After Dublin, Van Aert also best in the 'Kuil'
In Zonhoven, Wout van Aert took his second win of the season in the UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup. The Belgian champion soloed to victory and pulled ahead of his rival Van der Poel, who was forced to surrender a position at the front after a crash. Sweeck completed the podium.
It didn’t take long for the pack to thin out in Zonhoven. The first descent into the “Kuil” saw the pace pick up right away. Van der Poel (Alpecin - Deceuninck) had clearly set his sights on Zonhoven, but with the fast pace, danger lurked around the corner and Van der Poel couldn’t avoid a slide. Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) took over and accelerated. The only rider able to follow the pair was European champion Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal).
Behind, it was Laurens Sweeck (Crelan-Fristads), leader in the standings, who proved he is a real expert in the sand. It meant he was the only one able to close the gap with the trio leading the race. Meanwhile, it was Van Aert who set the pace in the leading group and put Van der Poel under pressure. Vanthourenhout and Sweeck had to let him get away.
Van der Poel was able to rejoin Van Aert as he entered the third of a total of eight laps and took a risk plunging into the “Kuil”. The two seemed to be heading for a duel, but Sweeck and Vanthourenhout caught up again from behind. When Van der Poel slid, Van Aert took off solo. Sweeck and Vanthourenhout stuck close to Van der Poel’s wheel. After four laps, Van Aert had built up a 16-second lead.
After a fantastic descent, Van der Poel managed to break away from his companions in lap six. He went solo in search of second place. Entering the penultimate lap, Van Aert’s lead over Van der Poel was 1’01”.
Waving to the crowd, Van Aert celebrated victory in Zonhoven on the final lap. Van der Poel, meanwhile, was in second place, but there was still a thrilling battle going on for third. Sweeck put Vanthourenhout firmly under pressure on his favourite surface and went in search of third place.
At the front, meanwhile, it was Van Aert who calmly completed his victory lap. He soloed to his second victory in the 2022-2023 UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup in Zonhoven with a solid lead.