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Yet another Big Three clash goes van der Poel’s way at Baal X2O Trofee

Yet another Big Three clash goes van der Poel's way at Baal X2O Trofee

The Big Three clashed again in Monday’s mucky round of the X2O Badkamers Trofee, the GP Sven Nys in Baal, Belgium, with once again Mathieu van der Poel taking the flowers. Undefeated in eight races this seaons, he beat runner-up Wout van Aert by nearly two minutes. Tom Pidcock had another tough race, not making the top 10. Fourth place Lars van der Haar continues to lead the series at its midway point.

The Situation Before Monday

Although the World Cup and the Superprestige series are nearing their conclusions, there had only been three out of eight rounds of the X2O Trofee raced before Monday. Even though he hadn’t claimed a round, van der Haar had a slim lead over Round 2 victor Eli Iserbyt. Iserbyt did not finish Saturday’s World Cup round and didn’t start in Baal. Cameron Jette was the lone Canadian entrant.

Although Wout van Aert claimed the hole shot on Lap 1, van der Poel soon found his great rival in the mud. Pim Ronhaar was in Position 3 but made the junction. Pidcock had to surf his way through the stream of mud-splattered riders. Sven Nys’ son Thibau was the closest chaser.

Could Ronhaar upset the favourites in Baal?

Van Aert was enjoying himself on the washboard section. Pidcock moved up to seventh on Lap 2 of 6 before Ronhaar lost contact up front. Van Aert and van der Poel picked different routes through the quagmire. The Visma-Lease a Bike man got caught in mud the consistency of peanut butter and the world champion powered away. The gap between first and second was 10 seconds at the line.

Wout van Aert on a gravel bike
Van Aert was desperate to raise his arms in triumph ahead of the world champion.

Van Aert found company in Ronhaar at the start of Lap 3. Pidcock was in a duo with Michael Vanthourenhout behind them. Van der Haar toiled in Position 6, but by the midway point had found Pidcock and Vanthourenhout. The man in the rainbow jersey had a 45-second lead.

Van Aert popped Ronhaar at the beginning of Lap 4 but Ronhaar kept the gap between them small.

By the start of the penultimate lap, series leader van der Haar was fourth and Pidcock was in the fifth chase with Nys. The gaps between all parties grew, and it seemed likely by then that the podium would consist of van der Poel, van Aert and Ronhaar.

The bell lap saw Pidcock started to slide down the pack into double digits, eventually finishing 12th. Not only has van der Poel won eight straight this season, but he also has eleven consecutive victories going back to last season.

The next round is…

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