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Van Aert’s seventh consecutive win comes after a thrilling duel with Pidcock

Belgian champion survives shoe change to triumph again

Van Aert didn’t have the better of Tom Pidcock until the final lap, but the Belgian champion survived the Brit’s aggression and a shoe change to earn his seventh consecutive win in Saturday’s muddy Baal, Belgium round of the X2O Trofee at the Sven Nys cycling centre. Eli Iserbyt’s podium meant that he closed the gap to series leader Toon Aerts by 42 seconds at the midpoint of the competition. Michael van den Ham was top Canadian at 23rd.

Iserbyt won the hole shot battle heading into the quagmire. Pidcock then seized the reins to act as the engine of the train. Van Aert assumed Position 6 early in Lap 1 but was soon fourth. Aerts kept an eye on Iserbyt by forming a leading quartet with him, Pidcock and Van Aert. Aerts led the foursome over the line, nabbing some bonus seconds.

On Lap 2 Aerts continued to drive through the muck until a rut threw him into a wood fence barrier. The trio carried on without the X2O Trofee leader, but Aerts and Michael Vanthourenhout were only four seconds behind at the line.

By Lap 2, the lead group consisted of Van Aert, Pidcock and Iserbyt.

Aerts and Vanthourenhout made the junction at the beginning of Lap 3, but again Aerts started to lag. Soon the mud reestablished the Van Aert, Pidcock and Iserbyt lead group, with Aerts and Vanthourenhout 21 seconds in arrears.

Van Aert rode at the pointy end of the race on Lap 4 and his pace pried open a gap first back to Iserbyt and then to the British champion. With a good lead, Van Aert went down in the mud and then had to change a shoe in the pits. Pidcock was only two seconds adrift.

Van Aert splats on Lap 4, forcing a shoe change.

The shoe switch delayed Van Aert enough that he was behind both Pidcock and Iserbyt on Lap 5. The great Belgian had a big challenge in getting back into the race. First he reeled in and dropped Iserbyt. Van Aert was 9 seconds back of Pidcock with two laps to go.

Van Aert lassoed Pidcock before the bell lap and then passed the Brit. The Belgian kept gaining more real estate and would triumph by 10 seconds. Isertby ditched Aerts and would finish 47 seconds ahead to clip Toon’s GC lead.

Having won two rounds in a row, Van Aert is up to fourth in the competition, +8:43 of Aerts.

The next round of the X2O Badkamers Trofee is January 5 in Harentals, Belgium.

2021-2022 X2O Badkamers Trofee, Round 4, GP Sven Nys, Baal

1) Wout Van Aert (Belgium/Jumbo-Visma) 1:04:24
2) Tom Pidcock (Great Britain/Ineos Grenadiers) +0:10
3) Eli Iserbyt (Belgium/Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) +0:29
23) Michael van den Ham (Canada)
28) Cameron Jette (Canada)