It was no surprise to see Wout van Aert emerge victorious in his maiden UCI Gravel race. This win served as a crucial preparation for the upcoming World Championships scheduled for early October in Veneto. What truly turned heads, however, was the commanding 9-minute lead he established over the rest of the field, an achievement even he found impressive.
The 110km race through the challenging terrain of the Belgian Ardennes is renowned as one of the most demanding events in the Trek UCI Gravel World Series. It serves as a rigorous test for both bike and tires due to the rugged, rocky soil. Prior to the race, Wout van Aert embarked on a reconnaissance ride on Thursday, using this inaugural gravel race to gain firsthand experience in the world of gravel racing. Interestingly, his natural pace proved to be too much for his competitors, as they clung to his wheel until the 40km mark, only to eventually succumb to the relentless pace. He ultimately crossed the finish line with a remarkable 9-minute lead over his training partner, Daan Soete (BEL), and Paul Voss (GER), who had previously showcased his prowess by winning in Aachen earlier in the season, securing third place in a sprint finish.
A similar narrative unfolded in the women’s race, as Pauliena Rooijakkers (NED) established an early lead over her fellow Dutch rider Sabrina Stultiens (NED). She maintained her dominance throughout the race, ultimately securing victory with nearly a 2-minute advantage over Stultiens. Meanwhile, mountain biker Stefanie Dohrn (GER), who had finished as the runner-up the previous year, clinched the third spot on the podium this time, claiming the bronze medal.
For those competing in the 68km race, which serves as a qualifying distance for men aged 60+ and women aged 50+, the top honors went to Andreas Suls (BEL) and Marijke De Smedt (BEL).