Extreme weather conditions spiced up the circumstances of the third round of the series as hail, rain and wind made racing on the sandy course even harder than normal.
Belgian champion Cant repeated her win from last year with a flawless display in the Women’s race. With her solo victory, she takes over the lead in the World Cup from Italian champion Eva Lechner (Team Colnago Sud Tirol).
Cant recovered from a troubled start in the first lap and moved up through the field in the long sand sections. After the opening lap five women were left in front: Cant, British rider Nikki Harris, Czech rider Pavla Havlikova, US champion Katherine Compton and Dutch rider Sophie de Boer.
Early on in the second of four laps Cant led the group ahead of Harris. The latter flatted and Cant never allowed the others to get back on her wheel.
Havlikova chased solo for most of the second lap but trailed Cant halfway by 14 seconds. After receiving a new bike, Harris got going again. She passed Havlikova and Compton and went in search of leader Cant.
The gap slowly decreased but when hitting the final lap Harris was still 18 seconds down on Cant. In the background Compton rode away from Havlikova in the deep mud section at the end of the third lap.
In front Cant made no mistakes and always kept Harris at a safe distance, finishing 12 seconds ahead of Harris. Compton was third at 42 seconds with Havlikova fourth at one minute from Cant.
Previous World Cup leader Eva Lechner struggled in the Belgian dunes but fought for every position. The Italian champion finished ninth at 2min 47sec and now trails Cant by eleven points after three World Cup rounds.
Nys locked in battle until the final corner
Later in the day, large crowds witnessed a spectacular duel in the men’s race between World Cup leader Wout Van Aert (Vastgoedservice-Golden Palace) and popular veteran Sven Nys (Belgium) in the Elite Men category. Nys grabbed the win, his fiftieth World Cup victory of his long career. Van Aert narrowly remains leader in the World Cup classification.
The win from Nys over Van Aert was a hard-fought one. After two laps of racing, the duo got together in front. Before that, World Champion Mathieu van der Poel (BKCP-Corendon) showed he was back in competition after a knee injury took him out of competition since the beginning of October.
Van der Poel took a blistering start with only Van Aert being able to keep up. Once Van der Poel faded back, Nys was there to replace him.
For five laps the duo tried to shake off each other, meanwhile putting the rest of the field at long distance. Van Aert seemed stronger halfway the race, but when he flatted in the sixth lap, Nys took over the command.
Somehow the multiple sand sections didn’t separate the duo and eventually the long mud section just before the final corner made the difference. Side by side, the duo ploughed through the mud until Nys got the upper hand.
The 39 year-old Belgian rider celebrated his first World Cup victory in three years by releasing a big scream of joy. It was a top class win for Nys. A defeated Van Aert bowed his head. More than a minute later Mathieu van der Poel won the battle for third place over Lars van der Haar (Team Giant-Alpecin). Australian, Garry Millburn finished in 47th.
@garrymillburn: 47th at #koksijde World Cup. A tough welcome back to Belgium but pleased to record my best World Cup result. I felt like I lacked horsepower today but it's certainly in the bank and will come!