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Mathieu van der Poel has continued his amazing cyclocross run in GP Sven Nys today, with rival Wout van Aert saying he was shocked at how much stronger the world champion is (Photo: Kristof Ramon)

Wout van Aert (Visma-Lease a Bike) today had to be content with 2nd place behind Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) in X²O Badkamers Trofee GP Sven Nys, this time by a very significant margin.

And that yawning gap between the top two was remarked upon by Van Aert, who said he was shocked at the extent of the gap between himself and Van der Poel.

They finished almost two minutes apart, but it was the manner of the performance by the winner, and the fact he was on a completely different level, that appeared to take Van Aert by real surprise.

“I suffered enormously,” Van Aert told Sporza. “And Mathieu was super strong again today. I was shocked by how big my deficit was.

“I had a good start, then I owe it to myself to try. I put all my energy into it, but then I made a small mistake, he took off and I had to find my own pace. It was the start of a one-man-show.”

That small error came on the second lap and it was the only prompt Van der Poel needed to move clear on his own after he and Van Aert, with Pim Ronhaar (Baloise Trek), had distanced everyone else on the opening lap.

By the end of the second lap, the gap between the duo was 48 seconds and only continued to grow in muddy conditions, with rain, at the Sven Nys Cycling Centre in Baal. Thibau Nys (Baloise Trek Lions) was chasing the first three in early stages.

Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) settled into a chasing trio with Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) and Lars van der Haar (Baloise Trek), but the British rider later lost ground.

In the end, Van der Poel claimed victory from Van Aert by 1:55 with Ronhaar, continuing his strong season, in 3rd place at 2:44. Van der Haar was 4th, at 3:31, with Vanthourenhout 5th, at 3:47, and Nys rounding out the top six, at 3:49. Pidcock slipped to 12th, at 5:24.

While runner-up Van Aert cut a stunned figure at the finish – though has always said he was not planning an all-out assault on this season as he has his eyes on the spring – Van der Poel was delighted.

The world champion has now started eight races this season, including three World Cup events, and won all of them in dominant fashion.

“I enjoyed it, it is always a fun cross that suits me well. This is the most fun as a cyclocross rider, a very technical course with those deep ruts. It was difficult, but the fairest and most fun,” Van der Poel said of the race.

“Wout immediately set a fast pace. I took over, had a nice gap again and then rode fairly clean. It was a nice day.”

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