Wout van Aert triumphs in Benidorm
All the ingredients were present in Benidorm to make it another great spectacle. The Big Three were at the start, the sun was out and the fans were plentiful.
The race began with unexpected adversity for Mathieu Van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck), experiencing a mechanical issue at the start. MVDP found himself trailing 27 seconds behind the race leaders. Sweeck (Crelan - Corendon) led the pack, with Joris Nieuwenhuis (Baloise Trek Lions) in tow. Pidcock (INEOS Grenadiers) strategically positioned himself behind Van Aert (Team Visma | Lease a Bike), while Van der Poel trailed a few positions further back.
Nieuwenhuis took the lead in the second round, with the entire pack following in his wake. Ronhaar (Baloise Trek Lions) launched an attack on the road section, while Van Aert and Van der Poel showcased their prowess on the road stretch. Wout van Aert leaped over the barriers, taking command of the race.
As Wout van Aert continued to lead, the question loomed: could he keep Van der Poel at bay? Van Aert persisted in front, while MVDP advanced to the ninth position. Van der Poel unleashed a powerful surge uphill, swiftly moving up to fifth place. Entering the fourth round, Wout van Aert led a group of five, with Van der Poel climbing to the third spot. A flat tire for Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal) shook up the race. Van der Poel initiated another powerful move, and Van Aert had to work hard to keep up but managed to stay in contention. MVDP took the lead, with Wout van Aert in second place.
The two super champions broke away, leaving Thibau Nys (Baloise Trek Lions) to join on the road. However, problems surfaced for Thibau Nys, hampering the young Belgian's progress. The leading duo, Van Aert and Van der Poel, eyed each other cautiously as Pidcock and Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen - Bingoal) closed the gap. The rest of the pack followed closely. Pidcock surged to the front and opened up the throttle.
Pidcock secured a slight lead entering the sixth round, and an attack from Mathieu Van der Poel saw Wout van Aert responding, staying in the mix. Van der Poel switched to running shoes, and the quartet entered the seventh round together. In the background, Thibau Nys made a strong effort, almost bridging the gap.
Regrouping occurred as Nys's group caught up. Position battles ensued, setting the stage for the first decisive move. A fall for Mathieu Van der Poel shifted the dynamics. Wout van Aert seized the opportunity and powered ahead, sensing victory. In the final lap, Van Aert and Vanthourenhout emerged as the leading duo. Van Aert surged uphill, leaving Vanthourenhout behind. Despite a fall over the barriers, Wout van Aert clinched victory, overcoming a broken saddle. Michael Vanthourenhout and Thibau Nys joined him on the podium.