Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) rode away from all contenders mid-way at the Flandriencross for his 11th victory of the season, this time at the X2O Trofee Hamme.
Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) was the only rider to match the first acceleration of the reigning World Champion, and his tempo drifted on the slippery course with a solo chase that gave him second place, 16 seconds back. His teammate Eli Iserbyt held off a charging Niels Vandeputte (Alpecin-Decueninck) for third, another 35 seconds back. X2O Trophee series leader Lars van der Haar (Baloise Trek Lions) finished fifth and held his lead, with Van der Poel now in second.
It was Van der Poel’s 160th overall victory as an elite cyclist, and this cyclocross season he is four for four at X2O Trophy starts, returning to the top step podium after a fifth place at World Cup Benidorm last weekend. It was his sixth win in Hamme, where he last won in 2021.
“It was quite OK after two good weeks of training in Spain. I felt I did a lot of work, so hopefully I’ll have my best legs next week,” said Van der Poel as he heads to the World Championships in Tabor to defend the elite title.
Under the bright sunshine of the opening laps, Vandeputte burst from the bunch to set the pace out front, followed by Vanthourenhout and Van der Poel leading a second group close behind. The two bunches navigated the twisting, technical course and finally settled for a lead group of eight, Vanthourenhout and Lars van der Haar (Baloise Trek Lions) taking turns in the lead towing Van der Poel, Iserbyt, Toon Vandebosch (Crelan-Corendon), Jens Adams (Athletes for Hope), Spanish champion Felipe Orts (La Vila Joiosa-Neteo) and British champion Cameron Mason (Cyclocross Reds).
Across a twisting section of tight, muddy corners, deep ruts in the mud from earlier rain grabbed a front tyre of Orts and he went down, losing contact with the group. Vanthourenhout seemed to bobble in the same place but remained upright.
On the fourth lap, Vanthourenhout led Van der Poel, with Iserbyt, Van der Haar and Vandeputte still in contact at the front. Then Van der Poel hit the gas and powered away, passing the pits and the deep puddles forming from the bike washing, quickly opening a gap in front of his previous companions. Only the European champion regrouped quickly enough and caught back to the accelerating Dutchman to ride as a duo for lap five.
Van der Poel kept the pace high and slowly gained several seconds in front of Vanthourenhout. Behind, Iserbyt took charge of the main chase group, which included Van der Haar, Vandeputte, Vandebosch and Mason.
With three laps to go, there was no time to relax. As the two leaders passed the long, flat stretch of the Hamme course along the lake, Vanthourenhout dangled less than 10 seconds behind Van der Poel and still had the World Champion in his sights. Could the legs respond? From the quintet chasing, Iserbyt appeared to begin suffering as well as Mason.
On the final lap, the front duo sustained their fast times, and behind it was Iserbyt who charged away to make separation for third place. With just a week to go until the World Championships, the Belgian teammates came away with confidence.
“It’s not easy to stay on the wheel [of Van der Poel], so I’m very happy,” said runner-up Vanthourenhout, who is fifth in the X2O Trophee standings.
Results powered by FirstCycling