HOOGERHEIDE, Netherlands (AFP) — Belgium swept the podium in the first race at the UCI Cyclocross World Championships on Saturday as Thijs Aerts won a crash-filled junior men’s race.
Aerts took the rainbow jersey by 10 seconds over teammate Yannick Peeters with Jelle Schuermans third at 12 seconds.
“This is my best form ever,” said Aerts, who had simply hoped to make the Belgian team for worlds. “I made the difference on the climb where everybody was running and I was able to ride it. That’s what probably made the difference.
“I only wanted to be in the selection (for worlds). That made me happy, and now I’m world champion.”
European champion Peeters said he wasn’t disappointed to take the runner-up spot.
Three Belgians on the podium has never happened and it’s great,” he said. “Only first place is important, but I’m really satisfied with second place.”
Schuermans said he found a little something extra in the tank to round out the podium.
“I didn’t feel tired at the end, not more than you should feel,” he said. “At a certain moment I thought, ‘If you want to ride on the podium, this is the moment.’ So I closed the gap and Joris (Nieuwenhuis) stayed with me, but in the sprint he must have been tired.”
Nieuwenhius of the Netherlands had to settle for fourth, a second behind Schuermans, the first non-Belgian to cross the line.
The race was marred from the gun by a huge crash that split the field in two.
Maxx Chance was the first top American, finishing 26th at 3:58.
Editor’s note: Dan Seaton contributed to this report.