Wout Van Aert won his first 2018-2019 World Cup on Sunday in a thrilling, wide open race of incessant attacking in Pont-Château, France. Van Aert nipped series leader Toon Aerts at the line to take over the series lead with one race left. Van Aert had been runner-up to Mathieu van der Poel four times this World Cup season and runner-up to Aerts twice.
With Mathieu van der Poel taking off the round to train, it would be the first time someone else won a World Cup elite men’s race since Toon Aerts triumphed at Jinglecross on September 29. Aerts didn’t have to worry about van der Poel usurping his World Cup lead, but he had be wary of Van Aert, only 7-points behind.
It would be David van der Poel claiming the hole shot on the fast, dry 3.02-km course, before Laurens Sweeck grabbed the reins. A large bunch hit the finish line for the first time. On the second of 11 laps, Toon’s brother Thijs Aerts led the pack.
On Lap 3, 16-riders led the field, with Michael Vanthourenhout pulling. Lars van der Haar put in a dig, but it would be Sieben Wouters and Jens Adams leading over the line. Van der Haar’s crash on Lap 4’s planks created a gap in the leading group. Adams, Vanthourenhout, Aerts and Van Aert flew away, enjoying a 21-second gap going into Lap 5.
Heading into Lap 6, van der Haar, Sweeck and Corné van Kessel were the main chasers 14-seconds behind. The members of the leading quartet kept attacking each other to no avail. Just after Lap 7 began, the quartet became a sextet, van Kessel unable to make the junction.
Let us introduce a new @UCI_cycling discipline: Synchronised Cyclocross!
— UCI Cyclocross (@UCI_CX) January 20, 2019
Adams and Vanthourenhout were most often seen at the front, but van der Haar was at the business end on Lap 8. Aerts made a move at the planks and only Van Aert and Vanthourenhout were able to go with him, but Sweeck, Adams and van der Haar were able to latch back on at the start of Lap 9.
After Aerts went clear on Lap 10, closest chaser Van Aert made an error but was able to come back. The two heard the bell with a 14-second lead. Surprisingly, the duo allowed the sextet to re-form on the last lap. Vanthourenhout then pressed at the planks, distancing Van der Haar, Adams and Sweeck.
Van Aert led out the sprint and Aerts couldn’t come around him. With only the Hoogerheide, the Netherlands round left to race on January 27, Van Aert’s series lead is a mere three points. Vanthourenhout earned his third 2018-2019 World Cup podium.
2019 UCI Cyclocross World Cup, Round 8, Pont-Château, France, Elite Men
1) Wout Van Aert (Belgium) 1:04:34
2) Toon Aerts (Belgium/Telenet Fidea Lions) +0:01
3) Michael Vanthourenhout (Belgium/Marlux-Bingoal) +0:07