Reigning world champion in the field Wout Van Aert turned out to be the strongest man in a sun-drenched Ronde van Limburg this afternoon. Surrounded by dense crowds of spectators, Van Aert got rid of his four fellow refugees on the final climb in Tongeren. The Antwerp rider won by a long way ahead of French Cofidis rider Godon and fellow crosser Gianni Vermeersch (Beobank-Corendon). In short, the cyclocross riders clearly felt at home on the sloping and sometimes cobbled roads of Haspengouw.
After barely 20 kilometers of race, Kenneth Vanbilsen, Diether Sweeck, Corné van Kessel and Rob Ruijgh chose the harepath. A little further on they were joined by Guillaume Bonnafond, Brian van Goethem and Steven Tronet. After 60 kilometers of race, the seven had a lead of one and a half minutes on the peloton, in which especially the Wanty-Groupe Gobert riders set the pace. Suddenly it all went too fast for Diether Sweeck and he had to let his companions drive. With 40 kilometers to go, the rest was also called to order and so a compact peloton started the three local laps of 11 kilometers each.
That was the signal for Wout van Aert, Dorian Godon, Gianni Vermeersch, Jim Aernouts, Wim Reynaerts, Kevyn Ista, Benjamin Thomas and Etienne van Empel to accelerate. It all went too slow for Van Aert and at 13 kilometers from the finish he set up a splitting attack.
Even before the final round, Van Aert was ready for the effort. The leading group was further thinned out and Van Aert, Godon, Vermeersch, Thomas and Van Empel moved into the final. The rest came irrevocably late. In the following sprint with five, Van Aert measured everyone. He succeeds Timothy Dupont as the laureate of this one-day race.
Wout van Aert: “Hopefully this is the start of something beautiful”
“The succession of cobblestones and small slopes really played in my favour,” said Wout van Aer. “Everything went as planned. There was a group of attackers, but the men of Wanty-Groupe Gobert controlled everything perfectly”, said the cyclocross world champion. “The distance, 200 kilometers, was also in my favour. Going into the three local laps I felt I still had some margin. In the full final we managed to attack with seven riders. From the start of this flight, the relationship in our group was excellent, everyone rode for the win. I quickly knew that the later winner was part of our company.”
“As we approached the finish line, there were several attack attempts, but everything stayed together nicely. Even I tried to avoid the sprint at one point. But I, like the rest, failed in my intention to complete a solo. The finish zone, which was slightly uphill, was also a plus.”
“This is a real relief, because this is the first victory of the season for myself and our team in a UCI race, after a really bad spring. Hopefully this is the start of something beautiful”, concluded Van Aert.
Source – HBVL.be – Photo – Kristof Mellemans