Del Carmen Alvarado rode away from Lucinda Brand and Denise Betsema to end her run of misfortune, while it took a puncture to separate van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel after a tight battle in the opening laps.
Van Aert’s victory was the first of his five-race season, and came on a course just 1,800 meters from his home.
“I’m happy,” Van Aert said after the race. “I had really set my sights on today. Of course, I had a bit of luck with that flat tire for Mathieu, but that’s a race and it may go well now and then.”
Van der Poel went out of the gates hot, riding away from van Aert and Michael Vanthourenhout. Van der Poel brought his finest MTB skills to the fore through the mud of the opening lap to stretch out a handful of seconds of a lead, only to see van Aert use the long road sections to bridge back the gap as Vanthourenhout fell off his pace.
Van Aert and van der Poel rode a long way clear of the pack in the second lap, with Vanthourenhout and then Eli Iserbyt chasing separately a long way back, and it came down to a battle between the two ‘cross supremos from there.
Van der Poel again distanced van Aert in lap three, though the Belgian kept his rival’s lead pegged to a few seconds. The gap remained relatively static through the third lap when van Aert was able to bridge across midway through lap four and immediately ride away from the Dutchman, who was nursing a rear wheel puncture.
With van der Poel forced into the pits, van Aert rode into a strong lead, moving 20 seconds ahead. Once van Aert had the advantage, there was no looking back as he gained confidence with every lap. The rain started pouring down in the final laps and as van der Poel sensed his race was over, the gap between the two archrivals stretched out further, leaving van Aert to take his first win of the season, 35 seconds ahead of the Dutchman.
“I only realized van der Poel punctured when I saw how big the gap was,” said van Aert. “It’s nice that Mathieu immediately came to congratulate me after the race, because of course, he has every reason to be disappointed. But we have a lot of respect for each other. ”
Vanthourenhout took third, Iserbyt fourth. Tom Pidcock opted to sit out the race.
Del Carmen Alvarado put in a performance to fit her rainbow jersey Wednesday.
The Dutch world champ rode a technically faultless race to take her fifth win of the season, leaving Betsema and Brand laboring behind her through the technical, muddy course.
Del Carmen Alvarado’s victory put an end to a recent string of performances that had left her disappointed and without a win after crashes and misfortune.
“I was looking forward to it today,” she said. “Just because it didn’t work out in the past few weeks didn’t mean I was doing it wrong. I’ll just keep doing my thing and I had a lot of fun doing what I did today.”
Alvarado and Betsema led the race from the opening lap before Brand, Sanne Cant and Yara Kastelijn bridged across. Clara Honsinger got off to a slow start and slipped to mid-pack, with Marianne Vos similarly caught in the middle of the bunch.
Cant and Kastelijn fell off the leaders’ pace through the middle of the race, leaving Brand, Alvarado, and Betsema to go clear.
Alvarado was clearly the most comfortable on the steep climbs and plummeting descents in the wet mud, and rode away from her rivals in the middle of the race, steadily working her way to a 10-second lead. Alvarado saw her lead drop after a rare stumble in lap four, only to then have it increase again when Brand went over the handlebars on a steep descent when in hot pursuit.
Meanwhile around 90 seconds behind, Honsinger worked her way to the front of the stretched-out chase pack to sit in fourth going into the final lap.
Once her gap had started growing again, Alvarado got better and better through the final lap, riding to victory by 19 seconds. Brand took second, Betsema third. Honsinger took fourth with another promising ride in the U.S. champion’s jersey.