Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) took his second dominant victory in as many days at World Cup Val di Sole, adding ‘snowcross’ to his long list of talents.
The CX World Cup returned with a first-of-its-kind event in the snow-covered mountain resort of Val di Sole, part of an effort to show that cyclocross could become a winter Olympic discipline.
There were long straights, steep corners, a lot of running sections, and snow – lots and lots of snow. What’s more, while the women’s race was partially lit by a weak sun that was beginning to duck behind the mountains, a cold and flat light lay over the men’s race, making it particularly hard to pick through the tricky all-white terrain.
The sprint off the start line was as fast as ever, and Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) won the battle to hit the snow first. His teammate and World Cup-leader Eli Iserbyt was also up there, while Van Aert fought his way up through the top ten, held up only by his lowly starting position.
Vanthourenhout rode a blistering first lap, but the looming presence of Van Aert was gaining all the while, and the blow was finally dealt a minute or two into the second lap.
The pressure of Vanthourenhout meant that the Belgian national champion couldn’t quite create the lead he enjoyed at his first race of the season, but even so, all Van Aert had to do was ride the 45 minutes or so that separated him from the finish line without making too many mistakes.
Van Aert’s ride to victory wasn’t without contact with the white stuff, but his advantage was unassailable. Vanthourenhout was best of the rest, crossing the line within a minute of his fellow Belgian, while Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) beat Iserbyt in the hard-fought battle for third.