02 January 2020 17:21
Wet, frozen conditions on the twisty, technical Namur course made for epic battles in both men's and women's World Cup races, Sunday. Mathieu van der Poel and Lucinda Brand won at World Cup Namur, Sunday. Van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) came back from an 18-second deficit to overhaul Toon Aerts (Telenet Baloise Lions) in an epic battle that was ultimately decided by who could best handle the conditions. Similarly, Lucinda Brand (Telenet Baloise Lions) won after fighting Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado (Corendon-Circus) much of the women's race. Brand was able to best handle the slimy course as heavy rain fell through the women's race, taking her second-straight victory in Namur.
Brand built a solid lead through lap 3, with Alvarado chasing hard but unable to gain time, around 10 seconds back. The wet, hilly course became more treacherous with every lap, leading to lots of crashes in both men's and women's races. Aerts led for the first laps, with van der Poel leading the chase. Pidcock distanced van Kessel on lap 5, and led a solid chase of the lead pair, who were around 30 seconds ahead. Van der Poel was able to capitalize on a mistake from Aerts in lap 6 and take the lead, but was forced into the pits by a mechanical that allowed Aerts to edge ahead.
Van der Poel and Aerts exchanged mistakes on Lap 6 as van den Ham weaved his way through the field into 38th. Van der Poel attacked at the beginning of the bell lap when Aerts clipped a pedal, but then the Belgian crashed and his battle for the win was over. Thus far this cyclocross season, Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon – Circus) has shown signs of vulnerability, culminating in Toon Aerts (Telenet Fidea Lions) beating him for the first time in over a year last weekend at Ronse. With Van der Poel seemingly poised to return to his old ways when he opened up a gap at the end of the first lap on the iconic rutted off-camber section, Aerts was not going to let him get away. Aerts put in a big surge up the big climb at the end of the lap and bridged up to Van der Poel. Perhaps armed with a renewed sense of confidence, Aerts exploded up the final climb of the first lap and bridged up to Van der Poel. He took the lead into the first twisty, muddy descent and then opened up a gap on Van der Poel by acing the rutted off-camber. Aerts stayed on the attack through the run-ups and by the time Van der Poel got to the pit for a new bike, the Belgian had opened up a 13-second lead. Van der Poel quickly closed down his deficit and bridged to Aerts at the paved start stretch before the lap's final climb. The fourth and fifth laps of the nine-lap race stayed chalk, with neither Aerts nor Van der Poel able to get a significant advantage. Aerts took the lead into the twisty, muddy descent, and behind him, Van der Poel overcooked one of the technical corners. Aerts went into Pit 2, and Van der Poel opened up a 9-second lead at the final big climb. However, as Van der Poel pulled through the finish straight, his lead was down to 4 seconds. As Van der Poel gingerly rode to Pit 1 for a new bike, Aerts sped past him and opened up a lead. Van der Poel caught Aerts on the second run-up and took the lead at Pit 2. World champion Mathieu van der Poel maintained his International Cycling Union Cyclo-cross World Cup winning streak with a hard-fought triumph in Namur. Van der Poel battled with Belgian champion Toon Aerts for the majority of the race in cold and muddy conditions. Aerts hopes were dented by a crash on the penultimate lap, allowing van der Poel to lead heading into the eighth and final time around the course. Van der Poel crossed the line in a winning time of 1 hour 05min 59sec, with Aerts crash leaving the Belgian 55 seconds adrift at the finish. World champion Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus) won a hard-fought mud duel against Belgian champion Toon Aerts to take the win at the sixth UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup round of the season at the citadel of Namur, Belgium. Corné van Kessel (Telenet Baloise Lions) profited late in the race from a crash and broken seat post from Pidcock to snatch away the final podium spot in Namur. He was the only rider who was able to react on a first acceleration from Van der Poel during the opening lap. Van der Poel punctured a first time during the second lap and Aerts powered away. When hitting the penultimate lap, Aerts enjoyed a lead of 18 seconds over Van der Poel and nearly a minute over Pidcock. The duo Aerts and Van der Poel hit the final lap together with a gap of 39 seconds over Pidcock and 1:05 over Van Kessel. Van der Poel was leading the way but behind him, Aerts lost his balance and crashed hard against a pole. Van der Poel made no more mistakes and rode to a hard-fought fourth Namur victory. With Iserbyt not finishing the race, Aerts moves into the World Cup leader's jersey.