Belgium’s iconic Christmas series or Kerstperiode kicked off this weekend with Waaslandcross in Sint-Niklaas and with the infamous Namur World Cup on Sunday.
The two races could not have been more different. Waaslandcross featured fast, dry and sandy conditions, while Namur was one of the heaviest and most challenging courses of the year.
Another New Challenger
The women’s race at Waaslandcross was highlighted by a battle between world champion Sanne Cant and the young BNS Technics - Concrete House rider Aniek van Alphen. Van Alphen has made a name for herself this season by being one of the few riders in the elite women’s field opting to bunnyhop the barriers.
Van Alphen used these skills to great effect in Sint-Niklaas, attacking Cant by hopping over a retaining wall into the final sand section. Cant however proved to be the strongest on the finishing stretch.
Waaslandcross is Cant’s first victory since February. The competition was understated in anticipation of Sunday’s world cup, but this victory is nonetheless a promising sign for Cant as she builds towards a fourth world championship title defense.
The Best Race Of The Year
The world cup in Namur was quintessential cyclocross. It was cold. It was wet. It was muddy, and it was perilously challenging. The men’s race featured a battle between Mathieu van der Poel and Toon Aerts that kept viewers on the edge of their seats until the final moments of the race.
Van der Poel was not on unbeatable form in Namur, and thanks to poorly timed punctures and minor errors, it looked quite likely at multiple points during the race that the world champion would in fact be beaten.
While Aerts appeared to have a slight upper hand, the course conditions were so challenging that whenever one rider appeared to be riding away with the race, an incident would occur to let the other back into contention.
It wasn’t until the final lap when Aerts took a hard crash on Namur’s most perilous descent that van der Poel was able to break free to claim a hard fought victory. As a consolation prize, Aerts has now taken over the lead of the World Cup
The Damages From Namur
The conditions at Namur created quite a spectacle for fans, but mid-race images of Iserbyt being carried away from the course as he succumbed to hypothermia-like symptoms illustrated just how challenging the day was for the racers.
Iserbyt was unable to finish the race due to the cold, which cost him the lead in the World Cup Standings.
Toon Aerts’ last lap crash was reminiscent of his season ending 2017 Fiuggi crash. X-rays taken on Monday morning revealed Aerts sustained a non-displaced rib fracture. His Telenet Baloise team will now assess whether or not the Belgian champion will be fit to compete in the remaining races of Belgium’s Christmas series.
Tom Pidcock also suffered a last lap crash on the same descent which took down Aerts. Pidcock was poised to earn his first elite world cup podium, but was left to settle for fourth following the incident. The Yorkshire native claimed on social media that he had never been so cold in his life, and that he simply couldn’t function on the final lap.
American Katie Clouse suffered a dislocated shoulder after going over the bars in the elite women’s field. She hopes to continue to race the Christmas series, but any future starts are uncertain for the time being.