Michael Vanthourenhout beats Tom Pidcock in muddy thriller at World Cup Overijse

European champion wins tense battle with world champion in men's race, Puck Pieterse claims first World Cup victory in women's.

Photo: BELGA/AFP via Getty Images

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Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) and Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) gave Belgian crowds a muddy thriller to savor at World Cup Overijse.

Vanthourenhout edged out the world champion in Sunday’s ‘cross after a tense back-and-forth battle through the latter-half of the race. It was the Belgian’s first victory since he claimed the European title at the start of the month.

“This was an even better victory than at the European championships,” Vanthourenhout said afterward.

“It was really close with Tom, and maybe I was a little bit better in the technical sections but it was really hard to follow him in the uphill. It was a really good battle.”

Lars van der Haar (Baloise Trek Lions) finished more than 30 seconds behind the two leaders to claim the final spot on the podium.

Pidcock and Vanthourenhout took center stage in a scintillating race through the iconic Overijse course Sunday. The technical circuit was rendered more complicated by greasy wet mud after heavy rain fell through the night and morning.

Pidcock had to chase all the way back through the field in the opening laps after problems coming off the start-grid left him at the very back of the pack.

“In the start I had a gear shift problem and I had to chase, also my shoe had come loose and it was difficult to ride,” Pidcock later explained.

The rainbow jersey worked through the traffic and slotted into the lead in lap three of seven. Vanthourenhout took command through lap four before a fall brought Pidock back into the lead shortly afterward.

Pidcock forced the pressure through the penultimate lap and squeezed a slim lead until a crash on some slippery cobblestones later in the same circuit gave Vanthourenhout the crucial winning advantage.

Vanthourenhout fended off Pidcock’s surging chase in the final lap to claim victory by just three seconds.

“It was very difficult,” Vanthourenhout said of the final. “In the last two laps I pushed very hard but I saw Tom come very close. But I didn’t make any mistakes. It was difficult, but very beautiful.”

Series leader Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) finished seventh and now holds just a one-point lead overall.

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Pieterse masters the mud for first World Cup victory

Pieterse thrived in the foul conditions.

Puck Pieterse (Alpecin-Deceuninck) claimed her first elite World Cup victory with a dominant ride through foul conditions earlier in the day Sunday.

The newly crowned U23 European champion and U23 World Cup leader surged away from archrivals and fellow 20-year-olds Fem van Empel (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) and Shirin van Anrooij (Baloise Trek Lions) in the opening lap and went on to win by more than one minute.

The technical super-talent Pieterse was almost inch-perfect on a rutted, rooty, wooded Belgian course that was packed with rain-sodden descents and sloppy mud.

“It was such a cool race, but really hard,” Pieterse said.

“I wanted to be in the front in the first descent to the pits because I knew my descent would be good. I took a lot of risks in the first few laps to get an advantage then I just rode my own pace and kept safe.”

Pieterse had finished on the podium in all three of the World Cup rounds she started this season.

The Alpecin-Deceuninck ace’s victory Sunday was just the second time series-dominator Van Empel failed to top the World Cup podium as she continues to command a secure grip on the overall leader’s jersey.

World champion Marianne Vos pulled out ahead of the race after she went deep and blew up in the Superprestige Merksplas on Saturday.

“Marianne deduced that pushing the limits tomorrow would not be a good idea,” team Jumbo-Visma stated Saturday.

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