Preview: Exact Cross Loenhout 2022 – Another spectacle in the Azencross?

The Exact Cross in Loenhout, also known as the Azencross, is the fifth cyclocross in a week and one of the last crosses in the busy Christmas period. Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert and Tom Pidcock look each other in the eye again. Who will pull the longest straw? Cycling Flash looks ahead!

History

The Azencross was first on the calendar in 1984 and is now in its 38th edition. A classic that has swam through a lot of waters. After three separate editions, Loenhout was one of the founders of the Gazet van Antwerpen Trophy Cyclocross. Six editions later, the organizers left the regularity criterion and entered the newly established World Cup, but they had to relinquish that spot to Koksijde after three years. From 2001, however, the cross was again part of the X2O Bathroom Trophy, the successor to the GVA Trophy. This year, however, they are making the switch to the Exact Cross.

Back to the past. Loenhout was not only the first Belgian cross country to join the World Cup, but was also the first Belgian organizer to schedule a women’s competition. Daphny van den Brand won it in 1998. In Loenhout they were also the first to give a youth initiation, organized the first U23 cross and introduced a brand new starting system (with the red and green lights as in ). In addition, experiments were carried out on the course with a so-called washboard.

Niels Albert and Sven Nys on the characteristic washboard in Loenhout – photo: Cor Vos

Loenhout is therefore known as a cross that dares to innovate, but is – in the full end of the year period – especially as a party cross par excellence. For years, many people have also come to the municipality in the province of Antwerp. The Azencross is one of the most popular crosses of the year.

Sven Nys tops Loenhout’s honors list with six victories, spread over 13 years. Niels Albert was the best in the Azencross four times, Mathieu van der Poel has three victories – as many as his father Adrie. Daphny van den Brand is the record holder for the ladies with six victories. With that she does better than Sanne Cant, who has five victories in Loenhout on her palmares.

Last ten winners Loenhout
Men
2021: flag-be Wout van Aert
2020: Not held
2019: flag-en Mathieu van der Poel
2018: flag-en Mathieu van der Poel
2017: flag-en Mathieu van der Poel
2016: flag-be Wout van Aert
2015: flag-be Tom Meeusen
2014: flag-be Wout van Aert
2013: flag-be Sven Nys
2012: flag-be Niels Albert
2011: flag-be Niels Albert

Women
2021: flag-en Lucinda Brand
2020: Not held
2019: flag-en Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado
2018: flag-en Lucinda Brand
2017: flag-be Sanne Cant
2016: flag-be Sanne Cant
2015: flag-be Sanne Cant
2014: flag-cz Catherine Nash
2013: flag-en Marianne Fox
2012: flag-be Sanne Cant
2011: flag-en Marianne Fox


Last year

Result men – X2O Trophy in flag-be Loenhout
1. flag-be Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) in 56m16s
2. flag-be Michael Vanthourenhout (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) on 14s
3. flag-be Show Aerts (Baloise Trek Lions) on 27s
4. flag-en Corné van Kessel (Tormans CX) on 41s
5. flag-be Laurens Sweeck (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) on 54s
Match report


Result women – X2O Trophy in flag-be Loenhout
1. flag-en Lucinda Brand (Baloise Trek Lions) in 46m33s
2. flag-en Denise Betsema (Pauwels Sauzen-Bingoal) on 15s
3. flag-en Shirin van Anrooij (Baloise Trek Lions) on 33s
4. flag-en Annemarie Worst (Team 777) at 1m5s
5. flag-be Sanne Cant (IKO-Crelan) at 1m36s
Match report


Course

The course of the Azencross in Loenhout has remained almost the same. There are always many scenarios possible. Remember the plodding battles between Niels Albert and Sven Nys in the mud, but also the half bunch sprint behind Tom Meeusen in 2015.

Characteristic of the cross are the long straights around the football field, where you can really make speed. In addition, there are also a number of harder roads and the asphalt strip. We are not going to call it recuperation, but the subsoil will in any case be less of an obstacle. Incidentally, if it rains in Loenhout, a number of strips can quickly change into a kind of soggy surface. Stompen blown then!

Furthermore, as usual, Loenhout has a number of canals as natural obstacles, a number of technical passages in the forest, a few bridges, beams and of course the iconic washboard – which has been in service since 2004. In terms of difficulty, however, the Azencross is certainly not the most difficult of the end of the year period.


Program and information

Program Friday 30 December 2022
12.15 pm: Junior men
1:45 p.m.: Elite women
3 p.m.: Elite men

Location
Village center Loenhout (2990).

