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Guess who’s back? Van Aert dominates his first ‘cross race of the season in Boom

Belgian champ wins first Superprestige series in four years by 1:40

Wout Van Aert returned to cyclocross racing on Saturday and dominated a muddy affair in Boom, Belgium in the fifth round of the Superprestige series. Nobody could hang with the Jumbo-Visma rider in the muck. It was Van Aert’s first Superprestige triumph since 2017.

Everyone was anticipating Van Aert and Tom Pidock’s return to ‘cross, and with the Antwerp World Cup race cancelled, all eyes were on Boom. Van Aert was coming off a cold.

The Season So Far

Iserbyt had won three of the first four rounds, with Round 1 going to Toon Aerts, but Iserbyt was only three points ahead of Quinten Hermans at the top of the table.

Iserbyt and Aerts were the early leaders on Lap 1, with Van Aert–in the Belgian champion’s jersey–and Pidcock having to make their way up the string. Corne van Kessel led the way up the first run-up, Pim Ronhaar his closest pursuer. Van Aert was fifth midway through the opening circuit. Pidcock and Van Aert were part of a septet that crossed the line together.

Van Aert churns through the mud on Lap 1.

Van Aert started to take control on Lap 2, as he was the only rider able to ride a short run-up. The crowd started to get loud. The Belgian champion had Aerts as company and Iserbyt and Hermans in close pursuit. Aerts suffered a long, sliding crash.

Toon Aerts’ pursuit was stymied by a slippery crash.

Van Aert went into Lap 3 of 7 with a 15-second buffer over Iserbyt and Hermans, and soon the duo lost sight of the six-time Tour de France stage winner. Van Aert had a 51-second gap at the end of the circuit.

By Lap 4, with Van Aert 55-seconds ahead, it was almost a foregone conclusion. The chasing group was still large, and Hermans started to think about getting back those three seconds from Iserbyt. Aerts, having recovered from his muddy bath, became the closest pursuer. Pidcock splattered into the mud in the same spot as Aerts.

The Belgian champion was nearly a minute ahead on Lap 4.

Aerts was reabsorbed by the septet of chasers on Lap 5 and he promptly crashed in the same spot again.

Van Aert’s lead heading in to the penultimate lap was nearly two minutes. The podium scrap was still between the seven. It’s a good thing Van Aert had such a buffer because he crashed on a muddy downhill and then had to run his bike to the pits for a change.

Even Van Aert crashed in the quagmire.

Somehow, Van Aert held his two minute gap as the bell lap began. Michael Vanthourenhout dashed away from the pursuing pack in a bid for second place but Toon Aerts yanked him back and lit out for the runner-up spot. He would claim it, with Lars van der Haar rounding out the podium. Pidcock finished seventh.

The next round of the Superprestige series is December 27 in Zolder.

Superprestige Series, Round 5, Boom, Belgium
1) Wout Van Aert (Belgium/Jumbo-Visma) 56:29
2) Toon Aerts (Belgium/Baloise Trek Lions) +1:40
3) Lars van der Haar (The Netherlands/Baloise Trek Lions) +1:48