Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal) rode strongly in the sand to take his second victory of the weekend at the seventh round of the UCI World Cup in Koksijde.
With the sport’s ‘big three’ returning to race in December, the result proved that the 24-year-old and runaway leader of the World Cup, will be the man to beat once the series is at full-strength.
Iserbyt, who had won the day before in Merksplas, locked horns with Toon Aerts (Baloise Trek Lions) throughout the race but proved strongest on the dunes when he put in a penultimate lap attack.
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“I didn’t expect it in the beginning,” Iserbyt said afterwards. “I just rode my own pace, and my sand sections were either good or very bad so I was happy I had good sections where I could ride uphill and I’m very proud of that.”
The Koksijde parcours is as legendary as the names that have won on it, with some of them even being immortalised by the course itself. The first large dune is named the ‘Herygersduin’ after Paul Herygers who won the world championships in Koksijde in 1994, as well as the freedom of the town. The custom was then repeated in 2012 when Niels Albert won the world championships at the famous venue with the second large dune being named the ‘Niels Albertduin’.
Just like for the women in the earlier race, this was the first time since Mathieu van der Poel’s victory in 2019 that the Koksijde round of the World Cup had been held.
Quinten Hermans (Tormans-Circus Cyclo Cross Team) navigated the first lap strongly. The Belgian was helped somewhat when chasers Iserbyt, Lars Van der Haar (Baloise Trek Lions) and teammate Corne Van Kessel, all crashed into a barrier.
With the conditions on the Belgian coast worsening as rain fell, Hermans was joined at the head of the race by Aerts and the recovering Iserbyt. The leading trio became six on the fourth lap with Van der Haar, Van Kessel and Laurens Sweeck (Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal) re-joining the group.
Experience counts for a lot in Koksijde and of that six, Iserbyt, Sweeck and Van der Haar, had all taken victory in the Duinencross before as either a junior or under-23. But it was series leader Iserbyt who then ramped up the pace, taking Aerts and Hermans with him.
Just like Herygers in 94’, Aerts was then able to hold his momentum through the dune that carries the great Belgian’s name and remain in the saddle to briefly distance his chasing compatriots. It was a tale of two legends though, as on the Niels Albertduin, the Baloise Trek Lions rider pulled his foot out early and was reeled back in.
On the penultimate lap, Iserbyt used his lighter, smaller frame to his advantage and once again remained in the saddle through the Niels Albertduin with the chasing trio Aerts, Hermans and Sweeck all dismounting. This meant that the Belgian had an eight second lead going into the final lap.
Iserbyt maintained this advantage throughout the last lap with his teammate Sweeck out-sprinting series rival Aerts for second place.
The victory is the Belgian’s eleventh of the season and gives him an almost-unassailable 69-point lead in the overall classification.
Next week’s race in Besançon will be the final round of the World Cup before reigning world champion Mathieu van der Poel, Belgian champion Wout Van Aert and British champion Tom Pidcock, enter the fray.
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