Michael Vanthourenhout claimed a muddy victory after a thrilling duel in Overijse
Sunday 20 November 2022
A strong Michael Vanthourenhout triumphed in the Druivencross after a thrilling race. The European champion and the world champion battled it out for victory in a nail-biting duel.
Quick-off-the-mark Lars van der Haar was first to take the lead. World champion Tom Pidcock started his race last. A mechanical problem forced the Brit to embark on a ferocious and seemingly impossible comeback. But that did not appear to bother him psychologically as he had soon caught up with quite a few riders.
Meanwhile, teammates Michael Vanthourenhout and Eli Iserbyt took the lead in the mud of the ‘Mother of all Crosses'. The two of them were first to cross the line and embark on the second lap with Ronhaar and Orts as the closest chasers. By some miracle, Pidcock crossed the finish line in 10th place after the first lap. Not much later, the world champion was even able to move up to 4th place with fast starter Van der Haar in his wake.
Pidcock took huge risks on the descents, quickly skidding into third place. After two laps, he even caught up with the two unsuspecting teammates of the Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal team. But the world champion did not seem satisfied just catching them up. Iserbyt and Vanthourenhout were soon passed by Pidcock who resolutely claimed the lead.
Not much later, Iserbyt had to relinquish his position due to a flat tyre. This meant only Vanthourenhout was able to stay on the world champion’s wheel. But the latter still did not seem to shy away from the descents and confidently launched down them time after time, making it difficult for Vanthourenhout too. Nevertheless, the European champion proved to be a tough customer and refused to let go of Pidcock’s wheel.
In the background, young Thibau Nys briefly occupied third place, followed by Laurens Sweeck and Van der Haar. On lap four, Vanthourenhout managed to keep up while Iserbyt slipped further behind into seventh place. In the subsequent lap, it was the European champion who this time put pressure on the world champion. He gained three seconds on Pidcock, but deferred to the Brit, allowing him to get back in the race. Meanwhile, Sweeck and Van der Haar followed half a minute behind and Nys had slipped back to fifth place 37 seconds behind.
On the penultimate lap, Pidcock crashed on a descent. His rear wheel skidded away on the slippery cobbles and there was no escaping a nasty fall. This also loosened Pidcock’s shoe, which occasionally got stuck in the mud. However, the Brit did not give up and followed 13 seconds behind.
Entering the final lap, he had already halved the gap and a little later he even caught up to three seconds again. But another mistake forced the world champion to hand a few seconds to Vanthourenhout. Pidcock continued to chase taking every risk on a thrilling final lap, but Vanthourenhout held firm to claim victory a few minutes later. Pidcock was second and Van der Haar third. Iserbyt retains his lead in the standings by one point.