Fortune favoured the brave as Wout van Aert was crowned the men’s World Cyclocross Champion in Luxembourg on Sunday.
The showdown between Belgium’s van Aert and Dutch rider Mathieu van der Poel was one full of incident once again in an enthralling race between the two in Bieles.
Van der Poel took the lead from the outset as his rival sat further back in the leading pack, allowing him to establish a 13-second lead after the opening lap.
Van Aert eventually worked his way forward and attempted to bridge the gap which had grown out further.
This was when his luck changed as van der Poel suffered several punctures on the rocky man-made descents, losing him valuable time and effort in bike changes as his rival drew level.
As the two went head-to-head another untimely puncture for the Dutch rider with three laps to go saw him lose 20 seconds on his rival.
That was enough for van Aert to seal his second consecutive rainbow jersey.
“I had to face a lot mentally and it’s not always easy to keep my focus on the race but I made it and I’m very proud of my team,” said van Aert.
Behind the top two, there was an epic battle developing for bronze with a group of Belgium and Dutch riders battling it out.
Lars van der Haar had looked like the strongest until the last lap when Kevin Pauwels sealed the medal.
Lone British rider Ian Field had a similar experience to van der Poel and a costly puncture saw him finish in 37th place.
“I got a decent start and was around 30th, but then my front wheel flatted just after the finish line and I lost about 10-15 places getting back to the pits,” said Field.
“I was just trying to get back into it and trying not to puncture the whole race, but it’s frustrating when you’re holding back a bit to avoid punctures because you know you’re not on the limit.”
The Netherlands had the perfect start to the second day of competition when Jens Nieuwenhuis rode to a clear victory in the under-23 men’s event.
The ice which had plagued the junior event 24 hours earlier had melted but made for equally treacherous conditions.
But Nieuwenhuis made no mistake and rode from the front, and was 14 seconds clear after the opening lap before eventually winning by 1 minute 23 seconds.
“Not crashing was my secret today,” said Nieuwenhuis. “I know I was technically ready for today as I practiced a lot and on the technical part of the course I kept it easy and rested.”
Spaniard Felipe Orts Lloret took advantage of Belgium pairing Thijs Aerts and Nicholas Cleppe crashing in the slippery conditions riding up to the them before making his last lap move for silver.
Dutchman Sieben Wouters also came through on the final lap to clinch bronze while Great Britain’s Billy Harding finished 37th.
UCI Cyclocross World Championships 2017: Elite Men
1. Wout van Aert (Belgium), in 1-02-08
2. Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands), at 44 secs
3. Kevin Pauwels (Belgium), at 2-09
1. Joris Nieuwenhuis (Netherlands), in 53-58
2. Felipe Orts Lloret (Spain), at 1-23
3. Sieben Wouters (Netherlands), at 1-29