Mathieu van der Poel won his first cyclocross race of the season at Scheldecross, the world champion beating European champion Eli Iserbyt into second place.
Tom Pidcock made the final place on the podium, holding off Toon Aerts to take third place.
After gapping Iserbyt early on, Van der Poel was brought back within range after the Alpecin-Fenix rider slipped in one of the sand sections.
The race then came back together, with the likes of Pidcock, Michael Vanthourenhout and Aerts rejoining the front.
Iserbyt and Van der Poel were soon off the front together again, and Van der Poel snapped the elastic to Iserbyt towards the end of the penultimate lap, sprinting away to victory.
“It went better than expected,” Van der Poel said after the finish. “I was pretty good from the start, but my spring broke when I crashed. After that I didn’t drive that fast in the sand.
“The rest of the course went very well for the rest. I didn’t feel like I was on the limit yet. I still had surplus energy when I was in Iserbyt’s wheel.”
Van der Poel will race again tomorrow at Gavere: “It’s going to be difficult with Toon Aerts. Iserbyt was also perfectly fine today, I had to do everything I could to get him off.”
1. Mathieu van der Poel (Ned) Alpecin-Fenix, in 58-10
2. Eli Iserbyt (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal, at six seconds
3. Tom Pidcock (GBr) Trinity Racing, at 27s
4. Toon Aerts (Bel) Telenet Baloise Lions, at 30s
5. Lars van der Haar (Ned) Telenet Baloise Lions, at 43s
6. Laurens Sweeck (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal, at 51s
7. Quinten Hermans (Bel) Tormans, at 1-00
8. Michael Vanthourenhout (Bel) Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal, at 1-09
9. Corné van Kessel (Ned) Tormans, at 1-22
10. Daan Soete (Bel) Group Hens-Maes Containers, at 1-26