Wout van Aert bests Van der Poel and Pidcock in three up sprint at … – VeloNews

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The action came down to the wire at Exact Cross Loenhout on Friday, in perhaps the most exciting battle yet of cyclocross’ “Big Three.”

Wout van Aert entered the finishing straight with Matheiu van der Poel and Tom Pidcock in tow, setting up an exciting three-man sprint finish. With low pressure ‘cross tires better suited to the deep mud pits than tarmac making sprinting all-out somewhat ungainly, Van Aert held on from the lead position to take his fourth victory of the crowded Christmas-time racing calendar.

Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert, and Tom Pidcock compete during the men’s elite  ‘Exact Cross’ competition, in Loenhout, on December 30, 2022. – (Photo: DAVID PINTENS/BELGA/AFP via Getty Images)

The latest battle of the trio, who also represent some of the best road racers on the planet, was a dogfight throughout with constant lead changes.

Once again, Van der Poel got out to a strong start, forcing Van Aert and Pidcock to chase as the race quickly became another battle between the three cyclocross heavyweights. The Dutchman was in the driver’s seat for most of the race, launching attacks throughout but being rejoined by the two chasers time and again.

Heading into the final lap, Van der Poel still had the upper hand, but a mistake through a muddy section dug into his lead and allowed Van Aert to close within striking distance.

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“There were very deep ruts and I got into the wrong track, so I swerved to the other side,” Van der Poel said. “That is a pity, because that mistake costs me the victory.”

Van Aert, Pidcock in tow, took advantage of the mistake and seized an opportunity to overtake Van der Poel, holding the advantage to take his fourth victory of the Christmas ‘cross calendar.

“Mathieu performed better on the technical sections today, but I could not make it difficult for the other two,” Van Aert said. “I was happy all along that I could keep up. To be honest, I believed Mathieu took off on the final lap. But he made a mistake that allowed me to come back, so I had to work to get myself together before the sprint.”

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Shirin van Anrooij celebrates as she crosses the finish line to win the women’s elite race at Exact Cross Loenhout (Photo: DAVID PINTENS/BELGA/AFP via Getty Images)

Shirin van Anrooij cruised to another victory at Exact Cross Loenhout Friday, her third of the busy Christmas cyclocross calendar.

Marie Schreiber and Manon Bakker rolled in 59 seconds and 1:29 down respectively to fill out the podium.

Van Anrooij had already formed a gap by the end of the first lap, and never let up from there. It quickly became clear that everyone else was racing for the other two podium spots.

The race for third proved tight with a group of four including Bakker chasing down and catching Kristyna Zemanová, before Bakker attacked to take the final podium spot.

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