Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) continued his exceptional cyclocross performances this season and extended his winning streak of six wins in six races after soloing to the victory at Exact Cross Loenhout – Azencross on Friday.
“It’s always nice to win, of course. This is a race that I always like to do, as it’s quite close to my home, so it’s a nice atmosphere,” Van der Poel said.
It was a 1-2 finish for Alpecin-Deceuninck as Gianni Vermeersch, who took his first cyclocross podium in five seasons, raced across the line in second place at 38 seconds back.
In the sprint for third just behind Vermeersch, Filipe Orts Lloret (Teika-BH-GSport) outpaced Ryan Kamp (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) to take the last spot on the podium.
“It was a good day to be on the podium. I stayed in the last lap with Vermeersch and Kamp, and in the last lap, I could stay on the podium,” Orts Lloret said. “I’m happy to do this for my family.”
The rain poured down over Exact Cross Loenhout – Azencross in Belgium, nearly flooding sections of the course and creating long stretches of deep puddles and mud along the circuit.
Missing from the start were Van der Poel’s close opponents: Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal), Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers).
A crash off the start line held up nearly half the field but did not appear to affect the front row of starters.
Van der Poel led the opening laps of the race as a small group formed, but in a similar strategy to his victory at the previous day’s Superprestige in Diegem, the world champion accelerated about halfway through the race, leaving his rivals behind.
The riders that led the chase were Orts, Kamp, along with Toon Vandebosch (Crelan-Corendon), Niels Vandeputte (Alpecin-Deceuninck), Lander Loockx (TDT-Unibet) and Timon Rüegg (Swiss Racing Academy), with Vermeersch connecting with the front group on the third lap.
Van der Poel rode a flawless race as he orbited the muddy, technical circuit, opening a winning margin of 38 seconds before crossing the line with his sixth victory of this cyclocross season.
It was the battle for second and third that heated up behind the world champion as Kamp, Orts and Vermeersch went head-to-head, reshuffling places on the circuit over the remaining laps.
Vermeersch proved the strongest of the three, gaining a small gap on his way to the finish line to secure second place, leaving third down to a sprint won by Orts.
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