Cyclocross

Home rider Wout van Aert fends off Giacomo Nizzolo, Matteo Trentin to win eventful Gent-Wevelgem – Firstpost

The powerful 26-year-old, who won the Milan-San Remo and Strade Bianche classics in 2020, came second in this year’s Tirreno-Adriatico and has emerged as a major force in the sport.

File image of Wout Van Aert. AP

Wevelgem: Home rider Wout van Aert of Jumbo-Visma won an eventful Gent-Wevelgem cycling classic in Belgium on Sunday, edging Italian pair Giacomo Nizzolo and Matteo Trentin.

The powerful 26-year-old, who won the Milan-San Remo and Strade Bianche classics in 2020, came second in this year’s Tirreno-Adriatico and has emerged as a major force in the sport.

“This victory counts so much to me, it being my first home-road race win,” said Van Aert, winner of dozens of cyclocross races in Belgium.

Nizzolo was gracious in defeat.

“I can’t be too upset because well, the best man won today,” he said.

The 247.5km race was hit by two teams pulling out due to positive tests, while a mid-race fire near the finish line also saw organisers scramble to reroute the closing kilometres.

“We were all a bit lost with the rerouting but the organisers were right to reroute,” Nizzolo said. “You can’t say it changed the outcome.”

Irish rider Sam Bennett put in a brave attempt but unexpected winds put paid to his efforts over the already tough cobble-strewn and hill-laden run through Flanders.

Van Aert had a teammate Nathan Van Hooydonck (7th) with him in a long-range 20-man breakaway that gradually whittled down on a fast and tough race.

“We were able to launch early enough. Everything went perfect and nobody came past,” said Van Aert, who ran out of steam at the last classic he raced, the Milan-San Remo.

“The whole day in the crosswinds, this is a massive effort but definitely worth it,” said Van Aert, who raised his arms in victory over the cobbled finish line.

“This sets me up nicely and I can go into the Tour of Flanders next week with lots of confidence.”

A fire at an industrial site along the route almost stopped the race but organisers were quick to reroute it with the riders just 80km away.