In Antwerp first time van Aert vs Van der Poel
The Sint-Annastrand in Antwerpen became the setting for two solos of note. In the Women Elite category, Fem van Empel went off alone halfway through the race. In the Men Elite category, Mathieu van der Poel went on the attack as early as the second lap. The two compatriots successfully completed their solo.
Dutch rider Fem van Empel took her fifth UCI World Cup victory of the season in Antwerpen. Her compatriot Puck Pieterse offered some resistance for half of the race, but the UCI World Cup leader eventually built up an impressive lead.
Puck Pieterse got off to the best start in Antwerpen. The Dutch rider set the pace immediately, so that along with Fem van Empel, she built up a small lead after just two minutes. Shirin van Anrooij tried to close the gap as quickly as possible, but a crash in the sand left her seven seconds behind by the end of the first lap.
During the second lap, Van Empel’s mistakes piled up, allowing Pieterse to lead alone for a while. The tense race continued as the World Cup leader managed to make up ground twice. Van Anrooij, meanwhile, was already facing a twelve-second gap.
Halfway through the race, Van Empel took the initiative herself. She accelerated and gained a small lead on Pieterse. After a good run on the beach, the UCI World Cup leader was able to extend her lead to seven seconds. Pieterse tried to put up some resistance in the penultimate lap, but Van Empel proved too strong. The Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal rider steadily increased her lead.
Fem van Empel eventually cruised solo to her fifth victory in the main points-based criterium. Pieterse was second, 34 seconds behind. Shirin van Anrooij, who rode the entire race in third position, completed the Dutch podium. Thanks to this new win, Van Empel strengthens her lead in the standings.
Mathieu van der Poel was on form with an impressive solo in Antwerpen. The Dutch rider attacked on the second lap and triumphed with a solo win. Wout van Aert finished second on his return to the field.
The ‘Big Three’ may not have been on the front row at the start, but it didn’t take long for them to appear at the front of the race. Wout van Aert launched into the field first, with Mathieu van der Poel following a few places behind. Tom Pidcock fared less well. After a disappointing start, the world champion didn’t manage to return to the front at any point.
Belgian champion Van Aert took the lead in the first lap and immediately maintained a fast pace. He crossed the finish line for the first time together with Mathieu van der Poel and Lars van der Haar. Laurens Sweeck and Michael Vanthourenhout followed a few seconds later. Van der Poel was clearly not impressed by the Belgian champion’s solid start. At the beginning of the second lap, the Dutchman pulled away firmly.
The competition had no immediate answer to Van der Poel’s vigorous acceleration. Van Aert initially took the initiative in the chase, but the Dutchman steadily increased the gap. At the end of the second lap, Van Aert and Michael Vanthourenhout were twelve seconds behind the leader. Laurens Sweeck and Lars van der Haar were eighteen seconds behind.
After an excellent passage through the sand, Wout van Aert managed to break away from Michael Vanthourenhout. The Jumbo-Visma rider briefly got closer to Van der Poel, but it wasn’t to last. Van der Poel became aware and increased the gap. Van Aert, meanwhile, comfortably rode in second place. A fall over the barriers no longer jeopardized that result. The Belgian champion finished 23 seconds behind Van der Poel on his return. Sweeck briefly threatened Michael Vanthourenhout’s third place, but it was ultimately the latter who got to join the podium. Laurens Sweeck finished fourth, but retains his lead in the standings.