by long-time rival Iserbyt to setup another battle between the duo.
With the wind at his back, the Tokyo 2020 mountain bike champion then charged away at the end of lap four of nine going past the first pits. The Ineos multi-talent extended an advantage over the chasers on a course that suited his skillset down to the ground and held a lead of around seven seconds over the couple of laps.
Pidcock held the gap and avoided any major incident so that by the time he puffed out his cheeks coming over the line, he had finished 12-seconds ahead of Iserbyt. Van der Haar closed out the podium, and after an immense recovery, van Aert dispatched with Aerts on the final lap to finish fourth.
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