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A post tried to stop him, as did a rag from a mechanic, but ultimately Wout van Aert was the most powerful rider on course at the UCI Cyclocross World Cup on Sunday.
The Belgian champ maintained his poise and displayed his power despite multiple mishaps in Dublin, finishing ahead of Laurens Sweeck and Tom Pidcock.
Conditions were spicy from the start, with defrosting mud and ruts from the women’s race creating slip and slide conditions. Eli Iserbyt made early moves, trying to close the gap on Laurens Sweeck, the World Cup leader.
For a while, Van Aert looked to be struggling and he hit a post early in the race. Pidcock perhaps tried to use this to his advantage, pulling ahead of the Belgian.
He didn’t need to try too hard because Van Aert would then run into another issue: a mechanic’s rag had managed to wedge itself into his drivetrain, forcing him to run back to the pit for a bike swap.
A rag gets stuck in Van Aert’s wheel while riding past the pitzone. The Belgian champion is forced to turn back and change his bike. He loses 17 seconds in the process. #CXWorldCup pic.twitter.com/OcatzpFcoP
— UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup (@UCIcyclocrossWC) December 11, 2022
He lost 18 seconds as a result and had to fight his way back to the field.
Once Van Aert made his way back to the front, there was more drama, but this time the good kind: during the sixth lap, he decided to go on the attack, putting in a sublime effort through the sand. He came out of that, dialed up the power, and never looked back.
Sweeck tried to go with the Belgian, and said he was happy he “had something in the legs” to follow him to the line in second.
Van Aert, who finished second in Antwerp last weekend at his first World Cup of the season, said that the whole experience was “quite high.”
“It’s been a pleasure to meet the Irish fans. It was a really exciting course that changed throughout the day, this is pure cyclocross. The fans came out as well, it was a huge crowd. So I’m really proud. I’ve never lost a bicycle race in Ireland.”
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