Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) emerged victorious on his return to cyclocross after a year dominated by his breakthrough on the road scene.
The two-time cyclocross world champion hit the front for the second half of the race and held off his rivals to cross the finish line 23 seconds ahead of Laurens Sweeck (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) at the Telenet Superprestige Ruddervoorde.
>> Struggling to get to the shops? Try 6 issues of Cycling Weekly magazine for just £6 delivered to your door <<
Belgian cyclocross champion Toon Aerts (Telenet-Baloise Lions) finished third, Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) could only manage fifth, while Tom Pidcock (Trinity) finished sixth, 1-49 behind Van der Poel.
Van der Poel had taken some time off after a hectic road season that saw him win the Amstel Gold Race as well as the Tour of Britain, but now returns to cyclocross as he looks to defend his rainbow jersey early next year.
His main cyclocross rival Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) completed his first off-road ride since his Tour de France crash but when his return to racing will be is curently unknown.
“Personally, I think it’s a shame that Van Aert is not there because he has always been my biggest competitor,” Van der Poel told Belgian radio programme De Tribune. “But maybe I’ll find a challenge in Eli Iserbyt now. It seems that he has taken a big step up.”
His Corendon-Circus team have also today indicated they hope to go to the Vuelta a España next year, with the first three stages of the 2020 edition being held in the Netherlands.
Van der Poel’s participation in what would be his first ever Grand Tour is an idea that “has indeed been discussed”, the 24-year-old told Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad. “I like new challenges. Riding in a Grand Tour could indeed be the next challenge.”
1. Mathieu van der Poel, in 1-03-56
2. Laurens Sweeck, at 23 seconds
3. Toon Aerts, at 36s
4. Tim Merlier, at 44s
5. Eli Iserbyt, at 1-38
6. Tom Pidcock, at 1-49