Public information

You can buy tickets for the cross in Loenhout here. If you buy a ticket online, in advance, you pay 12 euros. If you don’t do that and buy a ticket at the box office in Essen, you pay 15 euros. Children up to 12 years old can enter for free.

Practical information
Website organization
Attendees


Favorites men

Wout van Aert is the clear favorite for the Exact Cross in Loenhout. After his victories in Mol, Heusden-Zolder and Diegem, he seems to be the absolute winner of the busy Christmas period. His performance on Wednesday in Diegem was nothing short of amazing. In Loenhout, another cross where the public will be massively present, Van Aert will try to put the icing on the Christmas cake.

In Gavere could Mathieu van der Poel convincingly put his hands in the air. The following two days he was beaten by Van Aert. In Heusden-Zolder the difference was not big, but in Diegem the barrel was really finished after about forty minutes of racing. Can he beat Van Aert one last time this year? Tom Pidcock came very close to that, beating Van Aert. In Diegem, the Briton only gave up in the last straight line.

The cross in Diegem was fun for an hour – photo: Cor Vos

Also Quentin Hermans is present in Loenhout. The Belgian rider of Tormans CX rides his last cross in the team’s kit before he leaves for Alpecin-Deceuninck. After his return to Mol, he finished fifth and seventh twice. In the field of Loenhout, Hermans should be able to ride top-5 again. Hermans will have to take into account, among other things Niels Vandeputte, Jens Adams and Emil Verstrynge. Certainly Vandeputte has been racing well lately and Loenhout is also his home cross.

Gerben Kuypers is one of the revelations of the cyclocross season. The 22-year-old from West Flanders showed himself a number of times this season and shot to victory in the Exact Cross in Essen. “On the one hand I like courses with some height difference, on the other hand I also like pure power crosses. And then I do indeed end up at a circuit like that of Loenhout,” he said in a press release from the organization. Kuypers may surprise us one more time.

We also have to keep an eye on men like Daan Soete, Ryan Kamp, Clément Venturini and Corné van Kessel on Friday. Finally, we also mention Timo Kielich, who has returned to the field particularly well. Only drawback: Kielich starts almost at the very back and has to catch up with the whole pack.

Favorites according to WielerFlits
*** Wout van Aert
** Mathieu van der Poel, Tom Pidcock
* Quinten Hermans, Niels Vandeputte, Jens Adams

Participant list men


Favorites women

Shirin van Anrooij is having a very good Christmas season. In Mol and Gavere she won two nice crosses and in Diegem she came second. On Wednesday evening she got off to a very bad start, after which she struggled to fight for the win again. For a moment she came close to Puck Pieterse, but in the end she had to give in. However, the young rider should not take into account Pieterse, Lucinda Brand, Denise Betsema or Ceylin del Carmen Alvarado in Loenhout, making her the big favourite.

Another favorite for victory is the Hungarian rider Blanka Kata Vas. Vas was fifth in both Gavere and Diegem. In the field of Loenhout, she must be able to ride on the podium. The same also applies to Annemarie Sausage. The Dutch drove to third place in Mol on her return last week, after a persistent knee infection. In Loenhout she gets a new chance to be on the podium again.

Can Van Anrooij triumph one last time this Christmas season? – photo: Cor Vos

Then we look at two Dutch outsiders. Yara Kastelijn and Mann Baker can in principle compete with the best riders in Loenhout, but will not qualify for the victory. Yet they also have a nice outlier every now and then. Bakker came third in the Val di Sole World Cup and Kastelijn was third in Essen. The Dutch supporters can also look forward to the only 18-year-old Leonie Bentveld, who has impressed in the field in recent weeks.

With the Belgian Alicia Franck, the Luxembourgish Mary Schreiber and the British Anna Kay, there are also a few non-Dutch women who can compete for a place in the top-10. Finally, there is the French trio Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, Amandine Fouquenet and Line Burquier.

Favorites according to WielerFlits
*** Shirin van Anrooij
** Blanka Kata Vas, Annemarie Sausage
* Yara Kastelijn, Manon Bakker, Marie Schreiber

Participant list women


Weather and TV

The raincoats must be in the suitcase before Friday. Meteovista expects a number of showers, especially in the afternoon. In addition, there will also be a lot of wind, the wind will blow with a force of 4 to 5 Beaufort. The weather is not really winter, but the temperatures will not rise far above 10 degrees Celsius.

The Azencross can be followed on VTM. The broadcast starts at 13.35. The Exact Cross in Loenhout can also be viewed at Euro sports 1 and Eurosport Player/GCN+. Those broadcasts start at 13.40.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Preview Exact Cross Loenhout spectacle Azencross