Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) played a smart race on his way to victory in round five of the Cyclocross World Cup in Overijse, Belgium.
Renowned for its storied 60-year history, Overijse is eagerly anticipated every year but it’s a newcomer to the World Cup program. Rain was falling steadily as the men took their turn on the ‘mother of all crosses’, making the technical and mixed terrain even more treacherous than in the women’s race.
Pit strategy played a less decisive role than in the women’s race, where mass early bike changes essentially ruled some key players out of contention barely a minute into the race, but it was nonetheless a crucial consideration as the conditions worsened.
By the end of lap two, the race had shaken itself out a bit, Quinten Hermans (Tormans), Iserbyt and Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) leading, with Toon Aerts (Baloise Trek Lions) and Corne van Kessel (Tormans) chasing behind.
Hermans suffered his first dose of bad luck on lap three, crashing out of the lead group and ultimately requiring a change of shoe. A handful more crashes in the slimy mud made his head droop as he tumbled through the ranks, eventually finishing fifth.
Aerts, winner of last week’s race in Zonhoven, made contact with Iserbyt and Vanthourenhout on the fourth lap, and was initially unfazed when they were joined by a third Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal rider in Laurens Sweeck.
The Baloise Trek Lions rider put in an attack early in the penultimate lap which saw off Sweeck, but he couldn’t shake the others. In the technical forested section, Iserbyt went for it as Vanthourenhout put himself between his teammate and Toon Aerts, blocking his fellow Belgian who was visibly suffering.
Iserbyt stayed away to take his third World Cup victory from five this season, Vanthourenhout joined his teammate on the podium in second and Aerts had to settle for third.