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Without a saddle, Van Aert wins wild Benidorm World Cup

Without a saddle, Van Aert wins wild Benidorm World Cup

The final cross meeting of the Big Three was a dandy, ending with a fine win for Wout Van Aert, his third victory of the season and first 2023-2024 World Cup triumph. Despite falling in the final kilometre while remounting and losing his saddle, the Belgian prevailed. He was the only member of the Big Three to stand on the podium. Fourth-place Eli Iserbyt kept the series lead by finishing far ahead of Joris Niewenhuis.

The Situation Before Sunday

Eli Iserbyt held a narrow lead over new Dutch champion Joris Nieuwenhuis at the top of the table, 25 points with two rounds to go.

Tyler Clark was the sole Canadian.

Laurens Sweeck claimed the hole shot on Lap 1. Nieuwenhuis was in Position 2 with teammate Thibau Nys right behind him. The Big Three were curiously far down the pack in the first four minutes. Dendermonde and Dublin winner Pim Ronhaar charged to the front. Van Aert was 12th, Pidcock 15th, and van der Poel 19th after one circuit.

The Big Three were absent from the front of the string on Lap 1.

The order was Nieuwenhuis, Ronhaar, Isberyt heading into Lap 2. Ronhaar had the bit in his teeth on the long climb. Van Aert kept coming and was soon fourth. Van der Poel passed Pidcock. Van Aert carved his way into the lead and pulled a long string over the line.

On Lap 3 of 9, van der Poel utilized the long climb to reach the leading quartet of Van Aert, Iserbyt, Ronhaar and Nys. Ronhaar was unhitched before the line. Pidcock raced at the front of the next group.

Van Aert bounds up the stairs on Lap 3.

Van Aert, Nys and van der Poel separated themselves from Iserbyt and Nys at the start of Lap 4. Iserbyt was overwhelmed by the Pidcock-Nieuwenhuis group and changed bikes. On the long climb, the world champion went to the front and Van Aert tried to stay on his wheel. Van der Poel kept pressing but couldn’t dislodge his great rival.

Nys had a problem on the middle lap and dropped down the string. Pidcock was now in third place, Michael Vanthourenhout holding on to his belt, and this duo closed in on the leading twosome. The junction was made on the long climb and Pidcock seized the controls. The Brit used the planks to push on ahead. The chasers were +0:19 at the end of the circuit.

Pidcock in Position 1 on Lap 5.

Van der Poel charged up Lap 6‘s long climb, momentarily dropping Vanthourenhout and Pidcock. By the beginning of Lap 7, Vanthourenhout was doing the pace-making and Pidcock was tailgunner Charlie. The chase containing Iserbyt, Nys,…

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