At the start line of Sunday’s Hulst round of the World Cup in the Netherlands, the question was whether Wout Van Aert could win his eighth consecutive race. But only two minutes into the race the answer was a negative one, as a Lap 1 mechanical handicapped the Belgian champion for the length of the race. Tom Pidcock, free of Van Aert, took his second World Cup of the season. Van Aert made his way from the mid-30s to fourth place. The top Canadian was Michael van den Ham.
You can watch the last two races of the 2021-2022 World Cup at FloBikes.
Even though he hadn’t won in the last four rounds, Eli Iserbyt still led the competition by 85 points over Dendermonde winner Michael Vanthourenhout going into Sunday’s race. It had to be disappointing for Mathieu van der Poel not to be racing at home in the Netherlands, but back problems kept him from competing.
Van Aert had a mechanical almost immediately on Lap 1. He slotted in behind Canada’s Matt Leliveld in the string. Lars van der Haar was back racing and he nabbed the lead, with Iserbyt on his wheel and Pidcock at seventh. Van der Haar led a quartet over the line 45 seconds ahead of Van Aert.
Van Aert was frustrated with the congestion he had to negotiate on Lap 2. Iserbyt took over the front from van der Haar and then the two dashed clear of the others in the group before Quinten Hermans yanked them back. Vanthourenhout and surprise package Toon Vandebosch were still in contact. Van Aert was 20th, Leliveld 45th and Michael van den Ham 53rd.
In the third of nine laps, the leading nontet carried on 36 seconds ahead of the Belgian champion. Pidcock took his turn at the front and he brought along van der Haar and Iserbyt when he split the group.
Pidock and Iserbyt dropped van der Haar just before Lap 3 turned into Lap 4. Van Aert was still mired in the late teens. Van der Haar had Vanthourenhout as his closest podium competitor. Pidcock attacked Iserbyt and held four seconds going over the line.
By Lap 5, Van Aert was in the top-10, but he was a minute back of Pidcock. Iserbyt continued to chase four seconds in arrears and van der Haar carried on in his podium bid.
Iserbyt still toiled four to five seconds behind on Laps 6 and 7. Van Aert kept picking off the riders, and going into Lap 7 he was closing on Hermans and Vanthourenhout. Iserbyt lost some seconds. Van der Ham was now the top Canadian in 48th.
On the penultimate lap Pidcock maintained his gap. Van Aert moved by Hermans and Vanthourenhout and soon had Toon Aerts in his sights.
The bell lap saw Van Aert assume fourth place. Iserbyt couldn’t make inroads into Pidcock’s gap, even though the Brit was having issues with a pedal. Iserbyt’s runner-up spot meant that he extended his overall lead over Vanthourenhout, who was sixth on the day. Surely, Iserbyt has the Cup wrapped up with a 95-point buffer.
The next round is in two weeks in Flamanville, France.
2021-2022 UCI Cyclocross World Cup, Round Thirteen, Hulst
1) Tom Pidcock (Great Britain/Ineos Grenadiers) 1:03:49
2) Eli Iserbyt (Belgium/Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) +0:12
3) Lar van der Haar (The Netherland/Baloise Trek Lions) +0:33
4) Wout Van Aert (Belgium/Jumbo-Visma) +1:09
48) Michael van den Ham (Canada)
55) Matt Leliveld (Canada)
64) Hugo Brisebois (Canada)