Quinten Hermans and Toon Aerts take first
Telenet Baloise riders topped the cyclocross podium twice this weekend in Belgium as Quinten Hermans and Toon Aerts both found victories in Essen and Zonhoven. Both riders were fresh from a mid-season training camp in Spain and their extra preparation showed in the results.
On Saturday, Quinten Hermans took the lead early in Essen and remained unchallenged along the course, finishing a full minute ahead of the second place rider Laurens Sweeck. Essen’s grassy course left Hermans mud splattered as he crossed the finish line for his second win of the season. His first victory came in Beringen in late October.
On Sunday, Toon Aerts battled the epic sand pit in Zonhoven and also came out on top. Zonhoven’s course cuts through deep dunes, which treacherously lead riders down steep slopes of sand, the largest of which are featured in “de Kuil” or the pit. The pit is a massive crater whose sides provide a natural amphitheater for fans to watch cross riders battle to stay upright as they speed down the dune.
“The pit is something unique in the cyclocross world,” Aerts said. “I was the first rider going into the pit on many of the laps which started a cheer from the crowd. It feels like a football stadium, it’s really nice.”
Like Hermans, Aerts faced Sweeck as his top competitor in the race and when it came down to the final lap, he took a risk to shake him off.
“The last lap I was thinking that it was going to be a sprint finish with us two, so I took a risk to put him under pressure,” Aerts said. “I dove into the pit’s descent. I was going full gas, it was a bit risky I think it was what caused his mistake.”
Sweeck fell on his final entry into the pit, giving Aerts a key moment to increase his lead for a certain win.
Thibau Nys grinds to the top at Zonhoven
Earlier in the day at Zonhoven’s junior men’s race, Thibau Nys also captured a sandy victory. He rode his Boone through a tough race where many competitors found themselves diving from their bikes while navigating the dunes.