Fem Van Empel benefitted from the decision of Shirin Van Anrooij to stick with the U23s and romped home to get the home nation up and running in the Elite category.
We were then treated to one of the best races I have ever seen in any form of cycling.
I have used this website in the past to highlight the 1994 Paris-Roubaix as the best race I have seen. This was close to surpassing it.
The deadly duo of Mathieu Van der Poel and Wout Van Aert rode nonchalantly clear of the rest of the men’s elite field very early on.
At one point their lead over every other rider battling behind them was close to one minute. The dominance was so complete.
They did try and work each other over and onto the front in the last lap or two which saw the gap to bronze medal Eli Iserbyt close. But the top two were constantly looking back and you know full well an acceleration could come at any moment to re-establish the advantage.
Attacks were traded in a blow by blow fashion and having the planks on an uphill section certainly made a difference on a number of laps.
VdP was getting over them and away quicker than his Belgian rival and it might well have been the gapping of Wout lap after lap at this point of the course that took the edge of his final sprint.
What I do know is that this race will live long in the memory and you should most definitely watch it back (even if you saw it live!)
Bike racing doesn’t get much better than this… unless its the 1994 spring classics and its snowing outside the Arenberg forest of course.
Mathieu Van der Poel finished well down in the weekends cyclo-cross race in Val di Sole.
The so-called “snow cross” delivered a course packed with rock hard white stuff.
Van der Poel took a view that there was a bigger picture to his season and visibly eased off, just ensuring he got round in one piece, as opposed to racing at the pointy end.
After his Antwerp crash last weekend that looked a wise strategy. Eli Iserbyt crashing hard mid race and looking in real distress after being wrapped in a spectators coat before being carried away from the course.
There were positives though. Lots of super competitive racing and some amazing optics which shows the course in its full glory.
I think that the organisers will be looking for softer, more powdery snow in 2023 to avoid getting a reputation of having a course that’s a rider breaker.
Here is the on bike course recon ride that shows you just how slippy it was.
There is always drama and excitement on those cobbles and forested tracks. So when the 2022 European championships were revealed to be headed there I nodded in silent approval.
Without giving out spoilers the races delivered. Building nicely across the weekend to the Elite mens which was ran off under biblical rain leading to some comical moments. It also led to insane bike handling skills and incredible balance.
All under the watchful eye of a hillside castle and roman amphitheatre. Don’t let the Koppenberg or Koksijde know but I might be dumping them for another love.
I only wish the riders had been in trade team rather than national team kits. Just to see how Jens Adams Chocovit team kit (all white) coped.
(Note : Adams didn’t even ride in the Belgian kit being a late non-starter)
Whilst I think its fair to say that we are all watching the ‘cross awaiting messrs Van Aert, Van der Poel and Pidcock, these opening weeks of the season should not be dismissed.