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Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) conquered a wet and sandy course in Mol to win Zilvermeercross on Friday evening. He saved his fastest lap times for the final two circuits to outdistance Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) by 56 seconds.
World Champion Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) was another 24 seconds back for third place. World Cup leader Laurens Sweeck (Crelan-Fristads) outsprinted Quinten Hermans (Tormans Cyclo Cross Team) for fourth and fifth, respectively.
It was the first race of this year’s cyclocross season that matched Van Aert and Van der Poel in a head-to-head battle, with the Jumbo-Visma rider returning to the fray after a road camp. Van Aert, in just his third ‘cross start, had scored the World Cup win in Dublin two weeks ago while Van der Poel made his fifth start, including a pair of World Cup wins.
The men’s field was strung out after the first of nine laps, the favourites at the front on a mild day with rain falling in Mol for evening races. Two circuits later, attrition led to five riders stealing the show. Van Aert took a fall in the sand before the third lap was completed, but did not lose sight of Van der Poel, Hermans close behind. Then Pidcock and Sweeck had to dismount and run in the same section, losing ground.
With three laps to go, Van Aert and Van der Poel created separation with Hermans and the two matched efforts. But with two to go, Van Aert gained his advantage in the sand.
It was the fourth time Van Aert found the top step of the podium at Zilvermeercross, winning last time out in the 2020-2021 season. That outing he took victory in the sand and snow in a battle against Laurens Sweeck, as Van der Poel and other big name riders were absent in the race, held in early January. Zilvermeercross was not held last season.
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