At 11h00 local time 145 riders took the start in the North of Antwerp for an 194 km long heroic race under the sun through a mixture of asphalt roads, cobble stones and unpaved sections. This daring concept was rewarded in 2015 as “Route of the year” by VeloNews, who even had a full coverage livestream this year.
The mixed track resulted in a mix of teams in the race. Road riders and cyclo cross riders biked alongside and kept up the pace from the start on. A first group of 10 riders drove in front for a while, amongst them German cross rider Philipp Walsleben. The Crelan-Vastgoedservice team tightened the gap and regrouped the whole, bringing their team mate Wout van Aert in an excellent position.
The decisive escape came in the last 60 kilometers of the race. A group with eleven riders containing Baptiste Planckaert, Timothy Dupont, Wout van Aert, Tim Declercq en Stijn Steels took the lead.
Stijn Steels had a super day and with 25 kilometers to go, he rushed out. Only Van Aert responded and together they took 30 seconds, it looked as if the verdict had fallen. Few minutes later however a sudden move of Steels caused both riders to touch and go, causing mechanical problems at van Aerts’ bike, through which he fell back to the second group.
Steels was now alone ahead and Van Aert took the lead of the following group, reduced to six riders. Four plus Van Aert and Meurisse, who came back after an impressive tempo trial.
On the last unpaved section and with only a few kilometers to go, Van Aert drove off and left the others without response. The cyclocross World Champion took quickly 15 seconds and withheld this gap until the finish line.
At the arrival, the broad Bredabaan in Merksem, thousands of people saw Wout Van Aert win this wonderful and dusty Schaal Sels 2016 edition, Timothy Dupont finishing second before a strong but beaten Stijn Steels.