In their final battle before Christmas, Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) took an assured victory at this afternoon’s Exact Cross race, powering beyond Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) under the lights in Mol, Belgium.
The Belgian national champion said before the race that he wasn’t feeling “fresh”, but looked to be in a league of his own as he took his second win from two races this season.
World champion Tom Pidcock finished in third, completing a podium many predicted ahead of the event.
The race brought a familiar sight for followers of the winter sport. At the halfway mark, Van Aert and his long-term Dutch rival broke away on the sand-covered course, not to be seen again.
The duo spent the ensuing few laps trading places at the front of the race, while easily picking off the riders at the back. With two laps to go, the Belgian pulled away from Van der Poel, turning the screw to draw out his advantage.
From there, the victory was all but sewn up. By the time Van Aert reached the finishing straight, he was alone on the road. It would be almost a minute before Van der Poel crossed the line in second, by which time the Belgian had dismounted his bike and moved on to his media duties.
Speaking to Het Nieuwsblad on Thursday, Van Aert said: “I come from a team training camp in Spain, did material tests in Roubaix on Wednesday and now I have the [Jumbo-Visma] team presentation.”
Still, despite the fatigue, the three-time world champion was unbeatable.
In the women’s race, Shirin van Anrooij claimed her second victory of the season, finishing 47 seconds ahead of her Baloise Trek Lions team-mate and former world champion Lucinda Brand.
The 20-year-old Dutchwoman looked comfortable throughout the race, mastering the course’s deep, sandy ruts. As Van Anrooij passed the pits for the final time, she took a moment to exchange a celebratory smile with her mechanics.
Annemarie Worst (777) completed the podium, with junior world champion Zoe Bäckstedt (EF Education-Tibco-SVB) crossing the line in fourth.
Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1