Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) won the Exact Cross Zonnebeke – Kasteelcross, soloing across the finish line 24 seconds ahead of runner-up Gianni Vermeersch (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and 48 seconds ahead of third-placed Tim Merlier (Soudal-QuickStep).
A group of four riders emerged early in the race with Vanthourenhout and Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal teammate Yordi Cousus, Merlier, Vermeersch, and Lander Loockx (TDT-Unibet).
Vanthourenhout, Vermeersch and Merlier separated themselves from the others mid-race. However, Merlier slid out through a corner on lap seven and into the wooden stake, losing valuable seconds on the leading pair, Vanthourenhout and Vermeersch.
Vanthourenhout used his superior cyclocross skill to open a gap on his two nearest rivals during the penultimate lap, opening a two-second gap over Vermeersch and an additional two seconds on tiring Merlier.
The European Champion pushed his lead out to more than 20 seconds on the last lap, all that was needed to take the day’s win and bring confidence into the next day’s World Cup in Benidorm.
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