Eli Iserbyt (Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal) won a thrilling race at the UCI World Cup in Besançon, France. The 24-year-old took advantage of his rival Toon Aerts (Baloise Trek Lions) crashing on the penultimate lap to take his twelfth victory of the season and further extend his lead in the series.

The two Belgians duelled throughout the race in muddy conditions with Aerts looking stronger than the series leader until the closing stages. The race of attrition was one of the battles of the season so far with the duo showcasing their undeniable strengths before two of the Big Three begin their cyclocross programmes next week.

“After the mistake of Toon, I knew I just had to ride my own pace,” Iserbyt said at the finish. “You have to stay calm with this kind of track, when you are too excited you start to make mistakes and I made some mistakes in the last few sections, but you just have to stay calm throughout the race, make your tactics and stick to them.”
Round eight in Besançon marked the halfway stage of the World Cup series and was raced in muddy, cold conditions. Designed by 8-time French champion Francis Mourey, the parcours was typically French and included heavy meadow sections, a few ramps, and a treacherously slippery staircase.
Ryan Kamp (Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal) chose to skip the urban cross in Kortijk in favour of the World Cup and the choice paid off as the 20-year-old led a large group through the opening stages. Aerts then threw down an early gauntlet and charged ahead, keen to avoid a melee on the off-camber stretch.
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The 28-year-old was soon joined by Iserbyt on the second lap and the riders of the moment gradually extended an advantage over their pursuers.
Just like in the women’s race hours before, with muddy conditions and a long circuit, riders were heading into the pits every half a lap and the eagerness to change nearly caught Iserbyt out on the third lap when the Belgian missed his saddle when re-mounting.
Over the next few laps, the leading duo tested each other out on the course's trigger points, and it quickly became a race of attrition in the thick mud as the two Belgians waited to see who would blink first.
Behind, the battle for third was between Dutch 20-year-old Ronhaar and Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen Bingoal) with the pairs ding-dong battle becoming a mirror image of the leaders.
Back up front, Aerts gradually extended a gap of a few bike-lengths over Iserbyt at the start of the penultimate lap as the cold rain affected the smaller-framed ride. Everything can change in seconds in cyclocross though, and minutes later Aerts, spat out by a rut, fell to the ground, and was passed by Iserbyt.
The crash would prove fatal for Aerts’s chances and – as he pushed himself to the limit on the final lap in an effort to regain Iserbyt's wheel – he clipped one of the unforgiving barrier pikes and made an error on the off-camber section, making the Iserbyt win seem inevitable.
Then within sight of the finish line Iserbyt stumbled as he dismounted on the final bank, but fatigue had overtaken Aerts and he was unable to take advantage of the mistake. It perhaps would have been a different story had Iserbyt not been able to get his chain back on so quickly. Even with the late scare, the Belgian held on to take the win.
It would prove to be a breakout race for the 20-year-old Ronhaar as he reversed his teammate's fortunes and gapped Vanthourenhout on the final lap to take third, the Dutch rider's highest finish to date in an elite category race.
The victory is Iserbyt’s fifth World Cup win of the season and increases his series lead to a huge 79 points halfway through. It would take something truly calamitous to divert Iserbyt from the overall win at this point.
Next weekend’s round of the World Cup in Antwerpen will mark the much-expected return of Belgian champion Wout Van Aert and British champion Tom Pidcock to the series
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