The seventh round of the World Cup was held in the Belgian city of Zolder on Thursday. It was a cold afternoon for the annual Boxing Day race at the Circuit Zolder speedway. As often happens at the race track in Zolder, race speeds were appropriately fast.
Belgian National Champion Toon Aerts (Telenet Baloise Lions) was leading the World Cup standings, but because of a crash in the previous World Cup race, he had to start with a few broken ribs today. World Champion Mathieu Van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) started from the second row of the grid.
It was Belgian Road National Champion Tim Merlier (Creafin-Fristads) who lead the pack at the beginning of the race.
Things didn’t start well for wounded World Cup leader Aerts. Three-time World Champion Zdenek Stybar (Deceuninck Quick-Step) faced a problem in one of the first corners and suddenly came to a standstill. Aerts not expecting that went down and suddenly was in last position.
A nine-man leading group passed the finish line for the first time with a few seconds advantage on a first chasing group lead by Van der Poel. At the end of the second lap, Van der Poel still found himself chasing, the leading group this time being formed by Quinten Hermans (Telenet Baloise Lions), Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal), Corné van Kessel (Telenet Baloise Lions), Merlier and Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen – Bingoal).
When Van der Poel and Lars van der Haar (Telenet Baloise Lions) closed the gap, the pace dropped. It allowed several other riders to take a place at the front of the race too.
Van der Poel then took the lead for the first time and couldn’t have chosen a better time, as several riders crashed behind him on the finishing straight. The pack, already broken up because of the crash, then saw Van der Poel attacking. A gap opened up right away when Van Kessel had issues with his shifting in the technical section at the end of the lap.
Van der Poel soon had a 13-second advantage on a chasing group formed by Laurens Sweeck (Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal), Hermans, Vanthourenhout, Merlier, Gianni Vermeersch (Creafin Fristads) and Iserbyt. Iserbyt then got dropped and Merlier crashed a little later. The chasing group was all of a sudden reduced to four riders.
Van der Poel then riding the fastest lap so far, the chasers saw their arrear go up to 18 seconds.
With still a few laps left, another win for Van der Poel seemed to be a certainty already. Van der Poel solidified his advantage in the remaining laps to take the win.
“It is one of the toughest races to be alone at the front because of the long straights. If you have a chasing group behind you that can work together a little bit, it’s really hard to keep the gap. I was surprised that I managed to get away at my first attempt, but it was definitely not easy to keep the gap.”
Sweeck beat Hermans in the sprint for second. Vanthourenhout finished fourth, Vermeersch fifth.
Aerts managed to ride from DLF to 14th and keep his lead in the World Cup standings.
American riders Stephen Hyde (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld), Curtis White (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld) and Kerry Werner (Kona Maxxis Shimano) finished 30th, 38th and 46th. Drew Juiliano (Voler Pro CX / Cure IBD p/b Shimano) finished 52nd, Max Judelson (Voler / Easton / HRS / Rock Lobster) 54th and Andrew Giniat (Pony Shop CX) 58th.
Canadian rider Michael van den Ham (Easton-Giant p/b Transitions LifeCare) finished 37th and Cameron Jette finished 59th.
Full results are below.
|Rank||BIB||Last Name||First Name||Country||Result|
|1||1||VAN DER POEL||Mathieu||NED||1:02:22|
|9||2||VAN DER HAAR||Lars||NED||1:02:59|
|12||5||VAN DER POEL||David||NED||1:03:24|
|37||65||VAN DEN HAM||Michael||CAN||1:06:27|
|42||7||VAN DER HEIJDEN||Maik||NED||1:07:20|
|50||46||JUNQUERA SAN MILLAN||Mario||ESP||LAP|